22
Jan

At International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Roma remain ‘underreported’ victims

Misunderstood and still persecuted, the Roma people (also known as Romani or Gypsies) remain what some experts consider a relatively underreported ethnicity ahead of this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Asperg, Deportation von Sinti und Roma

Rom deportation Asperg, Germany May 1940

Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harbored social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be “racially inferior.” The fate of Roma in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, German authorities subjected Roma to arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia, and killed thousands more in the concentration camps at Aushwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

“The Roma are a small minority, and due to long-term persecution in the various societies Roma have lived, they have, as a group, tended to be reluctant to advertise their ethnic background,” Peter Black, a senior historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), told JNS.org. “The Roma have, for the past two or three centuries, been the victims of negative and violence-inciting stereotypes about them and their behavior.”

Black explained that the Roma “were reputed as travelers to be indifferent to indigenous social mores and legal structures, and to be inclined to engage in small-scale criminal behavior.” Those tendencies, Black said, are what Americans will typically bring up today when asked about what negative stereotype they have heard about Roma or Gypsies.

The Roma were thought to have come from Egypt—hence the name Gypsies—but in fact, they trace their roots back to northwestern India, Pakistan, and Iran.

“They migrated via the Middle East into southern Europe or via Russia into Eastern Europe,” Black said. “They came primarily as skilled craftsmen and musicians. Initially, Europeans welcomed them, but eventually they tended to be suspicious of Roma mores and also envious in terms of competition of the skilled crafts. By the late 16th and 17th centuries, Roma were already being excluded from the guilds which determined who could produce and sell hand-made goods.”

Black estimates that between 196,000 and 220,000 Roma were killed by the Nazis—about 20 percent of the entire European Roma population at the time.

Asperg, Deportation von Sinti und Roma

Nazi deportation of the Roma Asperg, Germany in May 1940

“[The Nazi persecution of Roma has been] relatively underreported and there has not been the same level of study, country by country, that there has been about the destruction of the Jews in Europe,” Black said. “Part of this is due to widely differing policies toward Roma. There were vast differences between the treatment of Roma in German-occupied and German-controlled Europe than the Jews. The Jews [in those areas of Europe] were killed at levels of between 75-80 percent [compared to 20 percent for the European Roma].”

Born in Czechoslovakia, Petra Gelbart is a granddaughter of Roma Holocaust survivors. An ethnomusicologist, musician, and singer, she uses both her research and her voice to educate and advocate for Holocaust remembrance of Roma victims.

“I try to take what people think they know about so-called ‘gypsies,’ and replace it with something that’s much more based in reality,” Gelbart said on a USHMM podcast called “Voices on Anti-Semitism.”

Gelbart said the main stereotype about Roma is that “we are nomadic, even though for most of history, for most of the past several hundred years, the majority of Roma have been settled.” There are also “stereotypes about us not wanting to work, and being criminals,” she said.

“When you have a group, the majority of which lives in poverty, you’re going to have issues with unemployment, low education, and you’re going to have issues with petty crime,” said Gelbart. “But in Europe it’s very hard for [Roma] to get a regular job because the employment discrimination is just massive. The thing that people should really be worried about is not are we a criminal or ‘work-shy’ people, but rather what is the access to jobs that we have or don’t have.”

Are Roma still persecuted today? In 2011, the USHMM released a statement calling attention to the issue, saying it was “alarmed by the precarious situation of the Roma in today’s Europe” and urging European governments “to uphold the rights and freedoms of Roma in accordance with international and regional obligations.”

“Recent anti-Roma acts and sentiment span [across Europe],” USHMM said. “Violent attacks against Roma have occurred in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the Russian Federation and government authorities have organized deportations in France and Italy. In many places, Roma are singled out for isolation and denied their civil rights, and a number of national and local government officials have recently made anti-Roma statements.”

Andy Hollinger, USHMM’s director of communications, told JNS.org that “Roma certainly continue to face threats in Europe, so yes, we stand by the general principle” of the 2011 statement.

