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Museum asks Okamura to apologise for words on Lety camp

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Brno, Jan 29 (CTK) – The Brno-based Museum of Roma Culture has asked Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) head, to apologise for his untrue words about the wartime concentration camp for Roma people in Lety, south Bohemia, of which he said it was not fenced and people could move freely there.

The statement Okamura made on DVTV online news broadcaster on Saturday is untrue. It stirs anti-Roma moods in society and tramples the legacy of the victims of persecution and genocide of the Roma people during World War Two, the museum’s representatives said.

As his sources, Okamura mentioned an unspecified statement by former president Vaclav Klaus, and also a book issued by the Academy of Sciences and named “Lety camp, facts and myths.”

The museum’s experts said no such book exists.

Okamura told DVTV that a number of Jews asked him why the Czech Republic compares the Lety camp to the extermination campaign in Oswiecim (Auschwitz). The Lety camp had not been fenced at all, he said.

Interrupted by the anchorwoman, Okamura did not finish the sentence.

His interview then culminated by his verbal attack on DVTV, which he branded “Bakala’s rubbish” in an allusion to businessman Zdenek Bakala, owner of the Economia publishing house to which DVTV supplies video news.

“In 1940-1943, i.e. from the establishment of a correctional labour camp until the so-called Gypsy camp was razed to the ground, the camp site was surrounded by a high wooden fence with a barbed wire in its upper part, and guarded by armed patrols. This is proved not only by the written period documents and survivors’ evidence, but also by photographic sources,” historian Dusan Slacka and the museum director Jana Horvathova said in a statement.

The Museum of Roma Culture is to take over the Lety memorial’s management as of March.

Slacka and Horvathova wrote that Roma and other families, including women and children, were interned in Lety between August 1942 and August 1943.

In 1999, the Academy of Sciences issued the book Historians and the Lety case, the experts wrote.

“The book does not contain any statement on the so-called Gypsy camp in Lety not being fenced. Neither the Academy nor any other publisher issued a book with the name Lety camp, facts and myths,” Slacka and Horvathova wrote.

In 2005, then president Klaus said the Lety camp was not “a concentration camp in the sense of the word,” as it was not designed for Roma people but “for those who refused to work.”

Klaus’s statement caused uproar among politicians and Roma groups. Okamura made a similar statement in August 2014 and faced a criminal complaint, which, however, the police shelved after some time.

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