Roma Genocide Remembrance Day 2019

7 Aug, 2019 | Equal Rights for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, Latest

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On Friday 2 August, members of the Jewish community stood in solidarity with members of the Roma community at the Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial to mark Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, and the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the ‘Gypsy Camp’ at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Whilst 2 August is a day for contemplation and remembrance, it also stands as a reminder that we must continue to speak up against any form of hatred and prejudice, and preserve the tolerant societies that respect human rights and allow us to live together in harmony. These days give us an opportunity to consider how we can do better and learn from the lessons of history.

Members of the Roma community spoke about the importance of remembering the hundreds of thousands of murdered Roma, and the prejudice that they still face today.

Rabbi Alex Goldberg, René Cassin Trustee, noted that Jews, and Roma and Traveller communities were persecuted during the Holocaust, and continue to face discrimination simply because they were “different”. He also gave a Sixty Second Sermon for BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey on the Roma Genocide, and the increasing hate against the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities. Our Director, Mia Hasenson-Gross, spoke about the links between the Roma and Jewish communities, giving the persecuted Budapest Roma community that had previously been a Jewish community, as an example. Referencing our namesake’s role in the creation Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of the Holocaust, she reiterated the importance of solidarity, and maintaining the “never again” mind-set, to ensure that something similar truly will never happen again.

Maurice Ashkenazi-Bakes from the Board of Deputies emphasised the importance of standing in solidarity, and continuing to address extremist language, whatever the source may be, as that marked the beginning of the Holocaust. Divisive and hateful language is what gives governments the necessary support and legitimacy to commit such atrocities. Kate Green MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, who could not be there in person, sent a message on fighting against the discrimination and prejudice that is still experienced by Roma, in the UK and all of Europe. As important as it is to remember those who died, it is just as important to remember to improve the lives of those who live.

Other notable speeches were made by Rabbi Herschel Gluck, Jeremy Havardi, Director of B’nai B’rith UK, and Mr Rishi, President and Director of the Indian Institute for Romani studies.

Read Rabbi Wittenberg’s blog today on 75 years since the Porajmos, the murder of the Roma in Auschwitz here.

For those who want to learn more about the experiences of the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities in the present day, and before and after the Holocaust, there will be an exhibition at the Wiener Library on ‘Forgotten Victims: The Nazi Genocide of the Roma and Sinti’ from 30 October 2019 to 11 March 2020. Archive material will include eye-witness accounts and photographs. René Cassin will also be hosting a travelling exhibition on Sinti Roma genocide in conjunction with Muswell Hill synagogue on 19 January.

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