Auschwitz Memorial; photo: Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma.

2 August 2019

Thorbjørn Jagland

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Patronage of the 75th anniversary of 2 August 1944 – the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma 2019

The extermination camp here at Auschwitz-Birkenau bears witness to the murder of millions of innocent people, targeted by the Nazis and their allies: Jews, homosexuals, disabled people and other minorities among them. But on 2 August, we remember in particular the hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti men, women and children whose lives were taken in such cruel and terrible circumstances: Because it was on this day, seventy-five years ago, that thousands from these communities were killed at the so-called “Zigeunerlager” here.

This is a terrible milestone in our history. But for a long time, little attention was paid in Europe to the Roma Holocaust. This was deeply wrong. We must remember.

We do this to pay our respect to the victims of course, mindful of the generations that have been lost – and of the contributions that those people would have made to European life.

But we also remember because it is our duty to ensure that such things can never happen again: Today, extreme movements and parties have gained strength in some parts of Europe. Anti-Roma hate speech is widespread, creeping on occasion into mainstream political discourse, and feeding the mentality that leads to hate crime.

This must not go unchecked. Instead, we must learn the lessons of the past, apply them to the present, and ensure a better future. It is for this reason that the Council of Europe has made the fight for Roma social inclusion one of our political priorities.

But this is not just about institutions: every individual has a responsibility to be informed, to fight the exclusion of others, and to protect their human rights and democracy. We must see one another as equals, whose rights and dignity are paramount. And we must be prepared to call out every act and word of prejudice that we see and hear around us, every day of every year.

Statements on the occasion of the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma

Romani Rose

Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

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