The dehumanisation of the Roma and other minorities was the first step in facilitating the heinous crimes by which about 500 000 Roma from all over Europe were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators, European Commissioners Frans Timmermans and Věra Jourová said.
In a joint statement marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on August 2, the commissioners, noting how dehumanisation had opened the way for the mass murders, said: “We must remember this today and defend forcefully and passionately our shared European values of equality and non-discrimination”.
A statement by the Council of Europe noted that August 2 was the anniversary of the date in 1944 on which more than 3000 Roma men, women and children were exterminated in gas chamber V of “Zigeunerlager BIII” at Auschwitz – Birkenau.
Timmermans and Jourová said that the Roma are forgotten victims of the Holocaust for many Europeans.
“Remembering their historical persecution reminds us of the need to tackle the challenges which they still face today and which are too often overlooked. Seven decades on, Sinti and Roma still face hatred, violence, discrimination and racism on a daily basis. And many still do not have access to basic necessities such as decent housing, education and healthcare.
“It is the duty of all EU member states to ensure effective policies for the remembrance of historical atrocities, to safeguard and preserve historic sites, and to promote education and research in this field. And it is the duty of each and every one of us in the EU to treat our fellow citizens with dignity and respect, in particular the most vulnerable ones in our society,” Timmermans and Jourová said.
The Council of Europe said that on the occasion of the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day (Pharrajimos) the Roma and Travellers Team is holding a commemorative ceremony in memory of the Roma victims on August 2 at noon on the lawn in front of the Palais de l’Europe.
The head of the IHRA Committee on the Genocide of the Roma, Martina Maschke, and Committee member, Gerhard Baumgartner, will attend the commemorations at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to mark the day of remembrance for the victims of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, on behalf of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the IHRA said.