Museum of Romani Culture in Brno to Hold Remembrance Ceremony

The Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Czech Republic will commemorate the Roma and Sinti Genocide in a remembrance ceremony on 19 August 2012.

The ceremony will take place in the area of the former so-called "Gypsy Camp" in Hodonin u Kunstatu. During World War II, the former "Gypsy Camp" in Hodinin u Kunstatu hosted almost 1400 individuals, 300 of whom died at this location.

Program of the Remembrance Ceremony:

9:30       Bus departure from Brno (Museum of Romani Culture)

11:00     Mass in the place of former "Gypsy Camp"

12:00     Visit of Žalov Memorial

13:00     Memorial in Hodonin u Kunstatu. History and the future.

Exhibition opening: Porrajmos (produced by Lidice Memorial)

14:30     Remembrance Ceremony at ?ernovice Cemetery.

15:30     Bus departure from ?ernovice.

A private bus transport for visitors will be available. The bus is for free and will leave Brno on Sunday, August 19th, at 9:30 am. Please R.V.S.P. by August 10th by emailing or phoning +420 545 571 798.

History of the Memorial Site:  Žalov - Place of Commemoration

Surrounded by a forest, roughly 150 meters from the former camp and present recreation facility "Žalov," is the location enclosed by a wooden fence in which three terrain undulations are still visible - mass grave of predominantly Roma prisoners.

According to the memories of the contemporary witnesses, a wooden cross was erected at the location of the mass grave already during the existence of the "Gypsy camp."  The birch cross was most likely installed in 1946 by MVDr. František ?ípek, a veterinary surgeon from the nearby Olešnice and the chairman of the Union of the National Revolution, who was taking care of the small cemetery, held lectures on its history in the nearby schools, acquired photographs of the detained Roma from the official doctor of the Gypsy camp, MUDr. Josef Habanec, and also documented the camp immediately after the war's end (he handed the documentation over to the Museum of Romani Culture).

Probably still during the existence of the forced labor camp (1949 - 1950), a partly worked smaller-sized stone with the inscription "Žalov - a victim of Nazism" was placed in front of the cross. The stone could have been worked by one of the inmates, a stone sculptor. The stone has remained in the cemetery until the present day. During the existence of the Association of Gypsies - Romanies (1969 - 1973), acts of commemoration were held here with the participation of the Roma. After the Association ended its activities, the history of the camp and cemetery fell into disrepair.  Although it lies on the territory of Louka, the municipal office in Hodonín u Kunštátu continued to maintain the forest cemetery.

Throughout the 1960s the topic of the Roma Genocide and of the Protectorate Gypsy camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu was slowly starting to be openly discussed, but the activity of the first Romani organization, the Association of Gypsies - Romanies, led to more appreciable progress in this field in the early 1970s.

Already at the constituent congress of the Association in August of 1969, the participating delegates memorialized the Roma killed by the Nazis. Subsequent activity of the Association included efforts to compensate the Roma victims of Nazi persecution.  In March 1972, the first commemoration of the Roma victims of Nazi persecution took place in Hodonín u Kunštátu. This event was organized under the auspices of the Association also the following year. Apart from the members and officials of the Association, the historian Ctibor Ne?as also participated in the commemoration.  The Association even planned to build memorials for the Roma victims here and also in the second Protectorate camp in Lety u Písku, but this idea never materialized due to the dissolution of the Association in April 1973.

In 1995, the Museum of Romani Culture (then a civic association operating under the Society of Experts and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture) paid tribute to the memory of the Roma who died here at the suggestion of the mayor of the municipality, Miroslav Plíhal. Ever since that first event, the Museum holds acts of commemoration at this location every year. They are always organized on the nearest Sunday to August 21 to commemorate the mass transport of the Roma detainees from the local Gypsy camp to Auschwitz II - Birkenau in 1943.

In 1997, the Museum of Romani Culture, then still a civic association working under the Society of Experts and Friends of the Museum of Romani Culture, initiated and subsequently implemented the memorial - a metal cross by a Romani author, Eduard Oláh - founded from a public fundraising campaign. The Museum of Romani Culture has been maintaining the memorial and its closest surroundings from its very inception.

A plaque inscribed "To the memory of the Roma who deceased in these places between 1942 and 1943. Ma bisteren! Let us not forget!" was attached to the front part of the pedestal. Right next to the fence of the present recreational facility, a large boulder was placed with an engraved text narrating the history of the camp in Romani and Czech.

In 2007, the Museum of Romani Culture placed a metal information sign attached to a wooden pedestal with a brief description of the place and its history at the burial ground site. Another sign was affixed to the fence enclosing the place of commemoration stating the following: Žalov - memorial to the victims of the "Gypsy camp" (1942-1943).

Between 2004 and 2008, also the Endowment Fund for Victims of the Holocaust was providing financial assistance for the reconstructions, maintenance and organization of acts of commemoration by the Museum of Romani Culture.

Since 2009, the care for this site by the Museum of Romani Culture, a state allowance organization, has been supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.  The premises of the former camp - at present a recreation facility - are currently managed by a private owner. The memorial lies on the territory belonging to the municipality of Hodonín u Kunštátu.  The ground plan of the camp's premises has been almost completely preserved, but only two of the original buildings are still standing - the prison house and the administrative building.