OSCE: The genocide of the Roma must be included in curricula at school, youth must learn about the dangers of ideologies that are racist
Governments must do more than just commemorate the 1944 genocide of the Roma and Sinti, they must arrange for information about that history to be included in curricula at school and discuss the dangers of ideologies that are racist with young people. That was the message of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, 2 August.
“It is unacceptable that Roma and Sinti communities are continuing to suffer so desperately from intolerance, systemic racism and discrimination wherever they live,” said Matteo Mecacci, ODIHR Director . “Learning the essential lessons from the history of the Roma genocide means to redouble our efforts to combat prejudice, bias, and racism against Roma and Sinti in the here and now.”
The ODIHR mentioned the Czech Government's recent move to demolish the industrial pig farm on the site of the WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety u Písku as a positive example. More than three decades ago, the countries of the OSCE recognized that “effective human rights education contributes to combating intolerance, religious, racial and ethnic prejudice and hatred, including against Roma”, and gave the ODIHR responsibility for supporting national authorities in combating “acts of discrimination and violence against Roma and Sinti”.
Roma Holocaust Memorial Day marks the night of 2 August 1944 and early morning hours of 3 August 1944, when the Nazis massacred the prisoners of what was called the "Gypsy Family Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland. Despite the Romani and Sinti prisoners' active resistance in that concentration camp, the Nazis used the gas chambers to murder as many as 4,300 people in that one night, according to the most recently-published historical research.
In 2011 the Polish Parliament established 2 August as that country's official Annihilation of the Roma and Sinti Memorial Day. In 2015, the European Parliament recognized 2 August as the European Memorial Day of the Holocaust of the Sinti and Roma.
During the 17 months of the existence of what was called the "Gypsy Family Camp" (February 1943 to July 1944) as many as 23,000 children, men and women were imprisoned there. Approximately 21,000 Roma and Sinti prisoners died in that part of Auschwitz.
Other imprisoned Roma were murdered in the concentration camps of Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanka, Sobibór and Treblinka. Still others, the number of whom it is difficult to estimate, were shot to death and buried in mass graves in the forest.
The extermination policy of Nazi Germany led to the deaths of an estimated half a million Roma and Sinti from all over Europe. Some estimates put the number as high as 800,000 victims, or anywhere between one-quarter and one-half of the prewar population of Roma.
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