Holocaust of the Roma: Contemporary Research in Czechoslovak Context, 21 May, 2018, 6:00 PM

Letter by Stanislav Winter asking for the release of his family from the camp in Lety u Písku, 14 October 1942

21 May 2018

About Speakers Location

This public discussion about future research into the Holocaust of Roma and the Lety site will feature Czech and Slovak speakers, Romani as well as non-Romani. The reflection of the topics central to this research and the contextualisation of the Lety camp and its history as a (contested) memorial site will cover the wartime as well as the postwar history of the site until today and will include, for example, the topics of documentation, national and international contextualization, community mobilisation, and the politics of memory.


Yasar Abu Ghosh, Charles University, Prague
Zuzana Kumanová, In Minorita, Bratislava
Helena Sadílková, Charles University, Prague
Dušan Slačka, Museum of Romani Culture, Brno

Moderator: Alica Sigmund Heráková

The debate will be filmed and published online.

The discussion is organized in cooperation with Romea, o.p.s. and with Museum of Romani Culture in Brno as an accompanying program for the exhibition of paintings by Zdeněk Daniel “My Black-and-White Shadows: Memento Mori” (Kampus Hybernská, 9-29 May 2018).


Prague Forum Workshops on Romani Histories

The year 2017 has brought an important victory for the Romani community and those parts of Czech society that have been critical toward the existence of the pig farm on the site of the wartime “gypsy camp” in Lety u Písku and toward the  general Czech(oslovak) society and its authorities ignoring the shameful state of the site. While the removal of the farm was finally approved and budgeted for by the Czech Government and the management of the site handed over to the Museum of Romani Culture, these public activities cannot end with the erection of a decent memorial. The organizers of the Prague Forum Workshops aim to contribute to what is a much-needed public discussion about the Roma in Czech(oslovak) society, not just about their fate during the Holocaust, but also about its aftermath.

The workshops and public events planned for 2018 will thus put the genocide of the Roma into broader historical and political context, emphasizing not just the specific history of the camp at Lety, but also the history and meaning of the site for contemporary Czech society (non-Romani and Romani members alike). To stimulate a reappraisal of the consequences of the wartime history and the postwar (dis)continuities of policies, social practices and mindsets, we propose to address another important, interconnected topic, the forced sterilization of Romani women. Forced sterilization was widely used by the Nazis, but the latest victims of such abuses in the Czech Republic and Slovakia date from the 2000s. Both topics – the memorial at Lety and acknowledgement of the need to compensate victims of forced sterilization – heavily burden relations between the Roma and non-Roma in the Czech Republic today.

The aim of our public events is to contribute to the academic, public and political discussions about the situation of the Roma in Czech society, which to date have been encumbered by prejudices, ignorance, and a lack of international contextualization. In agreement with the aim of the Forum, we want to further discussions on these topics with specialists in the field from the Czech Republic, Europe and the US, and what is more, we also favour the inclusion of all these topics into the master narrative of Czech/European history. Topics from Roma history and present times should not just be analyzed by specialists in Romani Studies. We also stress the key importance of the agency of the Roma in our activities, as well as the availability of all our activities to the interested general public, including the local Romani population, so that they can take part and contribute to the discussions. This is why we involve Roma and Sinti intellectuals and artists in our activities and why we also decided to offer simultaneous translation of all planned debates featuring international guests into Czech. Certain events will also be available as subtitled video recordings in order to broaden the audience.

Yasar Abu Ghosh

Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague and a faculty member at NYU Prague

Yasar Abu Ghosh has earned his Ph.D. from Charles University, Prague, attended the Laboratoire de Sciences Sociales ENS/EHESS, Paris, and participated in study programs at University College London, Central European University, Budapest, and New York University. He has been a visiting professor at CEU, Budapest, LMU, Munich, and EHESS, Paris. In 2016 he was awarded a Fulbright-Masaryk Scholarship to serve as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Yasar Abu Ghosh has done field research on the Roma in south Bohemia, focusing on Roma responses to their marginalization in the socialist past and post-socialist present. He has also been working on memory culture and recognition in relation to the Nazi persecution of the Roma and the politics of its historical account.

Zuzana Kumanová

has been active since 1999 with the In Minorita civic association. Since 2005 she has been leading a project mapping the Holocaust and its Romani victims. She is now an external collaborator with the Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for the Romani Community, where she worked from 2011-2013 as director of the department where strategic materials are designed. From 2013-2014 she worked with the Office of the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for National Minorities on designing their strategies and subsidy programs. She defended her doctoral dissertation at the Faculty of Arts at Comenius University in Bratislava in the department of ethnology after completing her Master's there in the fields of ethnology and history.

Helena Sadílková

Head of the Seminar of Romani Studies, Department of Central-European Studies, Charles University, Prague

Helena Sadílková teaches at the Seminar of Romani Studies courses, mainly Romani language and history. Her major research interests are the post-war history of the Roma in Czechoslovakia, focusing on interaction among members of local Romani communities and the local non-Romani population, including the local authorities. She also works in the field of applied linguistics. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Czech Romani studies journal Romano džaniben (Prague).

Dušan Slačka

is a historian and curator of the Written Materials Collection and Self-Documentation Collection in the Museum of Romani Culture, Brno. Specializing in modern history and multicultural society, he graduated from Masaryk University, Brno, with the thesis ‘The “Gypsy Question” in the Hodonín District, 1945–73’. He is an executive editor of the Bulletin Muzea romské kultury (Bulletin of the Museum of Romani Culture), a peer-reviewed journal, and is a member of the Czech delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Kampus Hybernská, Hybernská 4, Praha 1