Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman has announced an important breakthrough in the government’s efforts to secure the buy-out of an offensive pig farm in Lety, South Bohemia located on the site of a former concentration camp where hundreds of Roma died in inhumane conditions in WWII. The company that owns the farm has now agreed to sell it to the state, opening the way for a dignified memorial to the victims to be built on the grounds.
The presence of the farm at Lety has plagued several administrations but after twenty years of largely futile negotiations, the Sobotka government has finally been able to announce that a buy-out of the offensive pig farm is a done deal. On Monday the majority of shareholders approved the transfer of the pig farm to the state. Although details of the sale are being kept under wraps, Culture Minister Daniel Herman, who has headed the talks these past few months, said a contract should be signed by the beginning of September at the latest.
“I want to thank our partners in these negotiations for their positive approach and willingness to reach agreement. After the majority of shareholders approved the sale, I see no more hurdles on the road to seeing this matter settled. Once a contract has been signed we will be able to release details of the agreement and anyone interested will be able to see for themselves that this is a fair deal in every way.”
The minister was referring to speculation regarding the purchasing price demanded by the owners of the pig farm, the company AGPI. Although neither side has revealed the financial details of the agreement, on the grounds that negotiations are still in progress, the news site idnes claims that the purchasing price will not exceed 500 million crowns and a condition attached by the owners is that the sale should take place ahead of the October general elections.
According to the Czech Culture Ministry the property should in future be administered by the Museum of Roma Culture. Its spokeswoman Kristina Kohoutová welcomed the news that after years of futile efforts it would finally be possible to move ahead with plans to build a dignified memorial to the Romanies who suffered and died in the Lety camp.
“It is important to have a memorial at the Lety site, not just to honour the victims but as a constant reminder of the ethnic cleansing that took place there. We will of course take part in a broad debate regarding what type of memorial would be appropriate.”
Some 1,300 Czech Romanies passed through the Lety camp during WWII; over 300 of them died there, while another 500 were deported to Auschwitz. The need to create a dignified memorial at the site was raised soon after the fall of communism and president Vaclav Havel was one of the strongest advocates for the pig farm’s removal. In 2010 a memorial to Roma victims of the Holocaust –a stone depicting a broken heart - was unveiled close-by, but the stench from the near-by pig farm was a constant reminder of a shameful problem unresolved.