“That said, if you are looking at a specific circumstance or statistic [on the persecution of Roma], that may have changed [since 2011],” he said.

In his 2001 book “The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies,” Guenter Lewy draws upon thousands of documents from German and Austrian archives to trace the escalating vilification of Roma during the Nazis’ widespread crackdown on the “work-shy” and “itinerants.”

Lewy shows that Nazi policy towards Roma was inconsistent. At first, local officials persecuted gypsies, and those who behaved in gypsy-like fashion, for allegedly anti-social tendencies. Later, with the rise of race obsession, the Roma were seen as a threat to German racial purity—though Nazi military commander Heinrich Himmler himself wavered, trying to save those he considered “pure Gypsies” descended from Aryan roots in India. Indeed, Lewy contradicts much existing scholarship in showing that, however much the Roma were persecuted, there was no general program of extermination analogous to the “final solution” for the Jews.

USHMM’s Black believes that while Lewy’s book contains valuable factual information, it might focus too much on how the persecution of the Roma differs from the persecution of the Jews.

“I thought that was a distraction,” Black said. “The persecution was somewhat different between the two groups. But both Jews and Roma in Nazi ideology were a people who were not going to be permitted to live with Germans. The Nazis went back and forth and had trouble deciding how extreme a policy they wanted to carry out against the Roma. This permitted a relatively small minority of Roma to survive in Germany, which was somewhat different than the Jews.”

According to Black, while the Jews were perceived in Nazi ideology as being a priority enemy, the Roma were seen as tools of the Jews.

“In the occupied Soviet Union and occupied Serbia, Roma and Jews were shot side by side,” he said. “The policy against them was more or less absolutely the same in terms of practical day-to-day actions. The Jews were a more important priority enemy, although the fact remains that nearly 80 percent of Roma who lived in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic prior to 1939 were dead in 1945.”

Black said it is important to “place the treatment of the Roma into a broader context,” but perhaps more important to remember the “individual stories” of the Roma who survived the Holocaust, which have not been as widely reported as Jewish Holocaust stories.

“Unlike Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who were writing about their experiences almost as soon as World War II was over, Roma have been reluctant because of ongoing discrimination and persecution up until the present day,” he said.

20
Oct

For the Roma Gypsies: Life under the Far-right

A commentary on Gypsies

A Roma child plays on a swing in a slum outside Ozd, an industrial town northeast of Budapest.

Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, which is accused of being anti-Semitic and racist, took control of the town after an election campaign in which it promised to issue an ultimatum to the Roma minority – follow our rules or leave town.

The town of Ozd, with a population of 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen.

The town of Ozd, with a population of 35,000 people, is the biggest prize won by Jobbik in a nationwide round of municipal elections in which it increased the numbers of City Halls it controls from three to fourteen.

Though still a long way behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, in the elections it overtook the Socialists to become the second biggest opposition party.

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

Ozd’s new mayor, 27-year-old David Janiczak (left) took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulations from townspeople.

Ozd’s new mayor, 27-year-old David Janiczak (left) took a walk around the main square, receiving congratulations from townspeople.

He said he would crack down on crime and poverty on behalf of all residents, whatever their ethnic background. Yet the programme on which Janiczak ran in the election is explicit in singling out the Roma community.

The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: “We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question…The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion.”

“Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, Janiczak used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto.

Interviewed on Monday outside his new office in City Hall, Janiczak used much more measured language about the Roma than his election manifesto.

“Conditions are horrid on the outskirts of town where most Roma live,” Janiczak told Reuters.

“We need to create jobs and enforce order for Roma and Hungarians alike. The voters trust we will do that.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO

 

 

In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city's population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, relying on state welfare payments.

In Ozd, unemployment is endemic. Around a quarter of the city’s population are Roma, and most of them live in dire poverty, relying on state welfare payments.

Conditions are so bad that for some in the Roma community, fear about the persecution Jobbik might bring is mixed with hope that a radical new party might do something to improve their lot where all others have failed.

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/LASZLO BALOGH

 

 

"Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews," one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

“Like most Roma we are afraid what might happen to us, because the news was always that some people wanted us dead and they would ship us off in trains like Hitler did with the Jews,” one local woman, Szilvia Orosz, told Reuters.

