Can we learn anything from the crime committed against us?
Many Roma, ordinary people do not know why in recent years August 2 is celebrated as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Genocide against the Roma.
To recall: “On the night between August 2 and 3, 1944, about 3,000 Roma men, women and children were killed in gas chambers in the ‘Family Camp for Gypsies’ in Auschwitz.”
Those victims are a symbolic part of almost 500,000 murdered Roma in those unforgettable times of fascism. In commemoration of the innocent victims, the Roma people celebrate, together with the European Parliament and certain international organizations, the Day of Remembrance of the Roma Victims of the Holocaust on August 2.
The resolution of the European Parliament, which was adopted on April 15, 2015, officially declares the Day of Remembrance of the Roma Victims of the Holocaust.
From the end of World War II until the mid-1980s, there was hardly any discussion about the genocide of the Roma in Europe. The suffering of the Roma was only occasionally mentioned, both in the media and in political debates, and even less so in schools and universities. The beginning of a serious debate on this topic can be connected with the activities of the World Roma Congress (WRC) and with the growing criticism for denying war reparations to the families of murdered and captured Roma-interns, which is already overdue.
The first public recognition of the Nazi persecution and killing of Roma for racial reasons and the recognition that this persecution must be defined as genocide, came in the form of a statement by the Federal Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Schmidt, when he met with a delegation of the newly founded Central Council of German Sinti and Roma on March 17, 1982. , as well as later with the delegation of the World Roma Congress. Afterwards, Chancellor Helmut Kohl repeated this statement in a debate in the Bundestag on November 7, 1985. This day can be considered the first public acknowledgment that the Roma were victims of genocide, especially because it was presented in the German parliament.
In the middle of that same decade, the evil spirit of about 500 unpunished villains of the Nuremberg Trials, who were magically hidden in North America, Argentina and other South American countries, began to appear again. Those unpunished villains in many countries got back on their feet and “educated” new followers of fascism all over Europe. Roma were more and more often the target of attacks, as undesirables, in the rising tide of Nazism in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Romani dar (Roma fear) woke up again. This fear and apprehension led to the fact that our people and families began to emigrate again, especially to the western part of Germany, in order to escape from the threat to their physical survival, as well as the danger that exclusion from socio-economic life entails.
In our region, we Roma, together with the European public, must read historical writings and interpret them in at least two aspects: (1) in the general European context of World War II and the current European political scene and (2) in the specific context of our “local” history and its specific political and cultural “policies”, especially in the light of intra-Roma relations.
Now is the moment when there must be a discussion and a public debate among the Roma themselves, first of all, but also with the public in all European countries about the politics of memory and current historical revisionism. That debate must raise questions about latent and manifest current antigypsyism. Only then can this and all subsequent “days of remembrance of the murdered Roma” and commemorations contribute to the social affirmation of the Roma in today’s world.
Unfortunately, the culture of memory among the Roma is at a very low level. This is a cultural but, above all, a moral issue. Fear or lack of freedom are perhaps possible reasons in many countries of Eastern Europe why we Roma do not celebrate August 2 publicly and freely.
Internet social networks are not enough. Only memory and commemoration, without a debate on this topic, will remain in an empty space. Without reaching the necessary goal – public speech about the tragedy. The memory of the genocide against the Roma and the commemoration must be connected with the current policy towards the Roma in certain countries and the dominant moral and ethical values. Also, this activity cannot be limited only to the cultural and symbolic level (monuments, ceremonies…), nor can it be reduced only to scientific analyses. The culture of memory cannot be based only on the analysis of the past, but aims to define the present, shape the future and influence the shaping of identity. Due to this connection of the past and the present, the discussion about how the genocide against the Roma was developed, carried out and remembered from the beginning until the end of World War II, must also include an analysis of the current situation of the Roma and the dominant policy in many European countries. The politics of memory in post-Nazi Germany and the politics of memory in all other European countries, which were conceptually close to Hitler’s ideology, are unfortunately also connected to contemporary forms of anti-Gypsyism, which continued to exist even after Auschwitz. One of the most infamous examples is the current situation of the Roma in Bulgaria.
Monument to murdered Sinti and Roma in Berlin
On June 25, 1999, the German Bundestag passed a resolution to build a monument to murdered European Jews in the center of Berlin. Thanks to the persistence of the association of German Roma and Sinti, who rebelled and demanded a monument to the Roma, a monument was built near the Bundestag, not far from the monument to the murdered Jews. Justice has been served in this case.
However, the latest news from Germany makes us anxious that the monument will “have to” be moved. The very news and the attempt to move that monument is reason enough for concern and, in this respect, for the essential commemoration of August 2.
We hope that doesn’t happen!