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Saturday, October 01, 2011
HAPPENING AGAIN IS "NEVER AGAIN"
IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE
What is happening in Europe is an abomination. The racist attacks on and the persecution of the Roma People should be front page news and is not. The European Union should take action, but, at most, will only say a few words. The world stands by silently yet again. Makes me ill!
Both pieces below comes from Romeo.cz.
Galina Trefil: While "Never Again" Happens Again
Ukiah, Kalifornie, USA, 26.9.2011 15:01, (ROMEA)
1959. A pair of determined, 19-year-old Romani male eyes stare down one of the many guard towers with which the Iron Curtain has surrounded Czechoslovakia. Though well within range of the machine guns’ fire, he takes a deep breath and suddenly darts illegally across the border. He moves through a river and then shakes himself dry momentarily on the other side. If he is shot, he will not be the first one in his family to be killed by an oppressive regime. For the rest of his life, he will never know how many brothers he has—only that they died by machine gun as children under Hitler’s tyranny.
The young man makes his stand, poses, and, on the other side, a nervous relative takes his photograph for proof. Just as quickly as he illegally crossed over, the teenager crosses back. Smugly now, he regards the malicious guard tower again. Though Romani and born in America, he had been taught to love Czechoslovakia, where his father had been born. His own people, by his thought, were just as much Czech citizens as any Slav and this was just as much his peoples’ homeland. And no machine gun had been able to keep him from proudly stepping foot on his homeland’s soil. Even if it was for mere seconds, for the rest of his life, no one would be able to take this pride from him….
Nineteen John Trefil.
2011. Though Hitler by no means loved the Czech people, nor Slavic people in general, it has become a grotesque joke that revering him and his practices has become an ever-more present theme throughout many Eastern European countries. Though he’d have had a clean conscience slaughtering Czechs en mass during his reign, this has apparently been forgiven by a great many for the simple fact that he ALSO murdered 1.5 million Roma. Cheering for Hitler, Neo-Nazi mobs rise up and Romani citizens in Czech Republic today hide as hundreds of people march, crying for them to be sent to gas chambers, set on fire, lynched, and shot.
In Varnsdorf and Rumburk, the crowds of those assembled are so domestic that there are even many mothers rolling their infants along in strollers while they scream out their lust for murder. Romani children cower, wondering if they will be killed. Czech children shudder, wondering if they are going to be forced to watch these killings and if their parents will be the ones committing them. Throughout this, Czech police stand by and, for the most part, do absolutely nothing while the mob destroys Romani property and threatens innocent people with genocide.
There are some who think that the pogroms occurring in Czech Republic pertain only to the people there; have no effect on the world at large. That Roma are threatened, attacked, forcedly sterilized, burnt with Molotov cocktails, or killed has become socially as accepted as, in America, attacks on Natives and African-Americans once were. It is as taken for granted as the violence suffered mutually by Jews was in Pre-WWII Europe for over a thousand years. But the crimes against humanity occurring now in Czech Republic do not solely touch the Roma there. It is a knife also felt by Romani-Americans; a knife my own family has felt keenly plunged into its front and its back.
When violence is directed against us, without exception, we are blamed for it. Why? We did not “assimilate.” My grandfather once taught at Karelova University in Prague. Most anyone would have considered that assimilated enough, but he was still a Rom and, thusly, he was shot at with a machine gun and saw his children butchered. His life was destroyed. Roma families all have slaughter stories from the war though. To be Romani, one expects and has to find a way to accept hatred from birth. So, from that perspective, that Neo-Nazis would march and cry for our murder yet again is a frontal assault; not a surprise at all.
Where my own family has felt intense betrayal is that so many were destroyed by the original Nazis that, collectively, many Holocaust-survivor families today say, “Things changed. They got better. And we can take comfort in that.” I and others in my family proudly display the photographs of the Romani-American soldiers of World War II—men who volunteered for the army, eager to be part of that change; eager to bring justice and freedom to their brethren and other ethnic groups besides across the ocean. Risking their lives, these men returned to America with medals, proving not just their valor in battle, but their commitment to the idea of genocide being wiped out.