She was speaking in the centre of one of the town’s toughest Roma slums, which has no water or sewer system.

“But if this kid Janiczak can act the way he talks about work, honour and peace, and gives us long-term employment, then there won’t be racial discrimination.”

However, many of the people who voted for a Jobbik mayor said they did so at least in part because Jobbik had promised to tackle what the party describes as “Gypsy crime.”

OZD, HUNGARY. REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO
 

Bernadett Szabo

 

PhotographerBernadett Szabo

13
Oct

The Roma or Gypsies: The Most Unwanted People

(MENAFN – AFP) With bulldozers at their doorstep, beginning to tear down their homes,
it is hard to imagine life could get worse for the Roma of Miskolc, Hungary’s
impoverished third-largest city. But for Gypsies, it can seemingly always get worse.
 eviction notice
 But with the far-right Jobbik party possibly about to win the Miskolc mayorship in local elections on Sunday, it could.

In May, the city council -“ which, like Hungary’s parliament, is run by Prime Minister
Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz “- voted to demolish 13 areas inhabited
predominantly by Miskolc’s 20,000-strong Roma, or Gypsy, community. 
The wrecking
machinery arrived in August. So far only around a dozen homes have been razed —
but this is just the start. 
“We have nowhere to go, we will be left homeless,” Eva
Molnar, a 50-year-old Roma whose respiratory problems mean she can’t work, told
AFP as she clutched an eviction letter giving her until October 20 to vacate her home.

The area where she lives, squeezed between a derelict communist-era metalworks and a
football stadium slated for an upgrade, is quiet, since many of her neighbours have
already left. 
“They’ll not be happy until we’re all gone,” Molnar said.

The municipality says Miskolc, home to 168,000 people, should be made more “liveable”
and rid itself of slums that are “unsuitable for normal life”. One Fidesz officialcalled the
Roma areas “hotbeds of crime”.  
Many local residents support the move. “About time,”
one shopper at a bus stop told AFP. “Slums have no place in Miskolc.” The mayor
claims that 35,000 signatures have been collected in support of the demolitions.

“The Roma have to leave Miskolc as around 70-80 percent of Hungarian society simply
doesn’t not want to see them or have anything to do with them,” Mihaly Simon of the
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union rights group told AFP.

         Nowhere to go 

Four years after Orban was elected, and despite his promises to improve their misery,
the European Union member state’s Roma trail in practically every indicator from living
standards to health, as they do throughout eastern and central Europe. 
Under Orban,
51, who has been accused at home and abroad of eroding democracy, many Roma —
who comprise eight to nine percent of Hungary’s 10 million population — have been
forced into “workfare” schemes, doing menial work in order to continue receiving
welfare payments.

But not all of the properties in Miskolc are tumbledown shacks or Hungarian versions
of the favelas of Brazil. Many are one-storey houses — lots of them crumbling, but
some of them well-maintained. 
And where Miskolc’s Roma are supposed to go is unclear.
Several nearby villages have warned they have no money to provide work or benefits
to any newcomers, and are collecting petitions opposing the “export” of the poor.

“It’s barbaric, there were no impact studies for this, nobody spoke to the Gypsies,”
Gabor Varadi, head of a local Roma political grouping, told AFP. 
“The council is spending
billions of forints [millions of euros (dollars)]… on the new football stadium instead of
social housing for poor people,” he said.

    ‘Deviants’ 

A few of those being evicted in Miskolc — those with indefinite-term leases — are being
offered money or flats elsewhere, but Jobbik’s candidate in Sunday’s election, Peter
Jakab, says he will scrap even this if elected. 
Jobbik, which won 21 percent of the vote
in general elections in April, sparking alarm throughout Europe, says it will flatten the
houses immediately and force the Roma to cover the demolition costs.

