2 August 2020
President of the European Union of Jewish Students
Statement on the occasion of the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma 2020
I am alive today because all four of my grandparents survived the Shoah. But I don’t have an incredibly big family. Because many of my ancestors did not survive the genocide attempted by the nazis. This is a fate I share with countless Romani families.
Today, we remember the hundreds of thousands of Roma, Sinti, and Travelers subject to genocide by the Nazi regime and its collaborators on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. Between 1935 and 1945, an estimated 220 000 – 1.5 million Roma were persecuted, encamped, and ultimately murdered.
The fates of the Roma and the Jewish people are deeply entangled with each other. Together we were marginalized, discriminated against, and dehumanized. But more importantly, together, we share a tradition of preserving memory and narrating stories about our past and present.
But to this day, we haven’t overcome hate. Today, the Roma community, Europe’s largest minority, continue to face widespread discrimination and prejudice across all layers of society. Extreme poverty, ghettoization, school segregation, and even reports of forced sterilization are common-place in Europe in 2020.
Because we saw a dangerous rise in anti-Roma discrimination since the Corona-Pandemic started, EUJS and Phiren Amenca launched a campaign recently, calling on the EU – together with Jewish and Romani Members of the European Parliament – to act for Roma lives!
Today is also a reminder, that we need to ensure that Roma narratives become commonplace in Europe. We need to start teaching and educating about the Roma Holocaust, and we need to focus on the vibrant Roma life in Europe today. That’s why we call on Governments across Europe to recognize the 2nd of August, the day when 2,897 Roma, mostly women, children, and elderly people, were killed in the so-called “Gypsy family camp” in Auschwitz, as the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
The great Ceija Stojka, an Austrian Roma activist and holocaust survivor, once said,
“If the world does not change now if the world does not open its doors and windows, if it does not build peace — true peace — so that my great-grandchildren have a chance to live in this world, then I cannot explain why I survived Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Ravensbruck.”
Let’s make sure that we, young Jews and Roma, are at the forefront of building a world of open doors and windows. A world without anti-Roma discrimination, antisemitism, and racism. A world that takes “Never Again” seriously. A world of true peace.
Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma
Vice President of the European Parliament
European Commissioner for Equality
Vice President of the German Bundestag
Dutch State Secretary Paul Blokhuis
Amb. Chris J. Lazaris, IHRA Chairman
UN Special Rapporteur UN minorities
President of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)
Prime Minister of Canada
Chairman of the Association of Roma in Poland
Deputy Chairman of the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma and Chairman of the Association of German Sinti and Roma
European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)
Civil Rights Activist
Chairman of the Council of German Sinti and Roma in Hesse
Manon Aubry, MEP
Historian at the University of Bucharest
German former Weinkönigin
Chairman of the Association of Jews,
Survivors and Victims of the Second World War
First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of Poland