The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.



In this activity participants plan and carry out an action project to raise awareness about Roma victims of the Holocaust.

Related rights

• The right to non-discrimination
• The right to life
•  Cultural rights


• To be aware of all victims of the Nazi holocaust – in particular the   Roma population
• To practise skills to select, plan and carry out a public action
• To develop a sense of human dignity and a sense of justice


• Flipchart paper and markers
• Copies of the handout "A brief history of the persecution of the   X" (optional)
•  For Part 2: Selecting and planning an action, it may be useful to have access to the Internet or printed reference materials.
•  Copies of the example of the action project flowchart in chapter 3  (optional)


• Tell the group before the session that you are planning to discuss
  the Holocaust, and speak separately with anyone who may be
  likely to find it difficult.
• Make copies of the handout, one copy per small group.
• Consult Compass chapter 3 on "Taking Action".

Key Date
  • 8 AprilWorld Roma Day
  • 2 AugustRoma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day


Part 1: Preparing the group (90 minutes)
1. Ask participants to form small groups of 2 to 3 people who share the same sense of identity. This may relate to their ethnicity or nationality, but it may also be connected with different social or religious groupings. Give them a few minutes to share their feelings about this identity within their small groups.
2. Either give out the handout "A brief history of the persecution of the X", or select some of the information to give participants a feeling for the successively brutal treatment that was endured by the X population, but do not tell them yet the name of the group that was targeted (Roma).
3. Briefly discuss their reactions, then, still in their small groups, give them 15 minutes to address the following questions:

  • What would you feel if "your" people had been the target of this kind of treatment at some point in recent history? (Ask participants to concentrate on the group they selected under point 1)
  • What would be the most difficult aspects for a community that has lived through this, and what would be helpful, or necessary – for example, acts of support from members of other communities – local, national or international?

4. Now ask the small groups to pair up to share their answers. Give these groups a further 15 minutes, encouraging them to create a list of specific suggestions which would help members of a community that had experienced this type of treatment.
5. Bring the group together and collect all suggestions on one flipchart. Explain that part 2 of the activity will involve selecting one of the suggestions for the group as a whole to work on. However, before you go on, ask:

  • Can you guess which people the handout was about?
  • Which other groups were targeted by the Nazis for extermination?
  • What happened to these groups in your country during the Second World War?

6. Ask the participants what they know about the situation of the Roma today. Which human rights are being violated?
7. Tell the group about the Dosta! campaign and suggest that they might like to carry out an action project to support the campaign.

Part 2: Selecting and planning an action project
This part of the activity is based on Chapter 3 of Compass –  Taking Action – which you can consult for more detailed ideas.
1. Explain that the action project they organise cannot aim to resolve completely the issues identified in the previous session, but that it should try to achieve a concrete and measurable result which will be of some benefit to the Roma community.
2. Ask participants to identify any suggestions on the flipchart that they feel might be achievable by the group. They may want to break down some of the suggestions or to add others.
3. Discuss the suggestions and come to a consensus decision on an action for the group as a whole. Use the action project flowchart in Chapter 3.  Check that:

  • the action they have identified will contribute to resolving the problem
  • the action is realistic, given the resources of the group and given the obstacles they may come up against
  • the "solution" is concrete enough so that they will know whether they have achieved it or not.

4. Draw up a Decision Sheet, so that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, and when.
5. Get to work!

Part 3: Carrying out the action project

Debriefing and evaluationGoto top

Questions about the action:

  • Do you feel satisfied with the action as a whole? Why? Why not?
  • What do you feel about your own contribution, and about the work of the group?
  • What do you think were the main achievements of the action? Do these fit with the objectives you set out initially?
  • Do you think you could have done anything differently, so that the action would be more effective? Please explain your opinion.
  • Did you make any mistakes?
  • What would you list as the main "learning points" if you were to organise another action (on any theme)?

