History of the so-called Gypsy camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu
The Protectorate so-called Gypsy camp was opened in Hodonín u Kunštátu on August 2, 1942. The establishment of the camp with the official designation Zigeunerlager II (Zigeunerlager I was opened in Lety u Písku) was preceded by the July 1942 directive “Countering the Gypsy Crime” (which was a copy of the Reich model valid in Nazi Germany from 1938) according to which a total of 6,500 persons defined as “gypsies and gypsy biracial” were accounted for in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Some of the Roma and Sinti and with them some of their families, considered to be “living the Gypsy way” were interned in the newly opened so-called Gypsy camps from the beginning of August 1942.
Punitive labor camp and collection camp
The so-called gypsy camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu was established at the site of the former punitive labor camp (opened on August 10, 1940) and collection camp (from January 1, 1942).
The punitive labor and collection camp served to implement a distorted social policy for the temporary detention of healthy adult men considered to be “working with disgust” or “asocial” and to use their labor force.
Out of the total of 1032 inmates who went through the disciplinary labor and collection camp, 167 (or 16%) of them were marked with the letter C, ie “gypsies” in the camp evidence.
Conditions in the so-called Gypsy camp
The Hodonín camp had a capacity of 300 people in summer and 200 in winter. However, already during August 1942, police patrols escorted more than 1,000 mostly Roma families, including women, children and the elderly. The absolutely inadequate accommodation conditions in the camp were somewhat alleviated, but never resolved, by the building extension of the camp and by accommodating the interned in tents and confiscated nomadic wagons, in which some of the involuntary inhabitants of the camp arrived in Hodonín.
After their arrival at the camp, the internees were subjected to a humiliating reception ritual consisting of registration, removal of all valuables and property, haircut and delousing. All persons, including children over 10 years of age, were subjected to work duties, either inside the camp, in a nearby quarry or during the construction of the Plzeň-Moravská Ostrava highway section.
The operation of the camp and the guarding of the internees was carried out by Czech personnel, most of whom were former gendarmes. For most of its existence the camp was headed by former lieutenant police officer Štěpán Blahynka. Much of the interaction with the internees, including the execution of physical punishments, was entrusted to members of the prison self-government selected from among the inmates or brought here for this purpose from the Auschwitz I concentration camp.
In addition to completely inadequate accommodation conditions, prisoners suffered from lack of food, drinking and service water, heavy labor, and were also subjected to violence by supervisors and
members of the camp self-government. Catastrophic living conditions negatively affected the health of internees, especially children. Of the 73 victims of the Hodonín camp buried in the parish cemetery in nearby Černovice between August 1942 and January 1943 most were children.
In winter, at the turn of 1942 and 1943, an epidemic of spotted and abdominal typhoid broke out in the camp, resulting in quarantine. From 17 February 1943, the deceased were placed in mass shaft graves near the camp at a place later called Žalov.
During the existence of the so-called Gypsy camp in Hodonín u Kunštátu (2. 8. 1942–30. 9. 1943) 1396 men, women and children, mostly Roma from Moravia, were concentrated there, according to available sources. At least 207 interned residents did not survive the camp. 67 prisoners in the Hodonín camp tried to escape, most of them unsuccessfully. 262 people were dismissed from the camp – mostly because they were classified as “non-gypsies” on the racial basis.
Transports to Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp
Based on the so-called Auschwitz decree of Heinrich Himmler dated December 16, 1942, the “gypsies and gypsy biracial” from the countries of Central and Western Europe which were under the direct control of Nazi Germany, were to be transported to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration extermination camp.
The regulation also applied to the Roma and Sinti in the Protectorate, including those concentrated in the Hodonín camp. 91 people were sent from the Hodonín camp to the Auschwitz I concentration camp as early as December 7, 1942 as part of the transport of the so called asocials.
On the night of 21 to 22 August 1943, a large transport of 749 prisoners to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration extermination camp was dispatched. Most of the transported passed away in the Nazi concentration camps. On January 28, 1944, the 25 remaining prisoners of the Hodonín camp, who were still working on its clearing out, were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Camp area after the deportation of the Roma
After the deportation of the Roma, the Hodonín camp continued to be used. Wehrmacht units were trained here, the Red Army military hospital and Romanian royal army soldiers were based here. In 1946, elderly German people not fit for deportation were interned in the camp. 80 of them did not survive the camp. Between 1949 and 1950 there was a forced labor camp for the opponents of the communist regime. For decades, the premises of the former camp were used for recreational purposes.
Commemoration of the victims in the postwar period
After the Second World War, only a simple birch wood cross and a stone with a carved in inscription “Žalov, the victim of Nazism” on the site of mass graves near the camp commemorated the victims of the camp for a long time. On March 18, 1973, the first public reverent gathering organized by the Gypsy-Roma Union (1969–1973) was held here.
This tradition has been followed by the Museum of Romani Culture since 1995. It organizes an annual reverent gathering on a Sunday closest to August 21.
In 1997, a memorial in the form of a cross was erected in Žalov by the care of the Museum of Romani Culture and the Municipal Office of Hodonín. The monument was designed by the Roman sculptor Eduard Oláh (1955–2018). In 1998 the Museum of Romani Culture had a memorial plaque, the author of which is a blind Roma artist Božena Přikrylová, placed on the cemetery in Černovice.