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A Czech town memorializes oft-forgotten victims

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Deep in the peaceful Bohemian countryside 15 miles northwest of Prague sits the village of Lidice. The town itself has been transformed into a beautiful and haunting memorial with a museum and rose garden to commemorate a brutal Nazi retaliation that razed the original town after high-ranking Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated in Prague in 1942. In the museum, a new traveling exhibit tells the story of another group terrorized under the Nazis – the Roma.

About half a million European Roma were killed during World War II. Ninety percent of the Roma living on Czech lands are believed to have been killed. Lety, the Roma internment camp, was originally a prison work camp. It housed more than 1,000 Roma, also known as Gypsies, from 1942 to 1943; about 500 of them went to Auschwitz. Lidice Memorial staff now manage the Lety site as well as Lezaky, a second Roma internment camp, and plans are to develop memorials there as well.

“Like with the Lidice Memorial, we are trying to bring history to young people through various exhibitions,” says Ivona Kasalicka, director of the Lidice Gallery. The traveling exhibition will remain at Lidice until March 29 and then will be displayed at the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Czech Republic.

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