Czech Republic: NGOs call for dismissal after director of Lidice Memorial collectively blames Roma as „inadaptables“
Individuals and NGOs defending human rights, the integration of the Romani community, and the memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust have turned to Deputy Culture Minister Anna Matoušková with a complaint regarding the director of the Lidice Memorial, Milouš Červencl, who is also responsible for the memorial to the Roma Holocaust at Lety by Písek. Their complaint is that Červencl has collectively blamed all Romani people as „inadaptables“ and has made other inappropriate remarks as well.
When contacted by the daily Právo to respond to the question „Are Czechs racists?“, Milouš Červencl responded as follows: „Unlike many people, I believe Czechs are not racists. We shop at Vietnamese-owned stores, we employ Ukrainians and members of other nationalities, we go to Italian-owned restaurants. People in this country are tolerant towards members of other nations, religions, and people of different skin colors who are living here. However, what people here cannot identify with and do not tolerate are our inadaptable fellow citizens, especially when they do not respect our customs, general order, and our laws, and when they abuse the broad social welfare system established by the state, to say nothing of committing crime. This concerns our coexistence with Romani people, which is very often problematic, but to construe it as a manifestation of racism is misleading. Certainly one can find small groups espousing racial purity in our country under the slogan ‚Bohemia for the Czechs!‘, people who love to exploit the problems that exist with the Romani minority in towns and villages, but we encounter that in other European countries too. From the point of view of my profession, in which I am involved with the Romani issue, specifically the recent sad chapter in the history of Gypsies and Sinti, I have, on the contrary, encountered great tolerance among ‚gadje‘ regarding the fate of the Roma. I have not noted any manifestations of racial hatred at the Lety memorial, nor has the exhibition there ever been damaged. It is therefore necessary to distinguish between racism and the dissatisfaction of most citizens with those who are unwilling to adapt their behavior on many public matters.“
News server Romea.cz publishes the text of the NGO complaint in full translation below:
NGO complaint against Milouš Červencl
Dear Madam Deputy Minister,
We are writing to you about the matter of the public statements that have been made by the director of the Lidice Memorial and the Lety monument, JUDr. Milouš Červencl. In the Saturday, 10 August 2013 edition of the daily Právo’s magazine insert, his response to a survey entitled „Are Czechs racists?“ was published. The director’s response is shocking and unacceptable, particularly coming from the leader of a memorial institution that is supposed to administer the monuments to the victims of nationalistic hatred and racism.
Director Červencl minimizes manifestations of racism even as his own remarks constitute an incitement to more racism. He bases his remarks on the unacceptable principle of collective blame, targeting all Czech citizens of Romani nationality, when for all intents and purposes he labels all of them as work-shy „inadaptables“. Specifically, he says: „However, what people here cannot identify with and do not tolerate are our inadaptable fellow citizens, especially when they do not respect our customs, general order, and our laws and when they abuse the broad social system established by this state, to say nothing of committing crime. This also concerns our coexistence with Romani people, which is very often problematic, but to construe that as a manifestation of racism is misleading.“ We are including the full wording of his statements in an appendix.
The director of a memorial institution that is supposed to commemorate the nationality-based genocide of Czech and of Romani people is expressing himself in a way that significantly weakens the public trust in whether he is capable of performing his role responsibly. His remarks replicate basic racist, xenophobic clichés, he identifies the entire Romani nation as one of sociopaths, and he calls the racist genocide of Romani people during the Holocaust a „sad chapter“. He is doing this in a situation where the coexistence between Czech people and Romani people in this country is demonstrably, on the basis of research, at its worst level since 1989, and he is insisting that he encounters great tolerance on the part of „gadje“ with respect to Romani people – at a time in the Czech Republic when violent marches targeting Romani people are taking place every week. His remarks support racist discourse.
Essentially, through these remarks, the director is trampling on the legacy of everyone who was murdered not just at Lety, but at Ležáky and Lidice as well, i.e., people who became the victims of hatred and prejudice based on nationality. In his statements, the director has, for all intents and purposes, spoken of such prejudice as legitimate. He has therefore joined the side of the many other people who escalate the coexistence between Czech people and Romani people toward hatred and grudges by strengthening stereotypes and xenophobia.
In addition to other failings, the director has violated the Founding Charter of the Lidice Memorial, which is tasked with running educational programs, expert conferences, seminars, and symposia aimed primarily at nurturing young people to embrace democracy and tolerance and to oppose racism and xenophobia. His statements contravene that institution’s ethical codex and are probably in violation of the Lety Monument’s Founding Charter (which has not been made public).
Director Červencl has once again demonstrated that he is neither a professional, nor a person appropriate for administering institutions of the nature of Lety, Ležáky and Lidice. After the „Rozeznění“ („Making it Ring“) and „Total Burn Out“ scandals, which were perceived very negatively by the community of survivors in Lidice, he has repeatedly behaved with insensitivity toward the survivors of the concentration camp at Lety by Písek and their descendants, behavior he has just escalated through these racist remarks. We cannot imagine him remaining in this post under such a situation.
Dear Madam Deputy Minister, we are of the opinion that statements about Czech Roma such as those made by the director of the memorials at Lety, Ležáky and Lidice are unacceptable. There must be an apology and immediate personal responsibility must be taken for them.
Statewide Association of Romani People in the Czech Republic (Celostátní asociace Romů ČR)
Czech Helsinki Committee (Český helsinský výbor)
Institute for the Memory of Society and the Landscape (Institut paměti společnosti a krajiny, o.p.s.)
Here and Now (Tady a teď)
Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu v ČR)
Mgr. Gabriela Havlůjová, chair, Kladno municipal committee of the Czech Freedom Fighters‘ Union (OV Český svaz bojovníků za svobodu Kladno)
Petr Hroník, chair, Kladno regional committee of the Czech Freedom Fighters‘ Union (ZO Českého svazu bojovníků za svobodu Kladno)
In Prague, 15 August 2013