Tomio Okamura (SPD) Denies Roma Genocide on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Prague, Jan 31 (CTK) – The European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) condemned Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) head, for having said that the wartime concentration camp for Roma in Lety, south Bohemia, was not fenced and people could move freely there, EGAM President Benjamin Abtan told CTK today.


EGAM is an umbrella organisation of 40 organisations for the protection of minorities and human rights from various countries, defending the interests of minorities in European institutions.


This [Okamura’s words] proves that the denial of the genocide is a current political problem in both the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe where it is mainly fuelled by nationalists, Abtan said.


He said the Roma Holocaust still had not entered the general consciousness.


Abtan said this was why a European foundation should be created in order to present the survivors’s recollections and the knowledge of researchers and to fight the denial of Roma war-time persecution and annihilation.


The EGAM called for the creation of such a foundation on the Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.


The international appeal has been backed by 249 deputies from 28 countries and other personalities, Abtan 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 experts of Museum of Roma Culture said no such book exists. The museum asked Okamura for an apology.


The camp in Lety was set up in 1938, but its function changed several times. About 1,300 Roma, including children and old people, were interned in it from August 1942 to August 1943.


The people in the camp were forced to work hard in a quarry and the sanitary conditions were poor because the camp was projected for 300 people and was overcrowded. More than 300 Roma people died in the camp, others ended up in the Auschwitz camp and some were released after the camp was demolished in 1943.


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


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 outrage 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.


In 2016, ANO leader Andrej Babis, now the prime minister, said the Lety camp was a labour, not concentration camp. Then he apologised for his words and as the finance minister he promised to create a memorial there.