Questions about the learning process:

  • 1. What have been the most important results for you personally? Do you feel that your views or attitudes have changed in any way? Please explain your opinion.
  • 2. What did you find most difficult about the whole activity, from the first session through to the action itself?
  • 3. What was most satisfying?
  • 4. How do you think it would be possible to build on what you have done? Do you feel motivated to do this?
  • 5. What have you learnt about human rights from doing this activity?
  • 6. Is it difficult to campaign for human rights? After this exercise, would you get involved in a campaign for human rights?
  • 7. Are the rights claimed by the Roma "exceptional", or would they apply to other groups of marginalised and persecuted people? Explain your opinion.
  • 8. Why is work with remembrance important for human rights education?
  • 9. How is the Holocaust education approached or dealt with in your country?

Tips for facilitatorsGoto top

You should allow 90 minutes for Part 1 "preparing the group", 90 minutes for Part 2 "preparing to take action" and 60 minutes for Part 4, the debriefing and evaluation. How long Part 3, the action project, takes will depend on the action taken! The different parts can be carried out consecutively or on different days.

There are a number of elements that make this activity complex, not only from the point of view of organisation, but also from the point of view of content.
You will need to be aware beforehand of the composition of the group and their likely reaction to the activity. If any of the group has relatives who were targeted in the Holocaust, or who have been the victims of other comparable events, you may want to discuss the activity with them beforehand so that they have the possibility to prepare themselves, or to be absent if they do not feel ready.
You will also need to approach every stage of the activity with sensitivity and flexibility, and should certainly not rush any of the discussions if you feel that people need more time to express their feelings. If this is the first time that the group has been confronted with such issues, it may be more effective to run Part 1 as a full 90–120-minute session, and then to leave some time before approaching Parts 2 – 4.

In Part 1.1, you would be advised to think beforehand about whether there are likely to be any difficulties. In such cases, you could provide a list of categories and ask participants to identify themselves with one, for instance as a supporter of a particular football team, as a French speaker, as someone studying Spanish or as someone who has a passion for Hip Hop, playing tennis or swimming. You could also ask participants simply to pair up as "males" and "females".
If possible, try to conduct Parts 1.2 and 1.3 without a discussion about which group X is. The point is to try to get the participants to be outraged by the injustices and this impact may be reduced if people know that X are Roma. This is because prejudice against Roma is so strong that some participants may subconsciously (or consciously) justify the treatment they receive.
In the Brief Romani Holocaust Chronology (below) any reference to Roma or "gypsy" has been replaced everywhere by X. When you use this information, you could refer to "the group" or even ask participants to imagine it is their group.

The purpose of asking participants to select an identity which is important for them is to try to get them to "feel" what it might be like to be targeted. Nevertheless, they may still find it difficult to identify with the Roma's problems because of strong prejudices about Roma. You should certainly address this, and if this is the case, leave plenty of time at Part 1.3 for participants to discuss their concerns. Tell them that it is estimated that between 75% and 80% of the Roma population in Europe was killed during the Holocaust, and in some countries this figure was as high as 90%. You could ask them to imagine what it would be like for them to lose 90% of their people, or 90% of the people in this group: in a group of 20 only 2 people would remain.

It is strongly advised that, if at all possible, at the stage of planning and before the actual action, you try to involve members of the Roma community. At the very least, you should check with members of the community that the action your group is planning will be received well. Alternatively, contact a group locally that works with, or supports, Roma people.

If you are short of time, or if participants are finding it difficult to think through the planning process, you could use the example flowchart in Chapter 3.

VariationsGoto top

One obvious possibility is to change the Roma to another group who were victims of the Holocaust. You will find The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's website, invaluable. It has information, including materials for schools, about all the groups persecuted by the Nazis, including Jews, Gay people, people with disabilities, Roma and Sinti, Black and mixed-race Europeans, Jehovah Witnesses, non-Jewish Poles and other Slavic peoples, communists, socialists and Trade Unionists. The website also has information about more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda and Darfur/Sudan.
Another alternative is to look at a people, group or community, whose plight is systematically ignored.

