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2 August 2015: 71 years after the extermination of the "Zigeunerlager" in Auschwitz

Commemoration ceremony at the Council of Europe

Council of Europe. Mr Asmet Elezovski (Secretary of the European Roma and Travellers Forum), Ms Snezana Samardzic-Markovic (Director General of the Council of Europe's Directorate of Democracy) and Mr Gheorghe Raducanu (President at the Europea

On 2nd August 1944 2,897 Roma were murdered in the gas chambers when the so-called “Zigeunerlager” (“gypsy camp”) at Auschwitz – Birkenau was liquidated. On the occasion of the 71th anniversary of this sad date, the Alliance Taskforce took part in a commemorative ceremony organized by the European Roma and Travellers Forum in memory of the Roma victims on Friday, 31 July 2015.

The President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Gheorghe Raducanu, called for determined action to make sure that such a tragedy as the Roma Holocaust would never happen again: “The Pharrajimos – the Holocaust of the Roma – is by far the biggest tragedy in the history of the Roma. Today we stand in remembrance of those who were murdered in the darkest hours of the history, and we stand united in our resolve to fight anti-Gypsyism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination and prejudice.”

This ceremony was the opportunity to address, once again, the discrimination and segregation which Roma people still have to face in their everyday lives throughout all Europe. As the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, highlighted in a statement on the occasion of the event: “Knowledge of Roma history in Europe is crucial to understanding their current situation. Although many people I have encountered have views about Roma, few know anything about their history.” Regarding the century-old history of persecution of Roma people in Europe, Mr. Muižnieks observed missing acknowledgment by governments of past practices such as forced sterilisations or removal of children from Roma families. Moreover, some discriminating practices are still being applied today, such as ethnic profiling, evictions, mass expulsions and segregation. According to Mr. Muižnieks, being aware of the history of Roma in Europe and replacing prejudices with a narrative of understanding of the past is “not only a matter of respect and justice, but also an essential tool to combat growing anti-Gypsyism.” The European Alliance of Cities and Regions for Roma Inclusion shares the view that any form of discrimination and segregation on Roma can’t be tackled and combatted effectively without recognizing the historical fact of the Roma genocide - the Roma “Pharrajimos” - which was the culmination of hundreds of years of persecution of the Roma people in Europe.

Together with Europe’s Jews, Roma were the only group exterminated for ethnical reasons. Although there are no definitive numbers available, it can be safely assumed that in relative figures the Roma population was the group who suffered the most under the Nazi regime and its plan of “total extermination”: about 1/3 of the Roma population was murdered, in some countries like The Netherlands and Estonia,  100% of the population was exterminated.

 

Useful links :

2 August, the day of the liquidation of the “Zigeunerlager” (“gypsy camp”) has in many European Countries been declared  the official Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day. See more at the website of the ERTF on 2 August: http://www.2august.ertf.org/ and http://2august.eu/

See the statement of Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Nils Muižnieks: http://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/time-to-cure-amnesia-about-the-history-of-roma-in-europe?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fen%2Fweb%2Fcommissioner

See also information on the Roma Holocaust (Parrajmos) among the resources of the website: http://www.roma-alliance.org/en/page/106-resources.html