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European Commission President calls on EU Member States to combat discrimination against Romani people

1.8.2020 10:29
Ursula Von der Leyen. (PHOTO:  European Parliament)
Ursula Von der Leyen. (PHOTO: European Parliament)

Deutsche-Presse Agentur (DPA) reports that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, speaking ahead of European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day this Sunday, 2 August, called on Friday for all EU Member States to protect the Romani minority from discrimination and racism. "Europe has a duty to protect its minorities from racism and discrimination," she said in a joint declaration with Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, and Helena Dalli, the European Commissioner for Equality.

"We must replace antigypsyism with openness and acceptance, hate speech and hate crime with tolerance and respect for human dignity, and bullying with education about the Holocaust," their joint declaration reads. The European Commission officials also remind the public that the number of those who were direct witnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust and the number of those who survived it are continually shrinking as people pass away.

"It is our duty, now more than ever, to continue their work of memory and to pass on their testimonies," reads the declaration, which also mentions the recently deceased Raymond Gurême, who fought against Nazism. During the night of 2 August and the early morning hours of 3 August 1944, the Nazis murdered the last remaining prisoners of what was called the "Gypsy Family Camp" at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

More than 4 200 Romani and Sinti people were murdered in one evening. Annually on 2 August, Romani people from all over Europe commemorate Roma Holocaust Memorial Day for that reason.

"Remembering their persecution reminds us of the need to tackle the challenges they still face today and which are too often overlooked," the European Commission officials' declaration states. The European Commission President believes that all 27 Member States of the EU should pledge to achieve social justice and equality in all areas of life.

Earlier this week the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, warned from Geneva, Switzerland that attacks on and intimidation of Romani people have been happening in recent years more and more frequently. He said that in association with the COVID-19 pandemic, racist untruths targeting Romani people have appeared on social media.

During the 17 months of the existence of the Auschwitz extermination camp's so-called "Gypsy Family Camp" (from February 1943 to July 1944), a total of 23 000 children, men and women were imprisoned there. Approximately 21 000 Romani and Sinti prisoners, female and male, perished in that camp.

Romani prisoners were also murdered in the concentration camps of Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór and Treblinka. Others, whose numbers can only be estimated with difficulty, were shot to death and buried in mass graves in forests.

Nazi Germany's extermination policy led, according to estimates, to the death of at least half a million Romani and Sinti people from all over Europe. Some estimates assume as many as 800 000 victims, equivalent to anywhere between one-fourth and one half of the prewar Romani population.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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European Commission, Evropská unie, Památný den romského holocaustu, pietní akt



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