WASHINGTON—Following today’s formal announcement that the Czech government intends to remove a pig farm on the site of the World War II concentration camp at Lety, Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Roger Wicker issued the following statement:
“This achievement is the culmination of decades of work on the part of survivors, human rights groups, members of the Helsinki Commission, and others. It paves the way for a dignified and appropriate memorial for the thousands of men, women, and children who suffered and died there.”
In 1940, during the Nazi occupation of the present-day Czech Republic, a forced labor camp for adult male prisoners opened at Lety. In 1942, Lety was converted into a concentration camp exclusively for Roma of any age. More than 1,300 prisoners were held at Lety, and at least 326 people perished in the camp, including 241 children. In 1943, 540 people were deported in two mass transports from Lety to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Most were murdered there or in other concentration camps.
In 1973, the Czechoslovak communist government built an industrial pork processing farm on the site. After the fall of communism, the farm was privatized.
In 1994, the Helsinki Commission was made aware of the existence of a unique, surviving archive of original documents from the Lety camp and subsequently worked to secure the transfer of a complete copy of those archives to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The first copies of the Lety archive were hand-delivered to the USHMM by then-Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Palous in January 1999; the final set of documents was delivered in March 2000.
In a statement at the time, then-Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04) said, “The long process of transferring these documents has ended; a new chapter of understanding the Romani Holocaust has begun.”