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During the Second World War, Roma have been systematically tortured and killed by the Nazi regime and their collaborators all over Europe. However, majority society today knows very little about the Holocaust of Roma. This is the consequence of limited public discourses and commemorations on the Roma genocide as well as a lack of teaching in schools. In EU member states, many places where mass killings took place are not commemorated or even disrespected. In the Czech Republic, for example, a site of a former Roma camp is occupied by a private pig farm and despite civil society protests, the government has not acted to buy the land back and establish a memorial site. The lack of public knowledge of the Roma Holocaust comes together with across Europe widely spread discrimination, violence and hate speech against Roma.
Recognition and awareness raising on the Roma Holocaust is crucial to counter today’s anti-Roma actions and discourses. This is the starting point of the European project MemoRom initiated by the European Roma Information Office (ERIO). On 30 January, ERIO invited institutional actors, academics and civil society representatives to present the results of the project and to discuss how to raise awareness on the Roma Holocaust and what to do against widely spread anti-Roma behavior and speech all over Europe. The project has established an International Remembrance Network formed by civil society organisations, cultural institutions, academics and public authorities in order to take common actions to raise awareness on the Roma Holocaust and fight discrimination. It has also produced a documentary on the Roma Holocaust with interviews of the survivors.
The closing conference of the project has brought to light key recommendations of institutions, academics and civil society on what to do against Romaphobia. Once again it became clear that European institutions and national governments have to considerably step up their efforts not only to take a clear stance against any anti-Roma public discourse, but also to establish and implement a legal framework to prosecute and punish acts of discrimination against Roma. To achieve this, the general policy recommendation no. 13 of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) can be a useful guide for EU member states. On the EU level, a first positive step has been done in 2014 with the launch of an infringement procedure of the European Commission against the Czech Republic with regards to the discriminatory treatment of Roma children as for public education.
But as civil society representatives at this conference of ERIO agreed: to make public authorities act, it is up to citizens to defend continuously the equal rights and possibilities of everyone. It is up to citizens to constantly protect and promote the rights of everyone against the discourses of the far-right movements. Everyone can contribute to change the public narrative and stimulate the public debate. One should not forget this shared responsibility to make sure that the European Union is indeed based on the values of human rights and democracy.
To learn more about the results of the MemoRom project: http://www.romasintiholocaust.eu/en/project
See also the general policy recommendation no. 13 of the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
See also the Inserom project of AEDH raising awareness and training on the fundamental rights which are often denied to Roma in Europe: http://www.inserom.eu/