On 2 August, Roma people across all countries and communities remember their ancestors killed by the Nazi regime. Whether through official commemoration events or private moments of remembrance inside families, 2 August represents for Roma people everywhere a turning point in the acknowledgment of the Roma Holocaust.
On this day in 1944, over 4,300 Sinti and Roma were murdered in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were taken during the night from their barracks to the gas chamber by SS guards, who only months earlier had been driven back by the fierce resistance of the Romani prisoners fighting with nothing but picks and shovels.
Although Roma, Sinti, Travellers and other related groups have been part of Europe’s history for centuries, our history and narratives remain ignored, neglected, and misrepresented. The lack of recognition of the genocide reflects the continued discrimination against Roma in Europe today.
While the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2015 to officially recognise 2 August as European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, very little is done across the continent to fight the persisting antigypsyism in our societies. The adoption of the EU Roma Strategic Framework for equality, inclusion and participation 2020 -2030 and the corresponding European Council Recommendations ask EU Member States and Accession Countries to do more to ensure a better, more equal future for Roma across Europe. It remains to be seen if national decision-makers will take any serious steps in this direction.
The pandemic crisis of the last 15 months has drastically exposed the racism and hatred against our communities. Authorities on all levels once again proved that Roma are most likely to be forgotten and neglected, and that our wellbeing is not a priority. Hate speech is a daily reality, police brutality perseveres and many of our communities remain cut off from basic services. In schools, the young generation of survivors is deprived of knowledge about their own history.
We applaud DIKH HE NA BISTER (“Look and don’t forget” in Romani) – the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative and other youth initiatives that fills this gap and offer a space for young Roma and non-Roma from all over Europe to put together the scaffoldings of a stronger future through participation and human rights education. A sincere learning experience about the past and personal encounters with Holocaust survivors creates dialogue and recognition of Roma identity.
Acknowledging the past is crucial – not only for the justice and dignity of the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust, but also for confronting antigypsyism today. We ask our friends and allies, colleagues, journalists and policymakers to walk the talk: publicly recognize the atrocities committed against our communities in the past and today, and act against antigypsyism and all forms of racism, every day!