Hodonin near Kunstadt

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Hodonin near Kunstadt
  • Version 1.0
  • Publication date 8 February 2024

The Zigeunerlager’ [cikánský tábor, CT] Hodonin near Kunstadt was established near the village of Hodonín near Kunštát (Blansko district) in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, German occupied territory of the former Czechoslovakia. The facility had previously been an ‘Arbeits-Straflager’ [penal labour camp] and an ‘Anhaltelager’ [custody camp] in succession. Designated as ‘Zigeunerlager II’ [CT II] to distinguish it from ‘Zigeunerlager I’ [CT I] Lety near Pisek, the camp was opened on 2 August 1942 and was officially intended for the internment of Zigeuner and Zigeunermischlinge from the territory of Moravia.

The internees comprised Roma and Sinti individuals and entire families, including children, but also a certain number of non-Romani persons who, according to the authorities, lived a ‘Gypsy way of life’. In total, about 1,400 men, women and children of all ages went through the camp. Over 200 of them died in the camp, while the majority of the inmates were deported to Auschwitz.

Commandant and Staff

The camp was officially administered by the regional government [Landesbehörde] in Brno, however, all powers in respect of the internment and release of individuals as well as the regime in the camp were held by the Criminal Police Headquarters [Kriminalzentrale] in Prague, which was the main institution for the persecution of Roma and Sinti in the Protectorate.

The camp was headed by chief administrative officer Štěpán Blahynka (1894–1956), a former Czech gendarme lieutenant and former commandant of the penal labour camp. From January 1943, when he was transferred to camp Lety near Pisek to deal with the consequences of an epidemic of typhoid and typhus and secure the conditions for the transport of prisoners to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp, he was represented by administrative officer Jan Sokl (1888–unknown), also a former gendarme lieutenant. In May 1943, Blahynka returned and served as camp commandant in Hodonin until its liquidation.

The camp personnel, which consisted exclusively of Czech employees, was divided into uniformed and non-uniformed members. The uniformed staff comprised around 40 former Protectorate gendarmes who served as guards. In addition, there were a number of employees of the civilian camp management. The non-uniformed staff included a number of civilians employed in the administrative and supervisory staff canteen, the head of the kitchen for the inmates, the head of the camp workshops and those working in the disinfection unit.

As in concentration camps, there was an element of inmate self-administration, overseen by the camp commandant following the German model. As kapos, prisoner functionaries, unofficially using the ranks of sergeants, corporals or private first class, were appointed to head the work details. They were responsible for the work and discipline of fellow inmates inside and outside the camp, and were also empowered to inflict physical punishment.

One of the kapos was the Romani inmate Blažej Dydy (1917–unknown), who later also served as a prisoner functionary in Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the war, he became the only person convicted by a Czech court in connection with the crimes committed in these camps. In 1947, the Extraordinary People‘s Court in Brno sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Arrival

Following the opening of the camp on 2 August 1942, a large number of people were interned there, sent straight after the registration of all Protectorate ‘Gypsies, Gypsy Mischlinge and persons living in the Gypsy fashion’. With the assistance of the Gendarmerie, inmates came to the camp on foot, by rail to the nearby stations in Nedvědice and Skalice nad Svitavou, or in their own wagons. Upon arrival, they were registered with a prison number (members of the same family usually received the same number). This was followed by a humiliating mass ‘entrance cleansing’ and disinfection of clothes. People had to wash naked in outdoor wooden tubs of water. Furthermore, they had to undergo the humiliating process of having all their pubic hair shaved off and the hair cut or shaved from their heads. The inmates‘ identity cards, any money they were carrying and other property were also confiscated.

Accommodation, Clothing and Hygienic Conditions

There was not enough camp clothing for the inmates, so in most cases only those inmates who went to work outside the camp received it. Women and children wore their own clothes, while men received camp uniforms—discarded uniforms of the Czechoslovak army dyed black. Despite the camp tailoring and shoemaking workshops, there was a shortage of clothing and footwear, especially in the winter months.

At first, families were placed in barracks together. Later, after new blocks were built, men and women were separated immediately after arriving in the camp, and only the smallest children remained with their mothers. At first, three very dilapidated standardised wooden barracks without thermal insulation were intended for the inmates. The accommodation capacity of the camp was 300 in the summer and only 200 in the winter. By the end of August 1942, however, there were already more than a thousand inmates in the camp, so some had to be temporarily accommodated in confiscated caravans and tents. In the fall of 1942 and spring of 1943, four wooden barracks were added, but even this was still not enough and the accommodation conditions continued to be disastrous.

