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Culture Ministry awards Czech Roma activist

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Prague, Sept 29 (CTK) – Cenek Ruzicka, head of Czech committee for compensation of Roma Holocaust, received the Artis Bohemiae Amicis prize for his efforts to remove a pig farm from the former wartime Lety forced labour camp for Roma in south Bohemia from Culture Minister Daniel Herman on Friday.

Herman (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said thanks to Ruzicka, too, this part of Czechoslovak history started to be spoken about.

He said Ruzicka was a man representing a group “very harshly hit by racial hatred.”

Herman said culture had to include “culture of remembrance,” including those chapters of history which were rather shameful.

The Czech government approved the purchase of the pig farm on August 21. It is likely to be removed from the site now. The step has been discussed for two decades and international organisations called on the Czech Republic to remove the pig farm from Lety.

According to estimates, the Nazis exterminated 90 percent of Czech Roma.

After World War Two, a small memorial with a cross was built by the families of the victims. The pig farm was constructed on the site in the 1970s.

Ruzicka said his mother, too, had been interned in Lety, but he only belatedly learned about its existence.

Herman said the contract with the pig farm owner would be signed before the election due next month. Then the government will publish the price and details of the contract.

The Artis Bohemiae Amicis medals were introduced in 2000.

Since then the medal has been bestowed on many personalities, including opera singer and actress Sona Cervena, U.S. pianist Garrick Ohlson, British conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, Czech-born film directors Ivan Passer and Vojtech Jasny and illustrator Petr Sis, living in the United States, artist Jitka Valova as well as writers Arnost Lustig and Jiri Stransky.

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