Today in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe held a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Roma victims of the Holocaust. This year marks the 73rd anniversary of 2 August, 1944, when some 3,000 Roma were exterminated in the gas chambers of the so-called “Zigeunerlager” (Gypsy camp) at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The ceremony included remarks by Mr Thorsten Afflerbach, Head of the Support Team to the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe for Roma Issues, Ambassador Emil Ruffer, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the Council of Europe on behalf of the Czech Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and by Ms Miranda Vuolasranta, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF). All three speakers stressed the importance of not only recalling past injustice, but also of improving Roma rights today and in the future.
The Romani genocide, later known as Pharrajimos, was the plan by the Nazi government in Germany and its allies to exterminate the Romani people of Europe. While it is not known exactly how many were killed in the Roma Holocaust, historians estimate that the Nazis and their allies murdered at least one quarter of the estimated one million Roma living in Europe before World War II.
Meanwhile, from 29 July to 4 August – in Krakow and Auschwitz, Poland – the international Roma youth network ternYpe and partner organisations supported by the Council of Europe Youth Department are holding commemoration activities to raise awareness for young Europeans, civil society and decision-makers about the Roma Genocide.
The five-day Dikh he na Bister (Look and don’t forget) awareness raising initiative builds on the Council of Europe Right to Remember handbook.
Holocaust survivors also attended a ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2 August, along with some 200 Roma and non- Roma youth from 15 country delegations.