Credit: Milos Vystrcil, via Facebook

Roma and Sinti Holocaust Memorial in Lety Opens To The Public

The Roma and Sinti Holocaust Memorial in Lety, built on the site of a former WWII concentration camp for Roma people, opened to the public for the first time yesterday, and will initially be open from Thursdays to Sundays, according to Jana Horvathova, director of the Brno-based Museum of Roma Culture.

Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil (ODS) said at a commemorative ceremony in Lety that society should not focus only on the present moment, but should create things and values whose importance will stand out in the future. The creation of the memorial bears significance for the future, he stressed.

“We should be able to do things that will not bring anything to us or our family during our life,” Vystrcil said. “Just like [late politician] Karel Schwarzenberg, who donated thousands of small trees to the local memorial and will never see the forest that will grow from it. That is what we should do. The memorial will become the future for us not to forget and create a good foundation for those who come after us. Thanks to this, we will be able to learn from the past and confront situations that could destroy our freedom.” 

The forced labour camp in Lety was opened in 1940. A similar facility existed in Hodonin u Kunstatu, south Moravia. In 1942, both facilities became internment camps, and in August of the same year, Roma camps were established. Until May 1943, more than 1,300 Roma men, women and children were interned at Lety, of whom 327 perished in the camp and over 500 were sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp, where most of them died.

According to estimates, the Nazis murdered 90% of Czech Roma people. The total number of Roma Holocaust victims is estimated at 300,000 to 500,000.

Senate Speaker Milos Vystrcil attended the opening ceremony. Credit: Milos Vystrcil, via Facebook.

A large pig farm stood at the site of the camp in Lety from the 1970s for more than 40 years. The idea of building a memorial there began to be discussed in 1995. The state bought the farm in 2018 for CZK 450 million from the Agpi firm, which kept 13,000 pigs there. The property was handed over to the Roma Culture Museum officials in 2018.

The demolition of the pig farm was completed in December 2022. The construction of the memorial site cost CZK 102 million.

“Each of us has a personal responsibility for how we approach the way we live, what we say and do. We should create the foundations to make our future good. At the memorial in Lety, it took us more than 30 years,” Vystrcil noted.

As well as Vystrcil, yesterday’s commemorative ceremony was attended by Minister for Regional Development Ivan Bartos (Pirates) and Slovak sociologist and former politician Fedor Gal.

“We are opening on a trial run,” Horvathova said. “We will see what is to come, what will need to be addressed, because we do not have sufficient coverage of the memorial staff and finances are also rather on the edge. That is why we have agreed with the Ministry of Culture that after a certain period of time we will assess how the situation looks.” 

She explained that due to the current economic conditions, the number of opening days cannot be extended, while the opening hours have not yet been determined.

There is a permanent exhibition in the memorial’s visitor centre, and “The Memory Trail” is outside. The exposition includes testimonies from witnesses in audiovisual form. The compound covers over 100,000 square metres.

Horvathova said the museum would not hold exhibitions at Lety now, but is preparing similar events in Hodonin u Kunstatu, where another WWII concentration camp for the Roma was located. “But there will definitely be lectures and education for schools in Lety,” she added.

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