Factsheet on the Roma Genocide in Greece
Recognition, official texts
Although there is no official legal text recognising the Genocide of Roma in Europe, the Genocide is often mentioned during the events organised on the National Day of Remembrance of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust (27th January).
The purpose of this day is to remember the abrupt end to the rich contribution of the Jewish community to Greek society, especially in Thessaloniki, as a result of World War II, and to remember their persecution during the war and the Holocaust. The date was established in a law adopted unanimously by the Greek Parliament in 2004 [Law 3218/2004(OG/A/12)]. A presidential decree published on 28th February 2005 [PD 31/2005 (OG/A/51) regulates the commemorative events taking place in accordance with the law in different prefectures of the country. The date has been officially commemorated since 2005. Commemorative events are organised in the most important religious and cultural centres: at big concert halls, synagogues and universities, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki but also in other cities like Ioannina, Volos, Larissa where Jewish Communities once flourished.
Greece, as a member of International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) (since 2005), is strongly committed to promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Over the last decade, Greek Governments have undertaken a number of initiatives to combat anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice against the Roma and Sinti, mainly, by reviewing legislation (anti-racism law, 4285/2014), by forming a national strategic framework for Roma, by improving teachers’ education and reviewing school curriculum and textbooks. Greece also commemorates Roma victims on the anniversary of the liquidation of the Roma (from 2nd to 3rd of August 1944) in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)
There is no existing evidence for Roma victims in Greece during the Holocaust. Consequently, there is no remembrance place for Roma.
Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue
There is no specialised institution dealing with the Roma Genocide in Greece.
Nevertheless, there are several agencies and organizations involved in the field of research and education that have demonstrated relevant action on issues pertaining to vulnerable social groups, including the Roma population, as indicatively following:
- The National Centre for Social Research -EKKE- a public organization dedicated to social sciences,
- The Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, which has undertaken a range of measures in the field of education to support Roma inclusion (i.e. the institution of cross-cultural and minority schools, the reception and tutorial classes, remedial teaching and additional teaching support, as well as the Educational Priority Zones),
- Universities across the country which implement educational programmes related to Roma, such as the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, which have been implementing the ‘Education of Roma Children’ programme.
Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)
No official initiative regarding the Roma Genocide has been reported from Greece.
In the framework of the official commemorative events that are held on the Day of Remembrance of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust (27th January), the Genocide of Roma in Europe is sometimes mentioned, although no special ceremony has been organized so far, because the Roma in Greece had not been persecuted. As part of the National Day of Remembrance of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, a series of official commemorative joint events are carried out in the prefectures and among local Jewish communities. These commemorations take place at Holocaust sites, where wreaths are laid on behalf of the Government, the Parliament, political parties, etc.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that on 22nd January 2014, a Memorandum of Cooperation between the General Secretariat of Religion of the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs and the Jewish Museum of Greece was signed in Athens. The aim of the memorandum is to preserve the memory of people lost during the Holocaust (Jewish, Roma etc.), to prevent racism, to train educators in teaching about the Holocaust in Greek schools and to organize activities which promote greater sensitivity among citizens on these issues. In the framework of this collaboration, educational visits to the Auschwitz Memorial Museum for high school pupils take place.
A number of activities are organized to mark National Day of Remembrance of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust at schools in Greece. The Ministry of Education supports the participation of schools in activities implemented by competent bodies during Holocaust Memorial Day. All the activities (visits, presentations, circulars teacher trainings...) are made in cooperation with the Jewish Museum. The emphasis is clearly put on the Jewish Holocaust but in every seminar or activity about the Holocaust reference is made to the Roma genocide.
In the school year 2015-2016, the Ministry of Education issued a circular by which all schools were asked to dedicate two teaching hours on relevant events and activities on 27th January.
The Remembrance Day for the Roma Genocide (2nd August) is not observed in Greek schools, as they are closed on that date due to summer holidays.
However, on 2 August 2018, Roma Genocide Remembrance Day was honored for the first time in Greece following an initiative of the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Greek Roma Ellan Passe. The ceremony took place in Athens and was attended by the alternate Minister of Labor, the Minister of Maritime Affairs as well as by representatives of the parliament, political parties, the church and civil society.
Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum
According to OSCE, the “Holocaust is a mandatory subject taught in the history curriculum under the topic of World War II. It is also presented in the areas of literature, sociology, and political science. Students encounter the topic for the first time at the ages of 11-12 and subsequently at the ages of 14-15 and 17-18. School textbooks provide photographs, maps, and references to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some textbooks include excerpts from The Diary of Anne Frank and the Third Reich and the Jews, by L. Polliakof and Z. Woulf, as well as excerpts from the testimonies of Jewish Greek Holocaust survivors.”
Additionally, the current curriculum, for both primary and secondary education, is aiming to raise students’ awareness on issues referring to human rights and dignity, world peace, cultural and lingual diversity, religious tolerance and religious dialogue, social stereotypes and discriminations, as well, vulnerable social groups.
Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks
All schoolbooks have been revised by Institute of Educational Policy, according to the guidelines established by International Holocaust Remembrance Association. History, sociology, religion, as well as, literature school textbooks include personal stories, maps, photographs, that are aiming at giving students’ the opportunity to deal with human rights violation and war crimes. Students though investigating the various aspects of genocides that have taken place in 20th century realize the horrible consequences of hate, intolerance, racism and prejudice and appreciate the value of world peace, democracy and human rights respect.
Teaching about Roma and Sinti genocide.
- In the History Activity Book (6th grade of primary school, p. 38) and in the Chapter about World War II, pupils are asked to search on the internet and in particular two sites:
in order to find information about the threefold occupation in Greece. In both these sites reference is made in the Roma and Sinti genocide, in the context of providing an outline of the basic historical elements of World War II and a definition of the holocaust.
- At secondary level of compulsory education, in the 3rd grade of High School and in the subject of History, there are two specific references on Roma persecution and mass extermination under National Socialism. The first one is made in the context of describing the political dimensions of 1929 economic crisis and specifically the rise of Nazism in Germany and the enforcement of an aggressive racist policy against those who were considered as different (political opponents, Roma and homosexuals), with a particular emphasis against Jews (History Student’s Book, Chapter 9, Unit 42, “The political dimensions of the crisis of 1929”, WW II and Greece”, p. 117):
The second reference focuses on Jews and Roma persecution and mass extermination under the Nazi regime (History Student’s Book, Chapter 10, Unit 46, “World War II”, p.127)
At upper secondary level of post-compulsory education, in the 1st grade of Senior High School (Lyceum) and in the optional subject entitled “Hellenic and European Civilisation” one more reference, similar to the aforementioned ones, can be found. It focuses on the Nazis plan to exterminate all Jews in Europe and Roma as well as millions of people with a Slav origin (Hellenic and European Civilization, Student’s Book, Ch. 7 “The route towards European Union”).
At the same level of education, in the 3rd grade of Senior High School (Lyceum) and in the subject of History (Student’s Book), one reference is made on Jews and Roma genocide under National Socialism within the context of describing a photo from Auschwitz concentration camp (p. 130).
In the History Teacher’s Book (p. 118) in the 3rd Grade of Senior High School (Lyceum) a diagrammatic presentation is included which contains the basic elements of the phenomenon of totalitarianism for the case of Italy and Germany, where a particular reference is made on the faith on racial purity and systematic extermination of non-German minorities (Jews and Roma etc).
Moreover, in the 2nd grade of Vocational Senior High School, in the Subject of History one reference is made (p.122) in the Student’s Book on the Jews and Roma planned and systematic extermination in concentration camps in the name of racial purity.
Training of teachers and education professionals
The first teacher training seminar was in October 2004 and was followed by the distribution of Holocaust-related teaching materials. This action was conducted by the Jewish Museum of Greece. The museum continues to organize seminars to train teachers annually, more than once every year, in teaching the Holocaust of the Jews and other victims.. In 2012, the museum organised a seminar for teachers on teaching the Holocaust to Roma children during which they were given a tour of the museum and were familiarised with the museums educational activities and programmes on the Holocaust with a view that they may adjust these examples to fit the needs of the Roma children they teach.
All seminars are conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs.
Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions
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Trubeta, S. (2003). "Gypsiness. Radical Discourse and Persecution: Balkan Roma during the Second World war", Nationalities Papers, 31:4, pp. 495-514.