Amid Rising Bigotry, Roma Communities in Europe Commemorate Nazi Genocide
Roma communities in Europe on Monday commemorated the victims of the Nazi genocide during World War II as they marked European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls annually on Aug. 2.
At least 200,000 Romani and Sinti were murdered by the Nazis during the “Porajmos,” or genocide, with some estimates as high as 500,000.
Nazi ideologists classified the Roma, like the Jews, as an “inferior race” with inherited criminal characteristics, recommending they be eliminated from the human race.
The date of Aug. 2 was chosen in memory of more than 4,000 Roma who were exterminated in the gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camp on the same day in 1944. The prisoners had been held in what was known as the “Gypsy Family Camp” which existed at Auschwitz from Feb. 1943 until the end of July 1944.
Romanis were also exterminated at the concentration camps of Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór and Treblinka. Thousands more Romani prisoners were shot dead and buried in outdoor mass graves.
In a statement to mark the commemoration, Dunja Mijatović — the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe — declared that “now more than ever, we should all continue to confront the deeply rooted prejudices and stereotypes that form the bedrock for persisting and widespread discrimination against the Roma.”
Mijatović, who is a native of Bosnia, added that bigotry against the Roma had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the impact of widespread and deeply rooted discrimination against Roma,” she said. “These are not new phenomena, but rather further manifestations of existing and strong antigypsyism that is pervasive across Europe. They come to the surface even more easily in times of crisis.”
Editor’s note: this piece has been updated with the correct estimates for the number of Romani and Sinti killed during World War II