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2 August 2023

Nicola Beer

Vice-President of the European Parliament

Commemoration speech on the occasion of 2 August 2023, Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma

Dear survivours of the Roma and Sinti Holocaust,
Dear Ms Pohl,
Dear Mr. Rose, Mr. Kwiatkowski and Mr Cywinski,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and responsibility for me to speak as Vice-president of the European Parliament in front of you today on the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma.

In 2015, the European Parliament declared the 2nd of August to be the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma. On this day, in 1944, the last 4300 Sinti and Roma were brutally murdered in the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. They all had their own story to tell, dreams to pursue and their lives to live.

The pain and sorrow felt by their loss is vividly illustrated in the poem by Santino Spinelli, Auschwitz:

‘Sunken in face
extinguished eyes
cold lips
silence
a torn heart
without breath
without words
no tears’.

This poem is engraved in the metal frame of the water bowl of the National Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered under National Socialism, which was opened in 2012 in Berlin.

Nearly half a million Sinti and Roma were barbarically murdered — unimaginable acts of terror, death and destruction caused by the Nazi regime. Many of them died in the death camp here in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The horrific crimes that the Germans committed fill me personally with shame, anger and grief.

Remembering the Holocaust today is necessary. Indispensable.
The atrocities of the Second World War have taught us one main lesson: Never again!

We need the reminder both today and in future that these unforgivable acts against humanity should never be repeated in Europe, nor in any other part of the world. It is our duty and responsibility to remember. It must be our collective accountability to educate the next generations about the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma.

To teach about their history as well as their current situation. Remembrance must also include fighting as a society against any form of discrimination and racism at its core.

Despite years of work, we have not put a halt to discrimination in today’s Europe:
Antigypsyism remains a widespread form of racism in our societies. Polls have revealed that over 40% of Sinti and Roma have experienced discrimination in the past five years. These distressing figures run counter to our core European values and to our understanding of equality for all people.

This is absolutely unacceptable. It must be clear to everyone: Sinti and Roma are European citizens with the same rights, freedom and perspectives.

The European Parliament has to step up its efforts in this regard: combatting racism and negative stereotypes at their core, while at the same time raising awareness about the unique history and culture of Sinti and Roma. I welcome the EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, which sets out clear targets for the member states to fight antigypsyism and discrimination in all fields of life.

However, today’s commemoration should also serve as a reminder to every generation. Totalitarianism, virulent nationalism and extremism must have no place in our society. Together, we have to strive for a respectful life together, living with mutual understanding.

At the same time, we have a moral, societal and political obligation to uphold the memories of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as of the survivors.

You, Ms Pohl, and other survivors, are generous to share your life stories and experiences with us. Though they are often painful to listen to, they have the potential to increase empathy, to inspire us and to encourage us to fight discrimination, racism and all crimes against humanity.

That is why I am especially happy to see so many young people from all over Europe here with us today who come together every year in the European youth remembrance event “Dikh He Na Bister”, which translates to “Look and don ́t forget” in Romani language. It is important to engage and encourage people, politicians, youth and a vivid and thriving civil society to uphold our values and to strive for a society free from discrimination, hate and violence.

Our commitment to the victims of the Holocaust is that their memory will not be lost, but will continue through the generations.

I would like to thank everyone here today who is committed to preserving this memory.

It means a lot to me.
Thank you

Statements

Romani Rose

Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

Stéphane Dion

Ambassador of Canada in Germany, Special Representative of Canada to the EU and to Europe

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