Factsheet on the Roma Genocide in Hungary
Recognition, official texts
Following a declaration by the Parliament in 2005, 2 August is commemorated in Hungary as Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day. The date commemorates the liquidation of the “Gypsy family camp” in Auschwitz-Birkenau over the night of 2 to 3 August 1944. The commemoration has been held regularly since 1994. (See OSCE-ODIHR report “Holocaust Memorial Days in the OSCE Region: An overview of governmental practices”, page 53).
Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)
The International Commemoration Day of the Roma Genocide was celebrated every year by the Roma Civil Rights’ Foundation in front of the Parliament of Hungary between 1996 and 2005. Since 2006 they bow before victims at the Roma monument - Roma Holocaust Memorial in the Nehru Part in Budapest. Similar events are held in Nagykanizsa, at the Roma Holocaust Memorial by the Várkapu. The National Roma Minority Self-Government organise their commemoration ceremony at the memorial plaque placed on the wall of their Dohány street headquarters in Budapest.
Every year there is a commemoration event at the Memorial for the Roma Genocide. There are commemoration events at the Holocaust Memorial Centre as well. The commemoration events include speeches, exhibitions and concerts. Events are organised by local governments, Holocaust commemorative organisations, non-governmental organisations and Roma organisations. Government representatives, sometimes even the President or ministers, attend the main memorial event.
There are different opinions concerning the number of the Hungarian Roma victims. Providing more accurate estimates is hindered by the fact that decrees of national validity regarding the deportation of Roma were only issued during the Arrow Cross era, and were not always carried out due to the resistance of the local public administration. In the opinion of historian László Karsai, the overall majority of the Roma population – 200 000 at that time - had a permanent residence and more or less a regular occupation, and the laws and regulations issued before March 1944 were aiming at the “regularisation” of the Roma travellers. As an official procedure against “stray Gypsies”, from 1929 onward, “Gypsy raids” were held twice a year and closed camps had been established in several settlements, such as Esztergom, where the Roma could only reside for the purpose of working. In 1944 the “solution of the problem of the Gypsies” started on the pattern of the “solution of the problem of Jews”: the Ministry of Warfare ordered the drafting of “stray” or “settled but unemployed” Roma men between the age of 18 and 52 for compulsory military labour service. In February 1945 the Minister of Interior from the arrow cross party announced: “I have initiated the terminal, and if necessary, merciless solution of the problem of Jews and Gypsies.” Fortunately the arrow cross regime had not had enough time to carry out the merciless solution (Gábor Bernáth, Roma Sajtóközpont (RSK)/RPC - Roma Press Centre).
Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue
Roma Historical, Cultural, Educational and Holocaust Centre (Cigány Történeti, Kulturális, Oktatási és Holokauszt Központ)
Szent István út 71.
+36 20 253 3909
Tom Lantos Institute (Tom Lantos Intézet)
Bérc u. 13-15.,
1016 Budapest, Hungary
Tel: +36 1 209 0024
Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)
The Holokauszt Emlékközpont (Holocaust Memorial Center) in Budapest has a permanent exhibition about the Holocaust in Hungary titled “From Legal Deprivation to Genocide – In Memory of the Hungarian Holocaust”. Its aim is to recount and present the suffering, persecution and massacre of those Hungarian nationals – mainly Jews and the Roma – who were condemned to annihilation in the name of the racial ideology. The dominant motif of the exhibition is the relationship between state and its citizens. 1938 marks the beginning of the process where the Hungarian state deprived a specific group of its citizens from all that makes a man a man: from their rights, property, freedom, human dignity, and in the end, their very existence. This process accelerated fatally in 1944, after the German occupation. Accordingly, the exhibition does not present the events in a chronological order; it is based on units that present the different phases of the persecution: the deprivation of civil rights, property, freedom, human dignity, and existence. These topics are introduced and concluded by two adjacent rooms, the former presents the Hungarian Jewry and Roma people, and the latter discusses the liberation, the questions of responsibility, and the answers to the persecution.
Hungary, the Roma and Sinti genocide is officially commemorated on 2 August. For a complete overview of Hungary’s initiatives related to Roma and Sinti genocide remembrance and education, please see the OSCE report “Teaching about and Commemorating the Roma and Sinti Genocide: Practices within the OSCE Area”.
Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum
The Ministry of Education reported that the topic of the Holocaust is included in the history curriculum and partially in courses on literature, social sciences, art and ethics. Some schools offer options where the topic is elaborated in greater detail. Students initially learn about the Holocaust at the age of 14 and then in subsequent years through secondary school curricula. Hungarian non-governmental institutions also undertake informal education projects.
Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks
Hegedűs, Sándor: Cigány kronológia (Gipsy Chronology). Konsept-H Publishing House, 2004. (For elementary schools).
Hegedűs, Sándor: Cigányábrázolás a magyar költészetben (Gipsy portraits in Hungarian poetry). Konsept-H Publishing House, 2004. (For high schools).
Ligeti, György: Cigány népismereti tankönyv 7-12. osztály számára (Textbook about the Roma people). Konsept-H Publishing House, 2004. (For high schools, grades 7-12).
An article about the topic:
Tamás Terestyéni: Fekete pont. A középiskolai történelem és társadalomismeret tankönyvek tartalmai, Beszélő, 2004/5.
Dupcsik, Csaba: A Roma Holokauszt az Oktatásban (The Roma Genocide in the education)
This essay aims to aid high school teachers in their teaching of the Roma Genocide.
Daróczy, Ágnes; Bársony, János; Fátyol Mihály: Pharrajimos - A romák sorsa a nácizmus idején (Porrajmos - Fate of the Roma in the days of Nazism). L’Harmattan, 2004
Katz, Katalin: Visszafordított emlékezet (Memory turned back). Pont, 2005.
Fraser, Sir Angus: A cigányok (The Roma). Osiris, 1996.
Bernáth, Gábor (ed.): Roma holocaust. Roma Holocaust túlélők emlékeznek (Survivors of Roma Genocide)
“Holocaust and its teaching” (Holokauszt és holokausztoktatás) - Interview with Mónika Kovács
Training of teachers and education professionals
In 2012, European workshop, titled “Passing on the Remembrance of the Holocaust and prevention of crimes against humanity: a cross-cutting approach” took place in Tirana from 5 to 8 September. At the event school teachers from Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia joined to a group of experts to discuss the topic. Hungary has been represented by Zoltán Sallai (Ady Endre Grammar School, Budapest) and Zsolt Vódli (Sopron). Experiences gained in teaching the theme in schools, relevant methodology and school programs were exchanged. It was agreed that the dialogue on “Film and the Holocaust” and “The visit to an authentic place of remembrance” topics provided further inspiration to the methodology of teaching about Holocaust.
Dr. Peter Heindl and Margit Koczor: Független Pedagógiai Intézet (Independent Pedagogical Institute): Multicultural Teacher’s Training.
Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions
The Ministry of Education and the Hannah Arendt Association offer in-service teaching seminars and educational workshops. According to state authorities, approximately 150 teachers take advantage of the training opportunities annually (see “OSCE report Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism: An Overview and Analysis of Educational Approaches”, page 88).
The inclusion of the Holocaust in school education in Hungary is ensured by the government through the rigorous accreditation of the curriculum, textbooks and other teaching materials. As a result, teaching on the Holocaust forms part of a number of different subjects, including history, civics, literature, language, ethics and general classes.
Since 2000 and 2001, Holocaust Memorial Day has been observed in secondary schools. The Hungarian Government supports school activities related to the commemoration of the Holocaust. Since the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day, there has been strong cooperation between schools and the government with regard to Holocaust education (see “OSCE report Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region”, page 53).
In 2000 the Roma Press Centre published a book titled “Recollections of Roma Holocaust survivors” (“Roma Holocaust túlélők emlékeznek”) in which they collected testimonies of Hungarian Roma who survived the Roma Genocide. The book was re-published in 2008. The following are some excerpts from the interviews with two survivors, Angéla Lakatos "Mici", who was forty at the time, and Margit Raffael "Falat" who was fourteen:
"I received eight bullets, in my hand, my leg, in my side, here as well, and also in my thigh. Eight shots. (...) I am the only survivor and a little girl. When everything was already silent, they took an acetylene lamp from the watchman's house and examined us. I was lying in the hole; I did not move. When they had left and everything was silent, I pressed each of the bodies who were around to see if there was anyone alive. My hand fell over a little girl, she pinched me back. I said: Who are you? Which one are you? She answered: I am Falat. I said: Help me, please, I am not able to stand up."