Inside the guarded part of the camp, in addition to the seven accommodation barracks, there were a kitchen for inmates, an infirmary, an isolation barrack, a morgue, a farm building, offices and a prison, two guardhouses with accommodation for guards, a laundry room and a bathroom. Behind the wooden fence outside the camp were buildings for the staff: accommodation, kitchen, dining room and so-called weekend houses for the accommodation of the guards in the summer. The camp lacked water supply and sewage. The single well in the area supplied only non-potable water, which had to be carefully conserved, while drinking water had to be imported.

Camp Regime and Penalties

The operation of the camp and everyday life in it was governed by the camp rules, which were issued by the commander general of the non-uniformed Protectorate police. Among other things the camp rules restricted movement around the camp, as well as the use of heating and evening light in the individual barracks. The day ended at 8:00 p.m., and leaving the barracks was punishable. In their free time, inmates were forbidden to lie down, have loud conversations, play noisy games or speak Romanes. They were obliged to speak only German with their superiors and with each other.

Apart from working outside the camp, the inmates had almost no contact with their surroundings. Visits were strictly prohibited, and each month inmates could send and receive a maximum of two letters or receive a package of food up to 3 kg, with the approval of the management and under strict control.

Violations against the camp rules were punished in such a way as to deter others. Violations could be punished by the commandant or his deputy by reprimand, withdrawal of benefits, assignment to hard or unpleasant work, or placement in the camp prison after working hours. For misdemeanours, the inmates were brought before the district court in the city of Kunštát, imprisoned there or sent to the preventive detention of the criminal police directorate in Brno, from where they could be included in one of the transports of people stigmatised as ‘asocials’ and destined for the Auschwitz I concentration camp.

Nutrition

Inmates received food three times a day, but only in the minimum necessary quantities, and this resulted in serious malnutrition, especially among the children. As a result of the insufficient food supply and the failure to observe officially established rations, there was great hunger in the camp. This was also related to the theft of the camp‘s food supplies by employees of the camp’s civilian management. When they could, of course, inmates also committed theft out of hunger and the need for self-preservation. Inmates working in the kitchen or in the prison administration were able to secure better food.

Forced Labour

‘Re-education through work’ was one of the officially proclaimed reasons for the concentration of ‘Gypsies’ in the camp. The inmates did not receive any wages for their work—it was used to finance the operation of the camp. According to the camp regulations, all inmates, including children, had to work according to their strength and abilities inside or outside the camp. Working hours were set at eight to ten hours a day (depending on the season). Inmates who were able to work were divided into groups of men, women and juveniles.

In the camp itself, work was mainly done in the prison kitchen, laundry and tailoring and shoemaking workshops. The external workplaces were located along the construction site of the new long-distance road from Plzeň to Moravská Ostrava. It was primarily work in the quarry, loading stone onto carts, transporting it, unloading and manually crushing the stone into gravel. Inmates were also employed in excavation work and removal of soil and occasionally in the fields of local farmers.

Anastázie Bystřická (1924‒unknown) recalled after the war how she, along with other inmates ‒ men, women, and children ‒ had to work on the construction of a road. When her heavily loaded cart overturned, she was immediately beaten with a truncheon, resulting in her being unable to work for several days.

Disease and Death

The medical supervision of the camp was carried out by Czech doctor Josef Habanec (1897‒1972) from the nearby town of Olešnice. In January 1943, the Jewish doctor Alfréd Mílek (1899‒unknown) was assigned to the camp in connection with an epidemic of typhoid and typhus. After his deportation to Auschwitz (he survived the internment), he was replaced in July by the Jewish doctor Michal Bohin (1895‒1956), who was transferred here from internment in the disbanded ‘Zigeunerlager‘ in Lety (after the liquidation of the camp in Hodonin, he was sent to Theresienstadt and on to Mauthausen concentration camp). Inmate Marie Ondrášová (1926‒unknown) was selected as a camp nurse and as an assistant to the medical staff. Despite lacking medical training, she was tasked with caring for inmates and also assisted in childbirth. After the mass deportation of inmates to Auschwitz, she was released with her family in September 1943 and managed to survive until the end of the war.

Unsuitable working, accommodation, food and hygiene conditions led to frequent and chronic morbidity and mortality of inmates. The most vulnerable were children, who in the case of the Hodonín camp made up almost 30 per cent of the total number of inmates. Out of the 35 children born in the camp, about 20 died there, and of the rest only two survived until the end of war.

