Commemoration event in former Communist concentration camp “Hell of Jáchymov”, Czech Republic on 26 May 2017

May 28, 2017
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHorní Slavkov, Ostrov nad Ohří, 26 May 2017. Platform Managing Director Neela Winkelmann and legal intern Juliette Rémond-Tiedrez attended two of a series of commemoration events organised by the Confederation of Political Prisoners of the Czech Republic together with the local municipalities in the region of Jáchymov in Northwestern Czech Republic on 26-27 May 2017. The annual commemoration event called “Hell of Jáchymov” is held attended by survivors, associations of victims and representatives of municipalities, the Government and Parliament of the Czech Republic.

Between 1949-1961, the Czechoslovak Communist regime operated a series of concentration camps centered around Jáchymov (and the town of Příbram near Prague) in which thousands of political prisoners were forced to excavate and process uranium ore which was exported to the Soviet Union, based on a secret treaty. The camps were run with the aim to work the prisoners to death – the prisoners were called “men destined for liquidation” (the acronym is MUKL in Czech, a term which former political prisoners use for calling themselves until today.) The men were forced to work in inhumane conditions with no possibility to protect themselves from high radiation; many of them died as a result of the harsh conditions, brutality of the camp regime and camp guards, accidents and irradiation.

The commemoration began at the cemetery in the mining town of  Horní Slavkov where the bodies of five men are buried who attempted an escape from one of the camps and were shot and killed in 1951. The second ceremony took place in the town of Ostrov nad Ohří at the foot of the Tower of Death – a seven-story building where the uranium ore was powdered and packed into crates and where the highest radiation and highest death rates among the prisoners occurred. The tower has been declared a national cultural monument. A museum of the concentration camps is planned there, an overdue debt to the victims and society alike.

 

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