Norway apologizes to Roma for WWII-era discrimination, promises compensation
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has apologized for the discrimination perpetrated by Norway against the Romani population prior to and during the Second World War. She also promised the Norwegian authorities would pay Romani people compensation for the measures undertaken against them at that time.
"In the name of the Norwegian Government, I apologize to the Romani people of Norway. I regret the racist, exclusionary policy applied during the 10 years leading up to and the 10 years following the Second World War. I am also sorry for the fatal consequences of that policy during the Holocaust," said Solberg in a speech given in honor of International Romani Day in Oslo.
"It is high time that we morally account for this dark period in our history. The state acknowledges its responsibility for the mistakes that were made and for the wrongdoing perpetrated against Norwegian Roma," the Prime Minister said.
The small community of Vlach Roma in Norway numbers around 500 members today and has been seeking compensation since the 1990s. The predecessors of this current generation arrived in Norway around 1880.
In 1927, Norway adopted an immigration law with a special paragraph forbidding Romani people from entering the country. According to a report commissioned by the Norwegian Government and produced by experts from the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities, during the 1930s many Norwegian Romani people who traveled abroad were not permitted to re-enter the country.
The document names 62 specific Romani individuals who ultimately perished in Nazi concentration camps after not being permitted to return to Norway. The Government in Oslo also did not make it possible for concentration camp survivors to return to Norway until 10 years after the war ended.
"The 'Gypsy paragraph' was abolished in 1956 after a large wave of criticism both at home and abroad," Balder Hasvoll, a Romani Minority Advisor to the Capital City of Oslo tells news server Romea.cz. In practice, however, the treatment of Romani people did not much improve; in 1972, for example, Norway deported 30 Romani people to Denmark who were unable to document their citizenship.
Solberg promised that the right-wing coalition government will pay compensation to the victims and said it will still be necessary, in collaboration with Romani community representatives, to establish more details about how these historical events unfolded. Testimonies about the "Porajmos" - the Romani Holocaust - have been captured, for example, by recordings of Miloš Karoli and Frans Josef, survivors who recount the horrors they survived in an exhibit called "Norvegiska romá - norske sigøynere" ("Norwegian Roma - Norwegian Gypsies") now on display in Oslo.
In addition to the community of Vlach Roma in Norway, there are also Romani immigrants from the Balkans, mainly from Bulgaria, Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Their numbers are estimated at 2 000 and they began arriving in Norway roughly eight years ago.
Since the 16th century there have also been as many as 10 000 Romani "Tatere" or Travellers living throughout Scandinavia. More about Romani people in Norway is covered in our previous reporting.
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