2 August 2021
Antigypsyism Commissioner of the Federal Government
Address for the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma on 2 August 2022
Today, we commemorate the suffering and the death of Sinti and Roma from Germany, in Europe. They became victims of a racial mania, they became victims of racism, because of which they were deprived of rights, they were marginalized, expelled and deported and in the end murdered. But what exactly does “we remember” or “we remind” mean? Remembering and reminding must not be just a ritual, only words spoken on a certain occasion. Remembering and reminding must not take place in a social vacuum. We must make the connection to the present day. The American writer William Faulkner once said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And he described the matter very accurately, because acting as if the genocide is something that is closed, being only a historical fact, something far away, then we fail to recognize the far reaching influence of what happened. After 1945, we did not have a Zero Hour, we did not experience a catharsis, any kind of purification of the mental catastrophe. Especially with regard to the Sinti and Roma, we have experienced a continuation. The gas chambers were shut down but the persecution continued. The disenfranchisement continued and we experience today that the people, the survivors as well as their descendants, still suffer from racism, from stigmatization and criminalization.
We cannot mourn the dead, we cannot admonish and commemorate without having the obligation to improve the situation of the Sinti and Roma here in Germany, but also elsewhere in the world. We must fight against racism, we must fight against poverty and we must look into the abyss, we as a society. We must look into the abyss not only at the risk of the abyss looking back, but knowing for sure that the abyss will look back. We owe it not only to the dead, we owe it to ourselves. We must learn the lessons of the past, and it means talking about racism today, the racism in the society, but also the racism in government offices and hallways. We have to talk about the racism in the institutions, within the police and especially the judiciary, otherwise all these people died in vain and the remembrance will not help anyone, but only serve to reassure one selves without really doing anything for other people. If we want to talk about the dead, then we have to help the living.
Statements from previous years
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