Time for world to recognise Roma genocide

Saturday January 27 2018

The garden where the Roma massacre memorial monument will be built

The garden where the Roma massacre memorial monument will be built. The Roma, sometimes known as the Gypsy, have suffered discrimination throughout Europe for hundreds of years. Hundreds of thousands died during WWII. PHOTO | BENJAMIN ABTAN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BENJAMIN ABTAN
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Soon, the pig farm built at a concentration camp will be destroyed. The smell that envelops visitors will disappear and the marks on the mass graves moved to pave the way for a monument. 

More than 70 years after the end of WWII, the site of the former camp for Roma people at Lety in the Czech Republic, will finally be treated with dignity. Locucide — the crime against the place of Lety — will finally end. 

It was anything but easy to achieve: only thanks to exceptional mobilisation of the civil society. Roma, non-Roma, Czech officials and private firms finally concluded a deal to buy the farm. 

If this constitutes a historical victory, the issues that have shaped Lety as an European symbol still persist: lack of knowledge and research concerning the Roma Holocaust (or Samudaripen, or Porajmos); racism and discrimination that are a continuation of persecution; marginalisation and ignorance concerning the diversity of Roma culture and history. 

CIVIL SOCIETY

It is only through a determined and unified commitment from civil society and institutions that the history of Roma persecution, of which the genocide was the culminating point, can be written. 

This is why the call for a European Foundation for the Memory of Roma Holocaust has persisted. 

It will promote historical research. The funding and publication of research, collection of testimonies, constitution of archives and organisation of symposia will allow better understanding of this history. 

It will have to equally focus on the effective transmission of the history to enlighten today’s conscience. This will be achieved through work of memorialisation — construction of memorials, creation of exhibitions, organisation of commemorations and through an investment in education.

 RACISM

Moreover, it will contribute to the fight against racism, discrimination and social exclusion. In this context, support for civil society will be fundamental in order to change attitudes, to carry out awareness, to lead mobilisation for the respect of equal rights and dignity and to build coalitions for solidarity. 

The foundation will have to be truly European. Indeed, it is on the whole continent that the Roma are confronted with the same issues, as it is in Europe that the genocide was perpetrated against them.

Strengthening Europe and democracy is the only perspective of hope for addressing the issues. By its European nature, the foundation will be one of the institutions capable of contributing to democratic reinforcement. 

All victims should get reparations. States and companies concerned will have to face their responsibilities.

PERSECUTION

Numerous victims have been killed in the Roma Holocaust. Many have also died since then.

The amounts which will not be provided to victims or to their descendants will not go back to the state budgets. They will constitute the initial capital of the foundation.

For the victory at Lety to be followed by others, and to leave the history of persecution and discrimination in order to project ourselves towards a future at the heart of which is dignity, the European Foundation for the Memory of the Roma Holocaust must be created. 

Abtan is president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement or EGAM