The project concerns the building of a new memorial to the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti, set to open in August 2023 on the site of the former “Gypsy Camp I” in Lety (Czech Republic). The development of the memorial follows on decades of efforts by survivors, activists, and representatives of public and political life to honour the memory of the victims of the so-called Gypsy camp with dignity.
The project is supported by the EEA Norway Grants and the Ministries of Culture and Finance of the Czech Republic. It is carried out by the Czech Museum of Romani Culture, in partnership with the Falstad Centre, The Falstad Centre contributes with experience from providing exhibitions and educational programmes in a memorial context, and is directly involved in the preparation of educational activities at the new memorial site.
As of August 1942, the facility at Lety u Písku became what was called a “Gypsy Camp” where entire families of Romani people were imprisoned in inhumane conditions. The camp saw 1,309 persons pass through it, of whom at least 326 persons died there, most of them children. In 1943 the remaining children, men and women were forcibly sent en masse to their all but certain deaths in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau Concentration Camp. Immediately after the buildings of “Gypsy Camp I” were razed to the ground and set on fire.
For decades after the war, survivors and their families have visited the site of the former camp and the graves in Lety. In the early 1970´s the Gypsy – Roma association planned the construction of a Roma victims memorial on the site. However, in 1973, the association was closed down under the influence of the communist party, and the plans for the construction of this memorial were not set in motion. Instead, a large-scale industrial pig farm consisting of ten halls was constructed at the former camp site This piggery was in operation from 1974 until 2018.
In Spring 2018 the industrial pig farm was bought out by the state, and the Museum of Roma Culture was entrusted with the task of demolishing it and building the new Lety u Písku Memorial to the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia in its place.
The demolition was carried out in Autumn 2022 and is followed by the first phase of building the new memorial, which is set to open in August 2023.
The new memorial shall be a dignified place for honoring the memories of the victims of the camp, and its aim is also to remind visitors of the tragic facts associated with the existence of the camp in the first place.
The Director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová, states that “the memorial must also educate visitors and inform them about the history of the Roma and Sinti in Bohemia in the 20th century, explaining the roots of the discrimination and hatred against them and galvanizing the discussion of human rights and how to improve our coexistence here.”
In the first phase of building the new memorial, a center for visitors will be constructed featuring an exhibition and a multifunctional hall. The revitalization of the Lety Cultural Heritage Monument will take place simultaneously. The project will continue in a second phase of implementing a landscape architecture design for the entire grounds of the memorial, including outdoor components of the exhibition and the adaptation of the site of the former camp for the purposes of remembrance and education.