“They knew when they signed the lease that it would expire one day, that the owner
might kick them out,” Jakab told AFP. 
Jobbik, which has sought to soften its image in
recent years, still says it wants to stop “Gypsy crime”, create ghettos for Roma
“deviants” and create a rural “gendarmerie” of the sort last seen in Hungary before
World War II. 
The local elections are expected to see Orban’s party remain firmly in
control. 
But nationwide, Jobbik is forecast to more than double its control of
municipalities, from 12 currently to around 30.

13
Oct

A Film: The Rom ‘Gypsies’ in the WWII Holocaust

Film A-People-Uncounted_500

The Holocaust that resulted in the deaths of millions of European Jews during World War II is well known. However, fewer people are aware that several other groups of people were targeted for elimination by the Nazis, including the Roma, often referred to in the English-speaking world by the misnomer of “gypsies.”

A People Uncounted: The Untold Story of the Roma aims to make up that deficiency in public knowledge. Director Aaron Yeger draws on a variety of interview subjects, including Holocaust survivors, historians, activists, musicians, artists, and average citizens, each of whom has a story to tell about how their Roma ethnicity has shaped their lives. Sadly, prejudice against the Roma lives on—one woman insists on being seen in shadow because she doesn’t want to harm the career of her son, a successful professional, and Roma today are the ethnicity most often singled out for discrimination in the European Union.

Yeger also covers, briefly, a history of the Roma, with an emphasis on the ill treatment they have suffered over the years in Europe. It didn’t start with the Holocaust, but reaches back at least to the 1400s, when several countries expelled Roma from their borders. They received this treatment periodically, by (among others) the Hapsburg dynasty and England’s Henry VIII.

Independent of these threats to life and limb, Roma culture is seldom understood by those outside their society. Instead, stereotypes of dancing peasants and fiddlers or of thieves and scoundrels have been perpetuated in popular culture, and for many people, that’s all they know. One of the greatest services of A People Uncounted is to provide some images that contradict these stereotypes, and Yeger does this with his many interview subjects, who are forthcoming about their lives and goals. The filmmakers traveled to 11 countries to shoot A People Uncounted, which in itself is a tribute to the international nature of the Roma.

For a subject so potentially fraught with emotion, A People Uncounted is a surprisingly calm film, which is a good thing: Yeger’s case is so strong that it has no need to gin up the audience’s feelings. Stephen C. Whitehead’s cinematography plays a key role in conveying mood as well as fact, and he won the Robert Brooks award for best documentary from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers for his work on this film.

Extras on the disc include extended interviews with seven participants. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

14
Sep

The Holocaust’s Forgotten Roma Victims

 More than 500,000 Roma and Sinti were exterminated in the Nazis’ death camps—and it’s time to include them in the official history of the Holocaust.

 

 Sit for a moment and picture all the people you know and grew up with; include your Mom and Dad, siblings, grandparents, and extended family, all your friends from your neighborhood and from school. Do you have everyone in your mind’s eye? Good. 

Now imagine 75 percent of all those people … dead. Systematically murdered because they were related to you or similar to you.

It’s almost too horrifying to envision. However, this was exactly the situation at the end of World War II for hundreds of thousands of Romani survivors of the Holocaust who were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, because of who they were or to whom they were related—because of their ethnicity. (Romani people, also called “Gypsies,” a term considered derogatory by Romani activists, are part of a diaspora that began in India in the eleventh century.)

Between 500,000 to 1.5 million Roma and Sinti were victims of the Holocaust in various camps and in mass killings carried out across Europe. This year, August 2, International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day marked the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the so-called zigeunerlager or Gypsy Camp, at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Notably, Romani activists increased their efforts to organize memorial ceremonies across Europe and were supported by international organizations, including bringing together more than 1,000 Romani people from across Europe for commemorations in Auschwitz and Krakow; respected journals and newspapers recounted the tragedy to their readers as well.

It is important for the world to recognize that Romani people who were killed by the Nazis and their allies were part of the Holocaust—its logic and its aim of a so-called “final solution”—and not a separate instance of genocide. Generations of school children have learned to call the results of the Nazis’ attempts at race-based exterminations by that name, “Holocaust,” and to infer that the Roma were not part of the same horrible policy enactments is not only historically inaccurate, but also implies that there was a different experience for Roma.

