Europe marks 79th anniversary of Roma-Sinti murders at Auschwitz

Europe marks 79th anniversary of Roma-Sinti murders at Auschwitz

Europe remembers Roma and Sinti people murdered at Nazi concentration camp on Aug. 2, 1944, and half-million lost in Nazi-occupied Europe

By Jo Harper

WARSAW (AA) – It is necessary to remember the Holocaust and learn from the horrors of World War II, European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer said at commemorations in Auschwitz, Poland on Wednesday to mark the European Holocaust Memorial Day for the Sinti and Roma peoples.

The commemoration at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was also attended by representatives of the Roma community from Poland and Germany and representative officials of a number of countries.

“On this day in 1944, 4,300 Sinti and Roma were brutally murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Each of them had their own story, their own dreams, their own life,” said Beer. The Sinti are a subgroup of the Roma who live mostly in Germany.

"The terrible crimes committed by the Germans fill me personally with shame, anger and sadness," she added.


- Aug. 2, 1944

On Aug. 2, the world commemorates the last 4,300 Sinti and Roma in the Nazi German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, who were murdered by the SS on that night in 1944 despite fierce resistance.

The European Parliament in 2015 declared Aug. 2 the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma in memory of an estimated 500,000 Sinti and Roma murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The date refers to events of the night of Aug. 2-3, 1944, when guards at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp carried out the extermination of those detained in the Zigeunerlager (Roma/Sinti camp).

There were 6,500 people of Roma origin in Auschwitz-Birkenau at that time.

The Roma prisoners started a rebellion – armed with shovels, stones and knives, they refused to carry out the orders of the camp staff.

On the night of Aug. 2-3, 1944 about 3,000 women, children, the elderly, and men were gassed in the chamber at the fourth crematorium in Birkenau. The bodies of the murdered were burned in pits next to the crematorium.

A total of about 20,000 Roma and Sints from the Zigeunerlager died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, mostly from Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Moravia, with a small percentage from Poland. They were also exterminated in other concentration camps: Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor and Belzec. Roma camps were also located in German-occupied then-Czechoslovakia and in Croatia (Jasenovac).

The majority of European Roma living in the territories occupied by the Third Reich, however, were shot in mass executions carried out immediately after their arrest.

It is impossible to determine the exact number of murdered people, but it is estimated that some 500,000-600,000 people died in WWII victims in the European area occupied by the Third Reich.


-‘Never again’

The ceremony was started by Roman Kwiatkowski, chair of the Association of the Roma in Poland.

“In Europe in the 21st century, racist and nationalist ideologies are still alive for us. Roma and Sinti. Every manifestation of exclusion and discrimination is a wake-up call against repeating these tragic times,” he said.

Kwiatkowski also said the rights of Roma and Sinti, who are citizens of many different European countries, should be regulated by EU member states in cooperation with the Roma and Sinti themselves, and not, as is currently the case, without their participation.

According to Beer, it is also necessary to combat all manifestations of racism, which still exist in many European countries.

“According to surveys, more than 40% Sinti and Roma have experienced discrimination in the last five years … This is unacceptable,” she said.

She said that the European Parliament is trying to fight this with its 2020 adoption of a 10-year plan to support Roma, which sets "clear targets for member states to fight discrimination in all areas of life."

"Sinti and Roma are citizens of Europe, with the same rights, freedoms and prospects. It angers me that I have to talk about it,” said Beer.


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