An exhibition on the Romany Holocaust and current racism in Europe opened in the Brno-based Ombudsman Office on July 24th. On 82 exhibition panels people can read about the fate of Romanies during World War Two and some panels are dedicated to the present. The visitors, for instance, can learn the story of the wall in Usti nad Labem's Maticni street and the problems of the Romany minorities in Slovakia, Austria and Germany.
"The exhibition is designed to open an unknown chapter in European history. The notion Holocaust is usually connected with the extermination of 6 million Jews, but it also means systematic extermination of 500,000 Romanies and Sinti," Silvio Peritore from the Documentation Centre of German Sinti and Romas that created the exhibition and showed it with success in Strasbourg and Prague said at the opening ceremony.
According to Jana Horvathova from the Brno Museum of Romany Culture, the exhibition is a significant event.
"It mostly speaks about the past but also connects it with the present," Horvathova said, adding that the questions of racism and suppression of Romanies in Europe were still urgent.
"There are displays of intolerance, inability of co-existence and racism in our society, although we do not want to seem them," ombudsman Otakar Motejl said.
The exhibition was financially supported by the South Moravian region because the Brno Town Hall refused to support it.
The Town Hall objected against the panel depicting the history of the controversial Maticni street.
Maticni street got into the limelight in the 1990s due to the conflict over the wall that was built there to separate old residents from inhabitants of community flats for rent defaulters, mainly Romanies.
The erection of the wall was criticised as an _expression of racism by many Czech and foreign politicians and human rights organisations and the wall was later removed.
Romanies were persecuted and deported to concentration and extermination camps in Nazi Germany and the countries occupied by the Third Reich.
Czechs and Moravian and Moravian Romanies were gathered since 1940 in labour camps in Lety near Pisek, east Bohemia, and in Hodonin, south Moravia.
According to historians, some 2,690 Romanies came through the camps. Many of them died there and others were sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.
According to various sources, 5,400 to 5,600 Czech and Moravian Romanies were sent to Auschwitz. The first train left Brno on March 7, 1943.