"Next to the highway number eight, 20 to 22 kilometres from the town Székesfehérvár, right before Várpalota, there is a small pond, which used to be a hole before. No one knows for sure the number of people lying in this mass grave. The people's tribunal case of 1946 knew about 130 victims but István Harangozó, member of the Popular Front in Székesfehérvár, affirms that although 132 Roma were deported from Székesfehérvár, we have to add to this number 15 to 20 Roma from Várpalota, who were shot to death together with them by the Arrow-Cross men and gendarme."
Mici's mother, father, sisters and brothers, and sons remained in the hole. Margit Raffael also lost everybody from her family: four brothers and her mother; her father was earlier taken to Germany and never returned.
György S. Márványi published a reportage with the title "Under water, under the ground" on the Várpalota execution (Élet és Irodalom, 25th October 1975). The following are some quotations from the reportage:
Angéla Lakatos, Mici
They gathered us and they took us to Várpalota. We were many, they shut us up in a barn. It was snowing, raining, the children were crying, you can imagine, there wasn't a piece of bread. And we were also crying, what would happen to us. Gendarme said we would have bread and water at the shelter. Men were drove there in the morning and forced to dig a hole. They could never come up from the depth, they were shot to death. When we got there, men were already dead. And then they started shooting us, women and children. I was pregnant then, I would have had my baby in July. I received eight bullets, in my hand, my leg, in my side, here as well, and also in my thigh. Eight shots. (...) I am the only survivor and a little girl. When everything was already silent, they took an acetylene lamp from the watchman's house and examined us. I was lying in the hole; I did not move. When they left and everything was silent, I pressed each of the bodies who were around to see if there was anyone alive. My hand fell over a little girl, she pinched me back. I said: Who are you? Which one are you? She goes: I am Falat. I said: Help me, please, I am not able to stand up.
Margit Raffael, Falat
When they started shooting, I got scared very much. I jumped in the hole. No bullet touched me, I got a small one only, which came out from somebody else. Sort of a "tired" bullet...
My dress was full of blood. I was walking towards the railway station, when I saw a woman leaning out of the window of a nice house. By then it was known all around how many Roma had been killed by the Arrow-Cross men. She invited me in, took my bloodstained clothes off and gave me her own dress. She put a bandage on my wound, treated it with medicine and gave me money so that I could go to Győr. There was my uncle living there, I stayed there for a while and then got married.
I went to town to do the shopping, suddenly I saw that many Roma were driven somewhere. I asked: where are they taking them? Another woman goes: the Arrow-Cross men are taking them to work. They brought them here, where there is this pond now. I followed them, went in the acacia grove, in the depths of the forest. There they had been already forced to dig a long-long, deep trench. (...) Women were sent there to the edge, their baby in their hand, and the smaller children next to them, clutching their dress. It was horrible to see how they were shot one by one. And as the Arrow-Cross men were shooting them, they were falling into the hole; a small child did not die, so they went there and shot him. I screamed and then an Arrow-Cross man goes: Who screamed? Which one was it? Come on, get her! And then I escaped, I ran home.
Angéla Lakatos once a year, at springtime takes a train and travels to Várpalota. She carries flower with her, goes to the pond and throws the bunch in the water.
József Forgács, Roma Genocide survivor from Zalaegerszeg in Hungary, told his survivor's story to Antonia Zafeiri, a European communications associate at the Open Society Foundations: "Forgács recounted his memories of deportation from Hungary and his time at a forced labor camp in Austria, where he spent eight months as a child. The Nazis separated the crowds at the first train stop in Komárom. This was the last time Forgács saw his father. A week later, on the second selection round, Forgács was taken to a labour camp in Austria alongside other Hungarian Roma, including many children. His mother stayed behind. From September 1944 to April 1945, Forgács worked at a large factory with many industrial machines. He cannot recall where he was held but most probably one of the labour camps in the Mauthausen concentration camp complex. Forgács could not believe he was still alive when Soviet troops liberated the camp. The gates were opened and he was free. But his ordeal was not over. They walked hundreds of miles, begging for shelter and food from people speaking a strange language. They slept anywhere they could find, usually outdoors in a field. Many children died like this on the road. When he arrived at Sopron, a city at the Hungarian-Austrian border, he knew he was home. But home was nowhere to be found. When he finally reached his hometown of Zalaegerszeg, his family house had been ruined. Forgács stayed in Zalaegerszeg all his life, working for over 40 years in construction and as a furniture manufacturer. Despite his ordeal he still faced discrimination in later years. He received no compensation from the state because he did not spend a full year at the concentration camp.
