Ensuring the right to remembrance and dignity for the Roma people|
On the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust -'Porrajmos' or 'Pharrajimos'-
two United Nations human rights experts urge all governments around the
world to ensure the right to remembrance for the Roma people.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and
the Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on the
Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, call for stronger measures and
initiatives to keep the memory of the Roma Holocaust alive and enable
survivors, Roma communities and others to mark it in a recognized and
"Many people globally have little or no knowledge that Roma were targeted by
the Nazi regime. Under the Nazis, Roma were subjected to arbitrary
internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens
of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union
and Serbia and thousands more in the death camps.
Else Schmidt was seven years old when taken in the summer of 1942 from her
home in Hamburg. She remembers two men in military coats marching her to a
warehouse on the docks where they left her among crowds of Gypsies already
(A testimony from the book "Porrajmos" - Recollections of Roma Holocaust
On the night of 2 to 3 August 1944, all remaining 2,897 Roma men, women
and children in the so called 'Gypsy family camp' in Auschwitz-Birkenau,
were taken to gas chamber V and were murdered by the Nazis.
…Else had no idea why she had been brought there. In fact, she had no
idea what a 'Gypsy' was...
Much remains to be done to establish the right and possibility for Roma
to remember and commemorate with dignity. In several countries where
evidence suggests that Roma fell victims to the Holocaust, governments
should make 2 August an official day of remembrance for the victims of
the Pharrajimos. All the world's governments and the international
community, including the United Nations, must make sure that they include
reference to the suffering of Roma in their Holocaust education and
…Else's parents drew a veil at home over her torment…
In order to allow appropriate commemoration, Roma graves and mass
graves, including those that have not yet been marked, must be
identified and preserved to enable survivors to remember and mourn in
…Humiliation at school worked more brutally: 'I have very bad memories
of school, because I still had my concentration camp number tattooed on
my arm with just a plaster to hide it…
Violence against Roma is not only a matter of history but is a sad
reality for many Roma communities today, also. We must realize that the
hatred and the dehumanization of the victims of the Holocaust that
characterised the Nazi era, still exist in the hearts and minds of some
individuals in Europe today. These individuals are capable of
committing violence against our fellow Roma citizens simply because of
who they are.
…On the first day, the teachers, who were bad Nazis, forced me to
stand up in class…
We must make sure that governments remain vigilant to this risk and
take appropriate measures against signs of hatred and stigmatization.
They must step up their action against hate speech and incitement to
hatred before it is manifested in violence and atrocities. We call on
all States to meet their responsibilities by implementing effective
measures to protect their populations from discrimination and violence
based on their identity.
…They said to me: You must stand here until you have told everyone
what is under the plaster…
The growing presence of and support for extremist parties and
ideologies, which often target Roma and other minority populations,
including immigrants, is of increasing concern in Europe. It is in
the interest of all European governments and democratic political
parties to step up their efforts to establish necessary integration
policies and platforms to ensure that all populations, including the
Roma are considered and treated equally, can live in security and
raise their children without fear."
From that day, for eighteen years, Else spoke with no one about what
had happened to her in Auschwitz and Ravensbrück aged 8 and 9.