Thursday, 19 September 2019

FinMin to visit Lety, wants to secure money for memorial

5 September 2016

Prague, Sept 4 (CTK) - Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis will visit the site of the wartime Roma concentration camp in Lety, south Bohemia, this week, he told CTK on Sunday, adding that he wants to secure money for building a memorial in Lety and ensure the purchase of the pig farm that stands on the site now.

Babis, who is deputy PM and the ANO movement chairman, was reacting to the criticism he faces for his recent comments on the Lety camp.

On Thursday, Babis reportedly said during his visit to a socially deprived locality with prevailing Roma inhabitants in Varnsdorf, north Bohemia, that it is a lie that Lety was a concentration camp.

"It was a labour camp. Who did not work, ended up there," he allegedly said.

The camp in Lety was established as a labour camp, but during World War Two, it served as an internment camp for Roma whom the German Nazi regime put on the same footing as Jews. Like Jews, Romanies interned in Lety were sent to the extermination camp in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

On Friday, Babis said he had expressed himself wrongly and apologised for his words, which, he said, have been torn out of context by the critics.

Some politicians called on him to resign over his statements.

The opposition wants the affair to be discussed by the lower house's plenary session next week.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said earlier on Sunday that Babis should dissociate himself from his words in front of lawmakers. If so, there would be no reason for the affair to be put on the lower house's agenda, Sobotka said.

Babis wrote to CTK on Sunday that he has repeatedly apologised for his statement.

"I definitely did not intend to deny the Holocaust. Nonetheless, my statement has been misused against me now," Babis wrote.

He said most of the politicians who criticise him are hypocrites who have done nothing in the past 20 years to solve the problem of the pig farm standing on the site of the former camp in Lety.

"I discussed the problem with [Culture] Minister [Daniel] Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) and I promised to find money for building a memorial [in Lety] and to visit the site where the Lety camp used to stand next week," Babis wrote.

He said Sobotka, with his criticism, is trying to fuel the affair and keep it afloat.

"It is quite unfair of him, but I have already got accustomed to mean tricks played by the CSSD," Babis said.

He called on Sobotka to go to the Kovarska street in Varnsdorf, the socially deprived locality which Babis visited this week, see the flats there and talk to local inhabitants.

"I will see to that the state buys the pig farm and a memorial is built [on the site]," Babis wrote to CTK.

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