Diseases of the upper respiratory tract, dermatological infections, tuberculosis and typhoid fever prevailed among the inmates; the children suffered from pneumonia, inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, measles, etc. The culmination of the disastrous living conditions in the camp was the outbreak of typhoid fever at the turn of 1942/1943, which killed the largest single number of inmates. At first, sick people were sent to the regional hospital in Brno, but after the outbreak of the epidemic they were placed in the camp infirmary or in special isolation barracks.

The dead inmates were buried first at the municipal cemetery in the nearby village of Černovice (73 people, mostly children, are buried in the section of the cemetery reserved for non-believers) and then at the provisional camp cemetery near the camp, in mass graves and without religious ceremonies (121 people). Despite the measures taken, the typhoid epidemic continued, so a strict quarantine was declared over the camp from February 1943.

A total of 207 people did not survive internment in the camp. Of these, 194 died in the camp and the rest during hospitalisation in hospitals in Brno.

Release and Escape

Although detention in the ‘Gypsy camps’ was officially indefinite, there was a limited possibility of release, which was used at the beginning of the camp‘s existence in connection with its overcrowding and later in connection with its liquidation. Approximately 250 to 260 people were released from the camp during its existence. Some inmates were apparently also released thanks to corruption and bribes. However, most of those officially released were soon re-arrested and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Another option was running away. The camp area was surrounded by a two-meter-high fence made of wooden planks with a superstructure made of barbed wire and constantly guarded by guards with service dogs. The conditions for flight were thus better at the external work sites, where some inmates even spent the night. If the fugitives were caught, they were put in the prison of the criminal police directorate in Brno and then usually included in the transport of ‘asocials’ to the Auschwitz I concentration camp. During the camp‘s existence, about 70 inmates attempted to escape, and roughly one-fifth succeeded in evading capture.

For example, on 10 May 1943, a group of four Roma men successfully escaped from the camp, each with a different outcome. Bohuslav Dydy (1925‒1943) was shot immediately during the escape. Prisoner functionary Blažej Dydy (1917‒unknown) was captured and later deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Ludvík Murka (1908‒1944) was captured in November 1943 and executed in a prison in Prague in June 1944. His brother Antonín Murka (1923‒1989) went into hiding, later joined the resistance movement, led a small partisan group, and after the war was decorated multiple times for his resistance activities.

Deportation

The camps Hodonin near Kunstadt and Lety near Pisek served as transfer points for Roma and Sinti to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. In total, approximately 850 children, women and men were deported there from Hodonin. The first transport took place on 7 December 1942 on the basis of the decree on the preventive fight against crime, which the ordered the deportation of persons identified as ‘asocials’. The transport consisted of 78 mostly old male and female inmates, most of whom perished in the first two months of their stay in the Auschwitz I concentration camp.

Preparations for the second and main mass transport were begun following the issuing of the Auschwitz decree in December 1942. However, the planned transport of inmates to Auschwitz-Birkenau was delayed by the quarantine imposed on the camp because of the typhoid outbreak. In preparation for the transport, representatives of the German criminal police from Brno, mainly Detective Chief Inspector [Kriminalrat] Franz Herzig (unknown–unknown), carried out a selection with the help of the Brno criminal police directorate. On the basis of this selection, some inmates labelled as ‘racial non-Gypsies’ were subsequently released. On 21 August 1943, 750 inmates were deported by freight train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most of them gradually perished or were murdered in early August 1944.

Božena Jochová (1935‒unknown), whose family perished in the camp, hid during the deportation proceedings in August 1943. After the deportation, she was discovered; the camp cook led her to the nearby town of Olešnice and took care of her until the end of the war. The camp was disbanded on 30 September 1943, but officially closed down only on 1 December 1943. After the departure of the second transport in August 1943, only a group of approximately sixty inmates remained in the camp. Some of them were taken to a forced labour camp in Brno and some were released. The last transport of Hodonin inmates to Auschwitz consisted of about 30 people who had had to carry out cleaning work in the camp after its disbanding. On 27 January 1944, they were added to a mass transport of persons designated ‘asocials’ who were sent from Pardubice to the Auschwitz I concentration camp.

After the liquidation of the ‘Zigeunerlager’ in Hodonin, the site was occupied by a branch of the ‘labour education camp‘ from the nearby village of Mladkov and a training center for Wehrmacht soldiers before deployment to the front.

