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2 August 2023

Romani Rose

Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

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

Dear Vice-President of the European Parliament Ms Beer,

Dear Deputy Marshal of the Senate Kaminski,

I am particularly pleased to welcome Ms Gerda Pohl, who will speak today on behalf of the survivors, all of whom I would like to welcome very warmly.

I would also like to welcome the delegation of the German Federal Government: Consul General Mahnicke, the Special Commissioner for Holocaust Remembrance in the Federal Foreign Office, Dr Klinke, the Federal Government Commissioner against  Antigypsyism, Dr Daimagüler, the Minister of Justice from Thuringia, Ms Denstädt, as well as the members of the German Bundestag, Ms Polat and Mr Lindh,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we remember the 4,300 Sinti and Roma who were murdered 79 years ago in Auschwitz in the night of 2 to 3 August. They were the last members of our minority in this extermination camp who, despite their fierce resistance, were forced into the gas chambers by the SS. In remembrance of this, in April 2015, the European Parliament declared 2 August as European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma.

We welcome the fact that the Vice-President of the European Parliament Nicola Beer is with us today to remember and commemorate the 500,000 murdered Sinti and Roma in Nazioccupied Europe.

Places like Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, Jasenovac, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau have become the largest cemeteries of our minority in Europe.

Auschwitz stands as a symbol for a crime against humanity and the ultimate breach of civilisation committed by the Nazis against 500,000 Sinti and Roma and 6 million Jews. But after the end of the Second World War, this specific form of antigypsyism continued. The German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed this with the following words in October 2022:

“Authorities, the police and the judiciary discriminated against, stigmatised or criminalised members of the minority; in academia, politics and the public sphere, the genocide of the Sinti and Roma was concealed, denied or suppressed; claims for compensation were not recognised for a long, far too long time […] I also want to ask for forgiveness today in the name of our country for this second suffering inflicted on the Sinti and Roma in the post-war period.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, remembering the victims of the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma does not mean transferring guilt to today’s generations, but rather a shared responsibility for democracy and the rule of law. Because remembering history always means living responsibility for the present.

It is with great concern that we observe an anti-democratic attitude and right-wing extremism throughout Europe, which is again manifested through violence against Sinti and Roma, against Jews and other minorities. Antigypsyism, antisemitism and racism are once again part of everyday life in many European countries today. The living situation of Sinti and Roma in many countries is still characterised by a structural and deeply rooted antigypsyism that further excludes a large part of our minority, as citizens in their home countries where they have lived for 600 years, and denies them equal participation.

In Eastern Europe, for example, a large proportion of Roma live under apartheid-like conditions and are excluded in areas of education, housing, employment and healthcare. The most recent reports of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency of 2022 clearly show the extent of antigypsyist exclusion: more than 80 % of the Roma minority especially in Central and Eastern Europe are threatened by poverty and 50 % suffer from severe material deprivation. Educational segregation has even increased in recent years. Over 50% of children and youth attend segregated educational institutions, for example in Bulgaria and Slovakia. In Romania, 40% of Roma households still have no access to clean tap water.

These inhuman conditions have their roots in centuries-old antigypsyism. Human dignity is thus taken away from the Roma minority in their home countries. For the millions of members of our minority, it is a mockery when – in the knowledge of the undignified living situation of the largest minority in Europe – official speeches speak of human rights within the European Union.

It must be the claim of the European Union and its member states to outlaw antigypsyism in the same way as antisemitism. We know from our history that antigypsyism was the cause of the suffering, of pogroms and attacks against our minority and led to the Holocaust under the Nazi regime.

The European Union proudly refers to the Charter, in which human rights are highly valued. For this very reason, it must be the obligation of democratic states not to continue to ignore the degrading and inhuman conditions towards our minority in their home countries.

We welcome the fact that Germany and some other countries have adopted the definition of antigypsyism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and recognised it for implementation at the national level. The IHRA Working Definition of Antigypsyism is an important instrument to outlaw antigypsyism and to counteract it decisively. We call on the member states of the European Union to recognise and implement this IHRA Working Definition.

The Central Council considers it a positive change and a signal of the rule of law towards the German Sinti and Roma that the Federal Criminal Police Office, through its President Holger Münch, signed the IHRA Definition of Antigypsyism on 27 January this year, thus counteracting and outlawing any form of antigypsyism in its authority.

Today, I appeal from Auschwitz to all interior ministers of the German federal states to follow this step, to scientifically investigate the history of injustice of the police in the Nazi state and after 1945, and thus to finally put an end to the racist and antigypsyist special registration and criminalisation of Sinti and Roma by the police on the basis of their ancestry.

From this place, I appeal to the European Parliament and the governments of the EU Member States to accept the legacy of Auschwitz and to recognise that the dignity of every human being is inviolable. It is our common task to enforce this in the democracies.

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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