Genocide Remembrance Day of the Roma and Sinti
On the night of 2 to 3 August 1944, the Germans liquidated the so-called Gypsy family camp (Zigeunerfamilienlager) of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Nearly 3000 children, women and men of the last Roma prisoners were murdered in the gas chambers. Several hundred people attended the ceremony dedicated to the 69th anniversary of the event, which took place at the former German Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz II-Birkenau.
Participants included, among others, ex-prisoners, representatives of Roma organisations, the Polish government, diplomatic corps, the Jewish community, the management and staff of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Auschwitz-Museum and regional and local authorities. At the monument commemorating the extermination of the Roma within the former Zigeunerfamilienlager, people gathered to lay wreaths and pay tribute to the victims.
Bogdan Zdrojewski, Minister of Culture and National Heritage, sent a letter to the participants of the ceremony. “On the Day of Remembrance of the Romani Extermination, we gather in this place — a place of the death of children, women, men, young and old from the Roma and Sinti; a place — on the one hand, a symbol of degeneration, cruelty and ruthlessness; and on the other hand, the struggle for dignity, honour and the respect that is due to humanity. […] May this day — this memory — celebrated by the Polish state and its citizens, forever mark, against the criminal wishes of the occupant, the memory of these events so that they continue and do not die.”
In 2011, according to the decision of the Sejm, 2 August was declared as the Day of Remembrance of the Extermination of the Roma and Sinti. “Establishment of this Day of Remembrance is a symbolic act of recognition by the Polish State of the immensity of the loss and suffering that the Roma suffered during the Second World War. Our duty is to fully restore these events in the collective memory of Europeans and the transfer of knowledge to future generations,” said Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment. “Memory is a bridge between the past, the present and the future. Understanding history helps us all to seek solutions to contemporary problems,” she said.
“Memory turned solely to the past gradually becomes cult,” underlined Dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Museum. “Our memory should strengthen the evaluation of current events. Our memory must be equally addressed to the future, clearly defining our enormous commitments, which have been disclosed in the light of the tragedy of Auschwitz,” stressed Cywiński.
Speaking to the young people assembled during the ceremony, Roman Kwiatkowski, President of the Association of Roma in Poland, made an appeal: “I can not express how important it is for all of us that you understand and remember the history of our ancestors, so that you can stand up to hatred and respect diversity. Only together can we protect future generations from a repeat of the bitter and traumatic history of the Second World War. Let the memory of the crimes of the Nazis carried out against the Roma and Sinti endure for generations,” he emphasised.
Zvi RavNer, ambassador of Israel in Poland, turned to the Roma as “brothers in the Holocaust,” saying that “in the end, we finished up here together”.
The celebrations organised by the Association of Roma in Poland are not the only events on this day commemorating the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti. Also at the Memorial Site, the International Roma Youth Network – TernYpe, gathered together 400 young people from 20 countries to commemorate the destruction of Roma during the Second ;World War, which was implemented within the framework of their social and educational project. ; ;
It is estimated that the Germans imprisoned a total of approx. 23 thousand Roma men, women and children at Auschwitz. About 20 thousand died or were murdered in the camp. In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, in block 13, is an exhibition commemorating the extermination of the Roma and depicts the particular dimension of the Nazi genocide of the Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe.