An exhibition about the tragic history of the Latvian Roma in the 20th century was opened in the Czech National Library in Prague

09.06.2016. 20:10

On 8 June the exhibition “Roma Holocaust in Latvia during Nazi occupation in 1941-1945” was opened in the Klementinum building of the National Library of the Czech Republic. The exhibition was a joint project of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia, the Roma Cultural Centre in Riga, the National Library of the Czech Republic and the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Czech Republic. This marks the first time the exhibition, which had been presented in spring 2015 in Riga, in the building of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia, was accessible ouside Latvia. “Roma Holocaust in Latvia during Nazi occupation in 1941-1945” “Roma Holocaust in Latvia during Nazi occupation in 1941-1945” “Roma Holocaust in Latvia during Nazi occupation in 1941-1945”

The main goal of the exhibition is to bring attention to the fate and suffering of Roma people during the second world war, as there has not been much research and we can still see the lack of information about this topic today. According to testimonies of witnesses and historians there were approximately 2 million Roma people killed and tormented to death during the second world war. Based on eyewitness’ testimonies there were cca 8.000 Roma people murdered in Latvia, but according to evidence from criminal cases only 3.000 homicides were proven. In present day it was recognised that murders of Roma people during the second world war occured in many Latvian districts, nevertheless, the evidence has not been completely examined so far.

The strongest systematic persecutions, murdering, shooting and deportations under Nazi rule were aimed at both the Jews and Roma people. During the Nuremberg trials came to light that Roma people were designated an ethnic group of which the Third Reich territory should have been “cleaned” the same way the Jews had been. Orders of the annihilation were given by central Nazi authorities and subsequently executed in the occupied territories of East Europe. During the German occupation in 1941–1942 70percent of Roma people in Latvia were killed, but all suffered as there was no family left untouched by the horrible murdering or deportation to internment.

In Latvia there exists no monument, memorial or museum devoted to innocent victims of war whose only guilt was that they were born to a Roma family. In Czech Republic a monument in memory of the Roma Holocaust victims is situated in Lety near the town of Písek.

During the exhibition opening event the president of International Romani Union and head of Latvian Roma Cultural Centre, Normunds Rudevičs, stressed: “I hope that Czechia and other states as countries united in the idea of EU shall offer their support to research of Roma holocaust and to sharing their experiences of the research, so these terrible deeds will not be repeated in future.” At the gathering speeches touching Roma subject were also given by H. E. Alberts Sarkanis; director of the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, Jana Horváthová; director of the National Library of the Czech Republic Pavel Kroupa and deputy director of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia, Valdis Mazulis.

A glimpse into Latvian Romani tender singing culture was offered by the “Ame Roma” ensemble composed of Roksana Rudeviča, Ornella Rudeviča, Rino Rudevičs and Jānis Gasperovičs.