More than 70 years have passed since the Genocide, but still numerous Roma victims lie in unmarked mass graves and experts consider public commemoration as very weak. In the same time based on different sources – archives and recollection of survivors’ memories – a list of locations has been composed from where Roma people were dragged away because of their ethnic origin. This contains over 600 settlements but until 2004 there have only been 50 memory plaques placed to commemorate the events. Roma Press Centre – RPC (Roma Sajtóközpont – RSK) handed in a petition to the Ministry of National Cultural Heritage in which they requested these settlements’ municipal governments to establish further monuments. After 60 years, it was 2004 that brought the biggest success in this matter: as a result of the RPC’s efforts six settlements placed memory plaques and due to the work of “Wesley János Lelkészképző Főiskola és az Evangéliumi Testvérközösség” (John Wesley Pastor Training College and Evangelical Community) another 32 settlements placed memory plaques to commemorate the Roma Genocide.
Non-governmental organisations and individual teachers undertake a number of practical initiatives. For example, the Lauder Javne Jewish Community School runs a project that enables its students to take an active role in making documentaries and doing video interviews with Holocaust eyewitnesses. Students' work is often published in a literary yearbook and is often further disseminated for educational purposes. Another example of a student project is the bilingual publication Eva Weinmann's Diary of 1941-1945, written by a teenage girl during the Holocaust. This publication is available on the Internet and in print. Students are also actively involved in the preparation of events for Hungary's Holocaust Memorial Day.
The "Nationalism Studies Program" of the Central European University in Budapest conducts research about the Samudaripen and offers lectures on the topic, for instance "Anthropological Approaches to Ethnicity, Racism and Nationalism – with special reference to Roms and Romany peoples" (by Michael Stewart) and "Sociological Approaches to Race and Ethnicity: The Roma in Central Europe" (by Júlia Szalai).
Bársony, J. (2004) Pharrajimos. Képek, dokumentumok. Budapest: L’Harmattan. [Collection of pictures and documents, with some captions]
Szita, S. (2001). A Cigànysàg a màsodik vilàghàború idején 1939-1945: az üldöztetés tanintézeti feldolgozàsàhoz. Budapest: Velcsov. [There is a translation into English]
Szita, S. (2008). The Roma people during the Second World War (1939-1945): school reader about coexistence and persecution. Budapest: Velcsov. [Original in Hungarian]
Péter Szuhay: The Virtual House of Roma Culture – educational material within the framework of Convergent Society Education Program – Association of History Teachers
Lacková, E. (2001). Szerencsés csillagzat alatt születtem--: egy cigányasszony élete Szlovákiában. Budapest: Pont. [Original in Czech and Romani]
Lakaros, M. (1975). Füstös képek. Budapest: Magvető Kiadó. [There are translations into different languages]
Mehr, M. (2002). Kőkorszak. Budapest: L'Harmattan, Könyvesbolt. [Original in German]
Mehr, M. (2008). Üzenetek a számkivetésből: versek. Budapest: L'Harmattan.[Original in German and Romani]
Gyurkó, A. et al. (eds.)(1999). Das Buch der Ränder: Roma-Lyrik aus Ungarn. Klagenfurt: Wieser. [Text in Romani and German][Some of the poems]
Achim, V. (2004). The Roma in Romanian history. Budapest: Central European University Press.
Bársony, J. (2004). Pharrajimos. Képek, dokumentumok. Budapest: L’Harmattan. [Collection of pictures and documents, with some captions]
Bársony, J. and Daróczi, A. (eds.) (2004). Pharrajimos - Romák sorsa a nácizmus idején. Budapest: L’Harmattan. [English version in 2008].
Bársony, J. and Daróczi, A. (eds.) (2008). Pharrajimos: the fate of the Roma during the Holocaust. New York: International Debate Education Association. [Original in Hungarian, 2004].
Bernáth, G. (ed.) (2000). Roma Holocaust. Kodola seron, kon perdal zhuvinde / Túlélök emlékeznek / Recollections of survivors. Budapest: Roma Sajtóközpont Könyvek. [Text in Hungarian, Romani and English]
Crowe, D. (1996). A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia. London: I.B. Tauris Publishers.