The Site in the Years 1945–1989

After the liberation in the spring of 1945, the camp was temporarily occupied by the Romanian army, and also housed a hospital for wounded soldiers of the Red Army. From December 1945 to October 1946, it served as an assembly centre for members of the ethnic German population before their removal from Czechoslovakia. 48 out of the total 80 victims of this facility are buried in the camp mass cemetery, where a wooden cross was erected in 1946.

In the years 1949 to 1950, a forced labour camp for ‘enemies of the communist regime‘ operated there. A small stone with a carved inscription ‘Žalov obětí nacismu’ [place of mourning for the victims of Nazism], which is still in the camp cemetery, probably dates from this time. It was made by an unknown hand, probably by one of the inmates of the forced labour camp. The name ‘Žalov’ later began to be used to refer to the entire recreation area, preserving the wartime history of this place in oral memory.

For many years afterwards, the site was used as a corporate recreation facility and a holiday camp for children. Accommodation cabins were placed on the site of the original buildings and the area was gradually supplemented with other facilities (playground, swimming pool, etc.). The only public act of commemoration that took place there was organised in March 1973 by the Commission of Former Concentration Camp Prisoners of the Union of Gypsies-Roma.

The Site after 1989

The site of the former camp was used for recreational purposes even after 1989, when it was transferred to private ownership. The Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, along with other Romani and non-Romani organisations and individuals, have long drawn attention to the inappropriateness of promoting recreation at the site of the former concentration camp. However, discussion of this camp remained in the shadow of the Lety near Pisek camp, which was better known to the public.

The tradition of commemoration was started by the Museum of Romani Culture in 1995 with the organisation of a memorial event, which takes place there every year in August. In 1997, the Museum of Romani Culture unveiled a new monument made by Roma stonemason Eduard Oláh (1955‒2018) on the site of the camp cemetery (in 2013 the cemetery was declared a state cultural monument). In 1998, the Museum of Romani Culture, in cooperation with the municipal authorities in Hodonín near Kunštát and Černovice, unveiled a memorial plaque made by Roma artist Božena Vavreková-Přikrylová (born 1978) at the municipal cemetery in Černovice over the still unmarked graves of the camp victims.

In December 2009, thanks to the long-term efforts of the Museum of Romani Culture and Romani and non-Romani activists, the complex was purchased by the Czech state. Since 2012, the National Pedagogical Museum and Library of J. A. Comenius in Prague has been entrusted with the administration of the site, and has started building the memorial. The only two remaining buildings erected during the war (inmates‘ barracks and guards‘ barracks) were reconstructed as part of the future permanent exhibition. On the basis of an architectural competition for students of the architecture faculties of Czech universities (2013 to 2014), the memorial was built in the following years with, among other things, a new visitor and exhibition building.

Since 2018, the ‘Memorial to the Holocaust of Roma and Sinti in Moravia’ has been managed by the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, which has completed the permanent exhibition (opened to the public in summer 2021) and regularly holds commemorative and other events there.

Compensation

In Czechoslovakia, there was some possibility of rehabilitation and compensation for Romani survivors under Act 255/1946 Coll. This made provision for the social welfare of participants in the ‘national struggle for liberation’, a category which also included persons imprisoned because of nationality, race or religion. After 1989, the provision for lump-sum payments in Act No. 217/1994 Coll. offered the first possibility of real compensation to the victims of Nazi persecution. In addition to the survivors, it also allowed relatives of the victims to claim compensation. Since the end of the 1990s, compensation has also been provided on the basis of the programmes of the Swiss Humanitarian Fund for the Victims of the Holocaust, the German Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ Foundation, through the partner organisation Czech-German Fund for the Future), and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Historiography

Post-war Czech historiography addressed the topic of the Nazi genocide of the Roma only sporadically and marginally. Historian Ctibor Nečas (1933–2017) was the first to undertake a systematic study the history of the camps, starting in the early 1970s. His work on the publication of lists of inmates in the ‘Zigeunerlager’ Lety near Pisek and Hodonin near Kunstadt (1987) was groundbreaking. However, he was able to publish most of his texts only after 1989, when the change in political and social conditions led to the development of research and publishing activities and the involvement of other younger researchers, like Jana Holomková-Horváthová (born 1967) and Petr Lhotka (born 1973). Testimonies of former inmates recorded since the 1970s, but especially during the 1990s, have also been published (Nemůžeme zapomenout. Naťi bisteras, 1994; …to jsou těžké vzpomínky, 2021).