In 1959, my father made a gesture of standing up to a government that does not protect its citizens, but instead forces them to suffer. He swam a river and risked his life in order, just for a moment, to stand in his father’s homeland with pride. Even if it was only a gesture, sometimes gesture are necessary.
My father, a retired psychiatrist and surgeon, still loves the Czech Republic. This is an all-encompassing and devoted love that will not, no matter how many vicious mobs arise, ever change. No matter how many police refuse to arrest citizens bent on murder, he will never blame the Czech people as a whole, but rather the government which is failing to protect its non-Czech citizens. He considers those who Czechs who did not stand up to and or prosecute the mob as shameful to their own race and sympathizes with the many decent, ethical Czechs who are shamed by the escalating violence that they did not take part in.
John Trefil in adulthood. (Photo: Family Archive.)
However much he loves Czech Republic though, he has broken-heartedly asked other family members to not go to there anymore. Nazis killed enough of our family already 70 years ago without more members needing to be sacrificed to the Neo-Nazis’ rise. And if the Czech government will allow this violence against its Romani citizens to go unchecked, it has betrayed every Romani-American soldier in my family that once volunteered to protect it. Most decidedly, the Czech Republic of 2011 is not one that my father would have swam that river to cross into.
And when he says this, he points out that this is the modern legacy of Czech Republic: not prosecuting what, in America, would be termed the crime of criminal solicitation for mass murder. By this failure, Czech Republic has rewound time back seventy years and now it is not German soldiers attempting to enact murders based on race. It is a thousand Czech civilians. These violent racists are the image that the Czech Republic is delivering to the media and to public relations. They, and not respectable people, are the voice which all citizens in other countries, not only foreign Roma, will be hearing. This is a thought that any good-hearted Czechs who stood by and did nothing should consider the next time that they proudly love their country. Will good Czechs allow their homeland to become thusly humiliated?
Čeněk Růžička: Czech politicians trying to force Roma to emigrateLety u Písku, 29.9.2011 17:48, (ROMEA)
Čeněk Růžička, chair, Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust
The following is a translation of a speech written by Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, for the occasion of the commemoration at the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety u Písku held in honor of the Day of Czech Statehood (28 September):
Speaking as a survivor of the victims of Nazism who are rest here, I have the honor of welcoming you. We are standing at one of the places where events occurred during Nazism that marked us for our entire lives. Those events have been irrevocably engraved on our memories, reminders that are once again relevant today with respect to the currently exacerbated relations between the majority and the Romani minority in this country.
Yes, esteemed Roma, this is the sacred site from which essential appeals must be heard. The words spoken here are dignified and important.
Today this place should be honored by reading the names of the Romani victims of racism who were murdered at the hands of Czech neo-Nazis after 1989. This makes for sad reading. When reading the names of innocent victims, our hearts ache, but given the rising aggression being committed against our people by our fellow citizens, it is even more important to read their names. Our appeal and our wish is that we will finally live in this country as free, respected people whose lives are not at risk.
I am one of those Roma whose entire families all but completely perished, for racist reasons, in the Nazi concentration camps. I know very well what a manipulated mob, as we have been watching live on television recently, is capable of.
The Roma and Sinti, whose roots in the Czech lands are 600 years old, have had their own experiences with the Czech nation. Those who can remember the 1930s, who can remember the law that violated the constitutionally guaranteed equality of citizens and set up special police files on Roma and Sinti, banned our entry into selected towns, introduced special "Gypsy identification cards", ordered us to regularly report to police stations, and terrorized us in other ways - thank God, some of the people who lived through that are still alive.
The adoption of that law exacerbated society's anti-Roma sentiment even more, and those who were mayors then, like those who are mayors today, contributed to the aggravation. The end result was the behavior of the Czech camp guards toward our people in the Nazi concentration camps at Lety and Hodonín, where Czech guards tortured as many as 600 of our people, i.e., their fellow citizens. Of those victims, at Lety alone, 241 of them were children.
