August 2nd – Commemoration for the murdered Sinti and Roma in Auschwitz 2011
“In the night of August 2nd to 3rd 1944, 2897 elderly people, women and children, the remaining Sinti and Roma of the so-called “gypsy camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, were murdered in the gas chambers…”
Around August 2nd, 2011 “ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network” brought together young Europeans of different cultures and backgrounds to commemorate the extermination of Roma in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and to develop a dialogue on the topic of xenophobia and racism in Europe today. Knowledge and recognition of the extermination of Roma during the Second World War is still very limited – especially among young Europeans including the Roma. The seminar focused on the concepts, methods and challenges of Holocaust education related to the Roma Genocide.
The aim of the event and the seminar was to inform young people with different backgrounds about the genocide of Roma. We consider that holocaust education must have the aim to make young people understand the mechanism of exclusion, of racism, anti-Semitism, antigypsyism and populist and dogmatic manipulation of people which led to the worst moment of human action in history. Critical thinking is a key asset to raise civic courage and active citizenship in the fight against extremism and racism. For that purpose, participants had the chance to think and talk about crucial questions like:
- What impact does the remembrance of Roma genocide have on the formation and development of the Roma identity?
- How does Society, education and mass media deal with the culture of the Roma genocide remembrance?
- How can we build an international culture of Remembrance and how should it look like?
- How can we spread the message and information in the (local) community and to young people?
Commemoration of the Roma Genocide from a youth perspective – Remember the Past, Learn for the Future and Act in the Presence!
Following the experience and success of the 2010 “Roma Genocide” project and the support of the Polish Ministry of Equality (under the auspices of the Minister Elzbieta Radziszewka), the regional government of Małopolska, the Office for Human Rights and Democratic Institutions of the OSCE and the European Roma Grassroots Organization network (ERGO), ternYpe brought together this time over 80 young Europeans of different cultures and backgrounds to commemorate the extermination of the Roma during the Second World War around 2nd of August 2011 and to discuss the rise of antigypsyism these days in Europe in a working meeting. This years celebration has been conducted under the patronage of Polish President Mr Bronislaw Komorowski as the Polish Government made the 2nd of August official Roma genocide remembrance day in Poland. ternYpe hopes that other EU countries will follow the good example.
Today, with the rise of xenophobia, racism and extreme-rights movements, spreading knowledge about the Roma Genocide is more urgent than ever. TernYpe believes that this project has a great impact on young people to raise their awareness of the past and to prepare them to face stigmatization, antigypsyism, mechanisms of exclusion and discrimination in Europe today. This aim of this project reflects the philosophy of ternYpe to create a space for young people to become active citizens through empowerment, mobilization, self-organization and participation. This International Roma Youth Network believes in the common efforts by creating trust and mutual respect between Roma and non-Roma.
The youth has an important role and huge responsibility in the remembrance of the genocide, since they must learn for the future by remembering the past, but must act in the presence in order to prevent the past to repeat itself in the future!
23-year old Vicente Rodriguez from Spain is aware of his role to act in the presence. Following nowadays situation of the Roma across Europe, Vicente face a lot of questions, which no one dares to answer. He asks:” What is the future that awaits us just around the corner from an economic crisis that has shaken the foundations of the welfare state? Did we become better Humans than 70 years ago? Has our Humanity grown? Did we change? Or rather, are we allowing politicians hatred of the “different”, just for electoral support: How many walls and deportations can support and corrupt our moral judgments before we react? How long can we continue to call ourselves civilized, while ‘our” Europe continues to treat the “different”, the Roma as danger to the cultural hegemony?”.
For him as Roma “Auschwitz is still real, not like the fever-dream of a madman, but as the culmination of a complex historical process that kills between 1.5 and 2 million people, mostly Jews but also prisoners of war, Poles, Roma and Sinti. All were victims of the inhuman Nazi regime during the war. Many things have changed in 70 years, World War II and other new wars just took the mantle of horror in an act of relief, creating other genocides, other dictators, other continents, but in reality the war is still present in our society … only “utopian” declarations were made against the human greed to overcome hatred, fear and lust for power or territory. The twentieth century became the mass grave of hope for a better world”.
“Is there hope for Humanity after Auschwitz? Do we have time to change the heart of the Europeans worldview? Will we continue to defend political classes? Or we leave the infernal bureaucracy to express our common humanity?” – are just some of the thoughts Vicente has as a young person that decided to “fight” against the “Roma xenophobia” across Europe. According to him young people these days have in their hands the key of the European future. It depends from them to walk across the door to a fairer society that keeps the memory of the past mistakes and is able to learn from them, or young people choose to cross the door that leads to the nightmare of isolation, nationalism and exclusionary medieval Europe.
The commemoration of the Roma genocide during World War II is a step of hope towards a European awareness and citizenship of all Roma and non-Roma, as ternYpe’s campaign slogan already says” ALL in ONE Society!”.
Today, young people, Roma and non-Roma walk the path of shocking memory in order to lay the foundations of a future pluralistic community shield capable of serving, through its institutions and consciousness of its citizens, which will prevent such terrible acts like Auschwitz to ever happen again!