Zitierweise

Michal Schuster: Hodonin near Kunstadt, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 8. Februar 2024. -

1942
2. August 1942Im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Länder) werden die „Zigeunerlager“ Lety bei Pisek und Hodonin bei Kunstadt in Betrieb genommen. In den ersten Tagen werden mehr als tausend Menschen in jedes Lager transportiert.
7. Dezember 1942Der erste Transport von Sinti:ze und Rom:ja aus dem „Zigeunerlager“ Hodonin bei Kunstadt, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Länder), in das Konzentrationslager Auschwitz I wird auf der Grundlage des Befehls zur „vorbeugenden Verbrechensbekämpfung“ durchgeführt. Der Transport besteht aus 78 meist älteren Häftlingen.
16. Dezember 1942„Auschwitz-Erlass”: Heinrich Himmler, Chef der Schutzstaffel („Reichsführer SS”), ordnet die Deportation von Sinti:ze und Rom:nja aus dem Deutschen Reich in das Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau an.
1943
17. Februar 1943Wegen der Ausbreitung von Fleckfieber und Typhus unter den Häftlingen wird das „Zigeunerlager” Hodonin bei Kunstadt im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Länder) unter Quarantäne gestellt.
10. Mai 1943Vier Roma fliehen aus dem „Zigeunerlager“ Hodonin bei Kunstadt, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Länder). Bohuslav Dudy wird erschossen, Blažej Dydy später in das Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau deportiert (er überlebt), Ludvík Murka später in Prag hingerichtet. Antonín Murka taucht unter und schließt sich der Widerstandsbewegung an (er überlebt).
22. August 1943Etwa 770 Männer, Frauen und Kinder, hauptsächlich Häftlinge des „Zigeunerlagers“ Hodonin bei Kunstadt, werden im Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau registriert. Sie wurden mit dem fünften Deportationszug aus dem Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Gebiete) auf der Grundlage des „Auschwitz-Erlasses“ deportiert.
30. September 1943Das „Zigeunerlager“ Hodonin bei Kunstadt im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Gebiete) wird aufgelöst, aber erst am 1. Dezember 1943 offiziell geschlossen.
1944
27. Januar 1944Etwa 30 Sinti:ze und Rom:nja, ehemalige Internierte aus dem „Zigeunerlager“ Hodonin bei Kunstadt, Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren (deutsch besetzte tschechische Länder), werden in das Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau deportiert.
1973
18. März 1973Die Kommission der ehemaligen Opfer von Konzentrationslagern der Union der Zigeuner-Roma organisiert die erste öffentliche Gedenkfeier am Ort des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ in Hodonín bei Kunštát.
1995
20. August 1995Das Museum für Roma-Kultur veranstaltet in Hodonín bei Kunštát (Tschechische Republik) die erste offizielle Gedenkfeier im ehemaligen „Zigeunerlager“.
1997
17. August 1997Das Museum für Roma-Kultur (Tschechische Republik) enthüllt ein Denkmal auf dem Massenfriedhof für die Insass:innen des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ in Hodonín bei Kunštát.
1998
16. Mai 1998Das Museum für Roma-Kultur (Tschechische Republik) enthüllt in Zusammenarbeit mit den Gemeindebehörden von Hodonín bei Kunštát und Černovice eine Gedenktafel auf dem Gemeindefriedhof in Černovice über den noch nicht gekennzeichneten Gräbern der Opfer des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ in Hodonín bei Kunštát.
2009
28. Dezember 2009Der tschechische Staat erwirbt über das Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport in Hodonín bei Kunštát das Gelände des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ von einem Privateigentümer.
2013
16. August 2013Der Massenfriedhof der Insassen des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ in Hodonín bei Kunštát wird dank der Initiative des Museums für Roma-Kultur (Tschechische Republik) zum staatlichen Kulturdenkmal erklärt.
2018
25. Januar 2018Das Museum für Roma-Kultur (Tschechische Republik) wird Verwalter der Gedenkstätte auf dem Gelände des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ in Hodonín bei Kunštát.
2021
15. Juli 2021Das Museum für Roma-Kultur (Tschechische Republik) eröffnet in Hodonín bei Kunštát eine Gedenkstätte mit einer Dauerausstellung auf dem Gelände des ehemaligen „Zigeunerlagers“ für die Öffentlichkeit.