LETY, Czech Republic — Anti-racism activists from across Europe on Saturday demanded the removal of a pig farm from a Holocaust memorial site where hundreds of Roma perished in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
The leftist-led Czech government promised in 2016 to buy out the farm before elections this October, but infighting among the three coalition parties could scupper a deal.
Activists also began lobbying the European Union in May last year to halt subsidies paid to the farm in Lety, a village 75 kilometers (47 miles) south of the capital Prague.
Owner Agpi says it is open to moving the facility, so long as the Czech state offers adequate compensation.
“The Czech Republic must reject this negative symbol and transform it into a positive one underpinned by the values of dignity, equality and liberty,” Benjamin Abtan, an activist heading the European Grassroots Antiracism Movement (EGAM), told AFP.
Abtan joined dozens of activist from across Europe at the Lety site Saturday to pressure the Czech government to make good on its promised buy out before October elections.
Between 1940 and 1943, Nazi Germany and its Czech collaborators imprisoned close to 1,300 Czech Roma at the concentration camp.
Some 327 Roma, including 241 children, died at the camp staffed by an ethnic Czech commander and guards, while more than 500 were sent to Nazi Germany’s infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied southern Poland.
The communist Czechoslovak regime built the pig farm on the site in the 1970s.
It has reaped scorn at home and abroad ever since totalitarianism was toppled in 1989, four years before Czechoslovakia split into two states.
Alongside European Jews, the continent’s smaller Roma minority was a target of Nazi genocide during World War II.
The Czech Republic, an EU country of 10.5 million, has a Roma community estimated to number between 250,000 and 300,000.
Of the roughly one million Roma who lived in Europe prior to WWII, historians believe that Nazi Germany killed over half.