Recognition of the Nazi genocide of the Sinti and Roma by Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, March 1982; pictured, from the left, inter alia: Romani Rose, Josef Kwiek, Anton Franz, Egon Siebert; Secretary of State to the Federal Minister of the Interior, Andreas von Schoeler, alongside Chancellor Helmut Schmidt

The recognition of the Nazi genocide of the Sinti and Roma

In March 1982 German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was the first leading representative of the Federal Republic that officially recognised the Nazi genocide of the Sinti and Roma. He declared:

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.

Furthermore, Schmidt spoke out in favour of moral reparation and stressed the obligation of the Federal Republic of Germany to compensate the victims and to improve their social situation. This acknowledgement under international law constituted a fresh beginning in the federal government’s relationship with the German Sinti and Roma. Just weeks before nine civil rights movement associations had formed the “Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma” (Central Council of German Sinti and Roma), with Romani Rose as its elected chairperson. Establishing the Central Council improved networking between the regional and local associations of the minority and strengthened the dialogue with politicians and authorities. Since then, other government officials and politicians succeeding Schmidt have confirmed the recognition of the genocide. At the opening event of the world’s first permanent exhibition on the Nazi genocide of the Sinti and Roma in 1997, Federal President Roman Herzog reaffirmed:

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, they were murdered systematically, family by family, from the very young to the very old.

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