Suggestions for follow-upGoto top

If participants would like to explore their neighbourhood through the eyes of a person who is disadvantaged or living at the margins of society, then run the activity "Change your glasses".
Alternatively, if the group enjoy role play and are interested in exploring the reasons why people engage in violent acts, then have a look at the activity "Throwing stones".

Further informationGoto top

"Dosta", a Romani word meaning "enough", is the name of an awareness-raising campaign which aims at bringing non-Roma closer to Roma citizens. You can find information about the Dosta! campaign at It may be helpful if you have access to the Internet, so that participants can spend some time looking at the site. There are other sites which contain information about the Holocaust, which they could also use for research:;

The European Roma Information Office provides regular information about issues affecting Roma in Europe.

The European Roma Rights Centre is public interest law organisation working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma

Other organisations dealing with Holocaust education include the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (German acronym EVZ), Its activity areas and objectives are a critical examination of history, working for human rights and a commitment to the victims of National Socialism. On its web page you can read the publication Human rights and history, a challenge for education.
Another organisation concerned with Holocaust education is the Anne Frank Foundation (AFF) The purpose of the AFF is to promote charitable work, to play a social and cultural role in the spirit of Anne Frank, to further better understanding between different religions, to serve the cause of peace between people, and to encourage international contacts between the young. They have projects worldwide, for instance with Dalits in India, and for children and families in neglected urban slums and in rural communities in Peru.

HandoutsGoto top

PDFDownload as PDF

A very brief history of the persecution of the X

1890 Conference organised in Germany on the “X scum”. Military empowered to regulate movements of X.
1909 A policy conference on “The X Question” is held. It is recommended that all Xs be branded with easy identification.
1920 Two academics introduce the notion of “lives unworthy of life,” suggesting that Xs should be sterilized and eliminated as a people.
1922 (And throughout the 1920s): All Xs in German territories are photographed and fingerprinted.
1926 A law is passed in Germany to control the “X plague.” (This treatment is in direct violation of the terms of the Weimar Constitution of Germany.)
1927 In Bavaria, Germany, special camps are built to imprison Xs. Eight thousand Xs are put into these camps.
1928 All Xs placed under permanent police surveillance. More camps are built to contain Xs.
1934 Xs taken for sterilisation by injection and castration, and sent to camps at Dachau, Frankfurt, Sachsenhausen and elsewhere. Two laws issued in this year forbid Germans from marrying people of other races.
1938 Between June 12 and June 18, hundreds of Xs throughout Germany and Austria are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.
Xs are the first targeted population to be forbidden to attend school.
1939 The Office of Racial Hygiene issues a statement saying “All Xs should be treated as hereditarily sick; the only solution is elimination. (The aim should therefore be the elimination without hesitation of this defective element in the population).”
1940 The first mass genocidal action of the Holocaust: 250 X children are used as guinea pigs to test the cyanide gas crystal, at the concentration camp at Buchenwald. Employment of any kind is forbidden to Xs in this same year.
1941 In July the Nazi Final Solution to “kill all Jews, Xs and mental patients put into operation”. The Holocaust begins.
800 Xs are murdered in one action on the night of December 24 in the Crimea.
1944 August 1, 4,000 Xs are gassed and incinerated at Auschwitz-Birkenau in one mass action.
1945 By the end of the war, 70-80% of the X population had been annihilated by Nazis. No Xs were called to testify at the Nuremberg Trials, no-one testified on their behalf. No war crime reparations have been paid to the X as a people.
1950 The first of many statements over the years to follow, by the German government, declaring that they owe nothing to the X people by way of war crime reparations.
1992 Germany “sells” X asylum seekers back to Romania for $21 million, and begins shipping them in handcuffs on November 1. Some Xs commit suicide rather than go. The German press agency asks western journalists not to use the word “deportation” because that word has “uncomfortable historical associations.”
1992 French president links Xs to crime calling their camps sources of prostitution and child exploitation. French authorities dismantle over 100 camps and deport more than 1,000 Xs, mainly to Romania.