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The Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest, Source: fusion-of-horizons on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The European Union honours the Roma victims of the Holocaust

The European Union honours the Roma victims of the Holocaust

Around a quarter of the European Roma population were killed by the Nazi regime

Today is European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. The date marks the anniversary of the 2 August 1944 massacre of 3,000 Roma in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by the Nazi regime. These were mostly women and children.

Around 500,000 Roma were killed in Europe during Hitler’s extermination programme, accounting for at least a quarter of the population at that time.

The European Parliament established the date with a resolution on 15 April 2015 and the Council of Europe has been holding ceremonies on this day in the Palace of Human Rights in Strasbourg for several years now.

The Roma are the largest minority in Europe with 6 million people living in the EU and another 4 million in countries involved in the accession process - Montenegro, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Turkey. The Roma have faced inequality, social exclusion, discrimination and marginalization for a long time.

The European institutions and each country in the European Union have a shared responsibility to fight discrimination and racist attitudes towards the Roma and to improve their integration.

The commemorative events dedicated to this day are meant to remind us of the suffering the Roma have endured, the devastating effects of racial hatred and the danger of extremist ideologies.

Romania and Czechia honour the Romani victims today as well

The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs honoured the Roma victims of the Holocaust today, too. The announcement by the Ministry stressed the fact that the suffering endured by the Roma in Nazi extermination camps during World War II has long stayed hidden from the general public, reinforcing perpetuating prejudices against the minority group.

The Romanian government has also declared today as a National Day of Remembrance of the Roma – Samudaripen. The word “samudaripen” means mass murder in Romani.

The final report of the International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania says that the death toll sits at around 11,000 Roma people. The Nazi Collaborationist Antonescu Regime deported 25,000 Roma in total to Transnistria.

In the Czech Republic, legislation against the Roma people started in 1939, with a law criminalising their nomadic way of life. Anyone not complying with this edict could be put into a labour camp. In Bohemia, such a camp existed in Lety, and in Moravia, it was in Hodonín.

Then, in 1942 with ‘Preventive Fight Against Criminality’ law, the Government introduced police detention similar to that in the German Reich, allowing authorities to send detainees to prison camps directly.

Then in March of 1943, the Nazi government began to send the detained Roma people to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the camp records, there are 4,493 names of Roma people, sent from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

In 1945, only 583 Roma men, women and children returned to their homes. The pre-war population of the minority was nearly annihilated during the war.

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