Romale, when I learned what happened to my people here at Lety, I could not believe my ears. Until the recent events that have taken place in Šluknov occurred, I continued to hope that somewhere in the archives we would discover documentation of the fact that the Czech guards had actually been ordered to work our people to death, instead of doing it on their own initiative. However, we really do not have time to do this work now. It's useless. We already know how far hatred of the Roma can go.
We know very well what kind of a hell the Czech guards prepared for our people at Lety and Hodonín. We know how hatefully a large part of the majority society treated them. Each one of us still experiences this day in and day out - at local authorities, on public transportation, in the shops and in the streets. It is merely a fortunate coincidence that the ongoing crusade against Romani families has not yet resulted in the very worst outcome of lives being lost.
Who can guarantee that similar pogroms against the Roma will not be repeated with even greater intensity in any part of our country, and with fundamentally worse outcomes? Who can guarantee that Romani individuals, concerned for the lives of their families, will not do something reckless? The tragedy of our people in this country has no end. Are the 20 racist murders of our people that have been committed during this new regime not enough?
We must count on the fact that the relationship of Czech bureaucrats and politicians to the Roma corresponds now and will correspond in future to the general relationship of Czech society toward the Romani community. Moreover, among a large part of high-level politicians, this relationship is even more dangerous and more hateful, because they are designing and passing the laws that influence our life. Take, for example, Czech MP Ivana Řápková (whose educational qualifications I will not list for reasons that are infamous). This celebrity star totally lacking in intellect, this woman who is compensating for her own deficiencies with her hatred of the Roma, this woman who has risen into the lower house by walking all over us. As you know, she is not alone on the political scene.
Romale, what will laws look like when they are designed and passed by people who utterly hate the Roma? They exploit the individual offenses of individual Romani people and intentionally base generalizations on those incidents which they then apply to an entire "category of people". They adopt repressive laws - mayoral decrees - and they are not thinking of the results of their behavior at all.
Can you imagine what would happen if we were faced with elections in the immediate future? These officials are able to behave this way because they have the support of a fundamental majority of right-wing politicians and they feel supported by a large part of the nation, i.e., by their voters.
Esteemed Roma, my question is: How much money does any family in this country require not to fall into the category of people below the poverty line? In the US, this amount is established at USD 22 000 annually, which is CZK 370 000. The social welfare system in this country is not as overgrown as politicians from right-wing political parties claim. In comparison with other EU Member States, it is rather modest. What defines the poverty category in this country? Someone needs to specify this. How much money does a family or individual have to make in order to not live below the poverty line?
The state cannot reject our arguments forever. The tragedy of the Roma in this country has no end. Both non-Roma and Romani mothers are afraid to let their children walk to and from school. Romani families are worried about what tomorrow holds for them.
I want to send all politicians a message from this place: If you continue to make life difficult for us by adopting decrees and laws while the cost of almost everything in this country keeps rising, you won't force us to leave as you hope. You will just create an army of homeless Romani families making their living somehow, and the voracious media are already making sure prejudice against us intensifies and inter-ethnic relationships radicalize.
An exacerbated situation will eventually arise to which the police will not be able to respond in time. There is a risk that human lives will be lost.
How loudly do we have to shout here for our arguments to be heard? There are journalists here, the television is here. Naturally, we will be grateful for their assistance in delivering this message.
Romale, we have lived in this country for centuries, we are living here, and we will live here whether anyone likes it or not. We want to live like free, respected people, a proud Romani nation - not like people who fear for their lives. We must remember the Romipen of our ancestors and practice it as ours - we must resurrect it once more. This is missing from our lives, and to a certain extent is the cause of the moral decline of some of our families.
I would like to say more about this, but there are others here who want to address you. As a Rom whose family members lie here, I thank you sincerely for the flowers, and I would truly prefer that we meet under happier circumstances.
Ačen devleha (God be with you).
Čeněk Růžička, chair, Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, translated by Gwendolyn Albert