Not only were similar policy statements and pseudo-scholarship used to justify the killing of Jews and Roma on the grounds of “racial inferiority,” but all the Holocaust victims faced the same elite troops, were held in the same or similar camps, died in the same crematoria, and experienced gruesome medical experiments, mass starvation, and other violence. When we talk about the Romani victims of the Holocaust, it is without compromise that we refer to them as Holocaust victims, first and foremost.

The United Nations continues to dither about whether Roma and Sinti should be included in their annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony.

It is our moral duty and right to preserve the memory of the Romani victims who lost their lives on this day and throughout the war. Thus, in memory of the victims, the signatories call upon governments, international organizations, museums, and commemoration ceremony organizers, as well as scholars, activists, and the media, to accurately refer to the Romani victims of the Holocaust and to reject the description of Romani victims of the Holocaust as being part of an isolated genocide.

On September 18, The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USMMM) will hold a symposium to showcase new and emerging scholarship on Roma and the Holocaust. Roma and non-Roma scholars will present findings from their exploration of pre-war persecution and on the effects of the Holocaust on Romani communities in its aftermath. This is most welcome, and yet we are mindful that, while the USMMM is currently mobilizing scholars and allowing for more recognition of the Romani victims of the Holocaust, there is still no Romani representative—or two or three—on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.  Nothing less than full Romani participation in the direction of the Museum’s affairs by representation on its Board will allow us a true voice into the commemoration of our people’s past losses and sufferings.

Removing Roma and Sinti from Holocaust history by creating a separate genocide and by denying their voice in the Holocaust ceremonies signal a disregard for the memory and the dignity of the Romani people. Yet, the United Nations continues to dither about whether Roma and Sinti should be included in their annual Holocaust Remembrance ceremony.

Only 10 percent of the hundreds of millions of dollars made available by the United Nations for the survivors, and which the U.S. Government was given the responsibility of disbursing, was set aside for non-Jews, and none of that found its way to the Romani survivors. When the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council was established in 1980, no Roma were invited to participate, and as mentioned above, it has no Romani member today.

The experience of the Holocaust is an indispensable part of Romani history, a suffering that permeated Romani families’ identities, and solidarity, for generations. The policy of “racial extermination” actualized by the Nazis was a primary event in the history of human civilization, and, as our Romani Elders noted at the memorial to the Roma and Sinti in Berlin, was the result of “state policies that were justified through vicious theories, administrative criteria, and institutional practices based on blood right-based citizenship, the assumed hierarchy of fictive human races.” That such justifications are seen again today in marches, rallies, hostile actions, and speeches by Neo-Nazis and sympathizers in many European countries, and which once again find the Roma and Sinti and Jews in the crosshairs, should galvanize every well-meaning world citizen into a renewed commitment to remember with the highest standards of truth-telling and without regard to prejudices.

Before policy decisions can be made, it must first be determined who the victims are; removing Romani people from Holocaust history may result in further injustices to be committed against survivors and their families in the future.

This will not be tolerated.

Romani people have the right to accurately represent our own history and it is the responsibility of others, especially those with the power to influence, to acknowledge our place in history and to correctly describe it.

We believe that the accurate recognition of the Romani Holocaust and the representation of Roma and Sinti in Holocaust ceremonies are necessary steps that must be taken in a longer struggle for shifting the narrative on Romani people. Objective and true information about Roma and Sinti can lead to overcoming stigma and embracing Romani people as equal members of society, deserving of dignity and respect.

