Recognition

April 15, 2015 marked a historical moment. The European Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority to finally adopt a resolution which recognizes “the historical fact of the genocide of Roma that took place during World War II” and concludes “that a European day should be dedicated to commemorating the victims of the genocide of the Roma during World War II.” Of huge importance is the fact that this resolution also “underlines the need to combat anti-Gypsyism at every level and by every means, and stresses that this phenomenon is an especially persistent, violent, recurrent and commonplace form of racism.” READ MORE >>

Current/future advocacy for recognition:
Much advocacy work still has to be done to achieve the recognition of the Roma Holocaust. This means acknowledging that Roma were persecuted like Jewish people, based on the same racial ideology, by the same perpetrators, the Nazis and their allies, and killed in the same concentration and extermination camps and by the same shooting squads. TernYpe aims for the recognition of 2nd August as the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day by national parliaments, as well as by the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the United Nations.

OSCE publication: practices of remembrance and recognition in different countries
A new publication taking stock of official practices in OSCE participating States to remember and educate about the Roma and Sinti genocide was presented by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on 4 November 2015 in Debrecen, Hungary, at the plenary meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA): Teaching about and Commemorating the Roma and Sinti Genocide, ODIHR’s report on Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region, which was released on 27 January 2015.

The Lack of Recognition
Due to the lack of recognition of the fate of the Roma under the Nazi Regime, the Roma Genocide was often referred to as the “forgotten Holocaust” which seems still valid until today. After the war, hardly any attention has been paid to the fate of the Roma and Sinti during the WWII neither by scholars nor by governments. During the Nuremberg trials there was not a single Roma witness and the Roma mass murders were only mentioned marginally. It was not until the trail of Adolf Eichmann in 1962 in Jerusalem that the crimes against Roma under the Nazi regime were for the first time explicitly mentioned, proven and judged.   As of the 60´s a number of Roma and Sinti organizations begun the plight to officially recognize the Roma Genocide, mobilizing attention around the fate of the Roma during the WWII through actions such as the demonstration at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1979 or the hunger strike in 1980 at Dachau. The demands presented before the German authorities were largely fruitless. For many years, the Roma Genocide was denied recognition based on the argument that the murders of Roma under the Nazi regime were not done on racial grounds, but rather for the Romani status as “antisocial” or criminal groups. It was not until 1982 that the government of West Germany has officially recognized the Roma Genocide:

»The Nazi dictatorship inflicted a grave injustice on the Sinti and Roma. They were persecuted for reasons of race. These crimes constituted an act of genocide.« Helmut Schmidt, Federal Chancellor of Germany, 17 March 1982

Despite the official recognition of the Roma Genocide by the German Authorities, this chapter in European history still remains largely unrecognized. The Roma Genocide still has not entered the canon of modern history and is seldom taught or even mentioned in school curricula. It is only in recent years and thanks to common efforts of Roma and non-Roma organizations and individuals that the Roma Genocide is gradually gaining official recognition:  In 2011 the Polish Government passed a resolution for the official recognition of the 2nd of August as a day of commemoration.

»The genocide of the Sinti and Roma was motivated by the same obsession with race, carried out with the same resolve and the same intent to achieve their methodical and final extermination as the genocide against the Jews. Throughout the National Socialists’ sphere of influence, the Sinti and Roma were murdered systematically, family by family, from the very young to the very old.«

Federal President Roman Herzog, 16 March 1997

RECOGNITION = HISTORY AND IDENTITY

Advocating for the official recognition of 2nd August as a Memorial Day of the Roma Genocide pays homage to the victims, and strengthens the identity based on the deep knowledge of the past. Young Roma and non-Roma around Europe take the responsibility to acknowledge a memory which has been largely forgotten for more than seventy years: It is a responsibility of all Europeans of all States to pay the due respect to the Roma victims of the Holocaust during World War II.

RECOGNITION = DIGNITY AND JUSTICE

The lack of recognition of the Roma Genocide has a moral dimension as well. While recognizing the racial persecution of Roma under the Nazi regime, we need to acknowledge and address the fact that stereotypes and antigypsyism, mechanisms of exclusion, hate speech and hate crime, as well as the denial of the Holocaust are still widespread in Europe today. Recognition of the Roma Genocide is an important step in the restoration of dignity and justice for Roma, and in the respect of human rights in Europe nowadays.