Fings, K. et al. (2001). Szintik és romak a naci rendszer idején: a "fajelmélettol" a lagerekig. Budapest: Pont K.
Katz, K. (2005). Visszafojtott emlékezet: a magyarországi romák holokauszttörténetéhez. Budapest: Pont. [There is a translation into Hebrew]
Kenrick, D. and Puxon, G. (2001). Ciganyok a horogkereszt alatt. Budapest: Pont K. [Original in English]
Lacková, E. (2001). Szerencsés csillagzat alatt születtem--: egy cigányasszony élete Szlovákiában. Budapest: Pont. [Original in Czech and Romani]
László, K. (1992). A cigánykérdés Magyarországon, 1919-1945: út a cigány Holocausthoz. Budapest: Cserépfalvi.
Mezey, B., Pomogyi, L. and Tauber, I. (1985). A magyarországi cigánykérdés dokumentumokban, 1422-1985 (The Gypsy question in Hungary: Documents, 1422-1985). Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó.
Roma Sajtóközpont / Roma Press (ed.) (2001). Roma Holocaust. Kodola seron, kon perdal zhuvinde / Túlélök emlékeznek / Recollections of survivors. Budapest: Roma Sajtóközpont Könyvek. [Text in Hungarian, Romani and English]
Stauber, R. and Vago, R. (2007). The Roma: a minority in Europe: historical, political and social perspectives. Budapest; New York: Central European University Press.
Teleki, László: "The Fate of the Roma during the Holocaust: The Untold Story"
Khanci Dos (1998). Bi Granica - No Limits, CD. [It includes the song "Aucshwitz"]
About Ferenc Snétberger:
Ferenc Snétberger, born in Hungary, gave the concert "In Memory for my People" on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust (1995). The performances took place in different countries, such as Hungary, Italy, Germany and the USA - in the UN headquarters in New York, in the International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2007.
Some pieces of music (among them, "Alkony" and "Hajnal") were published in the CD: For my people.
Ferenc Snétberger also composed the music for the play Z 2001. Tinte unter meiner Haut (2001), played by Roma Theatre Pralipe.
More about his life and works.
1989: “The Forgotten Holocaust”. Documentary. United Kingdom. Director: George Case. 50 min.
About the persecution and genocide of the European Roma. Some Roma survivors from Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland, France and the Netherlands are interviewed about this topic.
1994: “Megöltétek ártatlan családom…” (They killed my innocent family…). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Miklós Jancsó. 37 min.
About the Roma Genocide in Hungary.
1994-1995: “Nem szûnõ fájdalommal I-II. – Emlékek a magyar holocaustról” (With everlasting pain I-II. – Memories from the Hungarian Holocaust). Documentaries. Hungary. Director: László Kovács. 49 and 54 min.
Recollection of memories from several Hungarian survivors.
1997: “Temetetlen holtak” (Unburied Dead). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Miklós Jancsó. 50 min.
About the extermination of Roma people in Hungary.
2001: “Porrajmos” (Gypsy Holocaust). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Ágota Varga. 2x50 min.
The film shows Hungarian Roma survivors recalling their memories of 1944.
2001: “Chacho Rom”. Feature film. Hungary. Director: Ildikó Szabó. 125 min. Language: Hungarian.
During the Second World War, in Hungary, as in every country conquered temporarily, Roma are caught in raids and are taken to the extermination camps.
2002: “Fekete lista” (“Black List - Gypsy Inmates in the Forced Labour Camps in 1944”). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Ágota Varga. 68 min.
The film portrays slices of the history of Hungarian Roma who were obliged into forced labour during WWII. Some survivors speak about these hard activities.
2004: “Út a halálba - Roma holocaust és kárpótlás” (Road to Death - The Roma Holocaust and Compensation). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Fátyol Tivadar. 55 min.
About the life of some survivors before World War II. Some of them travel to some concentration camps to recall their experiences.
2005: “Historia Romani\" (The history of Roma). Documentary. Hungary. Director: Péter Gábor. About 20 min.
The series - 6 episodes - goes through the history of Roma from the beginnings in Asia to present days. The last episode introduces the long-term effects of the Porrajmos, the attempts of Roma to stand on their own feet, their trials of integration in Western societies and the birth of Roma movements.