IHRA Chair’s address at the virtual commemoration of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma on 2 August 2021

On 2 August, the Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, we commemorate the last 4,300 Sinti and Roma in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, who were murdered by the SS in 1944 despite their fierce resistance. Addressing this year’s virtual commemoration of all 500,000 Sinti and Roma murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe, to honor the victims and survivors of the Roma genocide, IHRA Chair Ambassador Chris Lazaris made the following statement:

My deep feelings and emotions overtake me as I bow in the memory of the innocent victims, fellow Roma and Sinti European Citizens, who were murdered in Auschwitz – Birkenau in the name of an artificial mental construct of racial purity. It is bitterly ironic that the tormentors, who perceived their victims as sub humans, only managed to conclude their gruesome task on their second attempt: Their foray into the so called Gypsy Camp on 16 May 1944 in fact had met with fierce resistance by the inmates and the executioners had to abandon their planned assassination of the interned Roma and Sinti, albeit only temporarily.

This day should remind all of us of some of the darkest moments of European History. Finally, out of the ashes of all the victims, we are here commemorating in a Europe which enjoys an unprecedented long stretch of peace and affluence. It is by remembering and education that we will continue to maintain the peace and strengthen human rights that guarantee the prosperity and the continuous advancement of all European citizens.

Thus, it is our duty to uphold and strengthen IHRA’s commitment to Research, to Remembrance and, foremost, Education on the Genocide of the Roma and Sinti, the Samudaripen. It is an unceasing process that will make society at large aware of the travails of their fellow citizens and, furthermore, will do away with, I hope, entrenched stereotypes of the other. The scourge of Antigypsyism or anti–Roma racism or anti–Roma discrimination, a major factor that led to the Genocide, has to be eradicated.

IHRA’s commitment to all the above has been transubstantiated into concrete actions, the culmination, in some instances, of work of many years by its Committee on the Genocide of the Roma whose work I would like now to comment. It was during the German Presidency of the Alliance that a working definition on Antigypsyism was unanimously adopted by all the member countries. And it is currently, during the Greek Presidency, that the Committee has been tasked to develop and introduce guidelines of how to teach the Genocide of the Roma and Sinti, the Roma Holocaust, in schools.

The memory of the victims and the remembrance of this dark chapter in European history should serve as the springboard for all of us to strive for the eradication of any form of racism that, in the end, is detrimental to society as a whole. Racism is a burden on all of us.

So, Look and don’t forget. Dikh he na bister.

I thank you.