Signatories (alphabetical order):

Glenda Bailey-Mershon, The Foundation for Romani Education and Equality (FREE)
William Bila, Board Member, Roma Education Fund, Budapest, Hungary and Board Member, Roma Education Support Trust, Leicester, UK
Sarah Carmona, Post-Doc Researcher, Laboratoire IRMMC Université de la Manouba, Tunis, Tunisia, and 2015 Lillian Robinson Scholar, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Montreal, Canada
Qristina Cummings, Descendant of Survivors
Gina Csyani-Robah, Founder, Canadian Romani Alliance
Ian Hancock, Director, The Romani Archives and Documentation Center and State Commissioner, Holocaust and Genocide Commission
Angela Kocze, Visiting Assistant Professor, Wake Forest University Research Fellow, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Sociology
Ronald Lee, Romani Author and Educator
Margareta Matache, Instructor, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University 
Nathan Mick, Vice President, StateBook International
Valeriu Nicloae
Jud Nirenburg, Board chair, National Roma Center of Macedonia and Chair, American Council for Romani Equality
Kristin Raeesi, Research Professional- Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska, Anchorage
Iliana Sarafian, PhD Researcher, University of London, UK
Marius Taba

 

7
Sep

Forgotten victims of Hungary’s Roma murders

Five years ago, six Roma Gypsies were murdered by far-right extremists. Half a decade on, authorities seem to have little interest in the surviving victims of the Roma Community.

 

Never could I have imagined that, says said Tibor Nagy. People attacking others and murdering at random. “That was a man hunt,” he says. Years later, horror and disbelief are still clear to hear in the 47-year-old’s voice.

On the evening of November 3, 2008, in the north-eastern village of Nagycsecs, far-right extremists set Tibor Nagy’s house on fire and shot at his family as they tried to flee. They murdered his wife Éva and his brother Jozsef. Although he, too, was injured, Tibor Nagy survived.

The murders of the Nagycsecs were the first in a series of attacks throughout 2008 and 2009, in which six Romanies were killed. Among the victims was a five-year-old boy. Another 55 Romanies were also injured. The last of the murders was committed five years ago on August 3, 2009. Three weeks later, four suspected right-wing extremists, who were known to the authorities, were arrested in the eastern Hungarian city of Debrecen.

Failure of the authorities

On the 5th anniversary of the last murders, the Hungarian public and above all the political elite have lost interest in the subject. The media rarely reports about the Roma killings. And as of yet, there has been no public commemoration to honor the victims, or any visit by state leaders.

After the murders, most of the affected families fell into a state of misery. Many of the victims were left disabled for life and with psychological illnesses.

Similar to the NSU murders in Germany, investigators were left in the dark for a long time. Initially they handled the murders as a simple crime, but later began to pursue the case as a crime of right-wing extremism. For a long time investigators were uncoordinated and Hungarian intelligence agencies withheld information about the perpetrators.

Burial of one of the Roma murder victims in Tatarszentgyoergy in March 2009

 The social-liberal coalition, which was in office at the time of the killings, is responsible for the failure of the authorities in the murder investigation. No one from the coalition has apologized to the victims. Even the national-conservative Orban government don’t seem to be interested in a resolution. Secret investigations into further accomplices and sloppiness in the intelligence agencies during the Roma murders have been delayed.

Second Class Roma citizens

“In Hungary, Romany affairs and Romany victims are second-class-citizen matters,” says Jozsef Gulyas, a former liberal member of parliament, who led an inquiry into the murders in 2009. “The state doesn’t address racist crimes enough and there are no harsh statements from political leaders against these crimes.”

Among Hungarian politicians, there’s only a little opposition to such statements; for example, against public anti-Romany outbursts. Calvinis pastor, Zoltan Balog, who is also the current Minister for Human Resources in the Orban government, is one of the few Hungarian politicians who has made a gesture to the victims of the Roma murders. Every year he holds a memorial service and invites survivors and family of the victims.      

Photo of Roma murder trial in August 2013

 “Symbolism is important,” says Balog, emphasizing that as a consequence of racist crimes, the education curriculum needs to be changed. “We must awaken more understanding in the next generations than there is at the moment. We have a lot of work to do.”       

 Zoltan Balog also established financial support for the survivors and relatives of the murder victims. The fund recently received a pay-out of between four and seven thousand euros from the government. Some families were therefore able to modernize their humble dwellings by having gas or running water installed. Others wanted to move into better housing. Many of the survivors and their families need regular support to cover the costs of medication and treatment.

 Many ruined lives

That’s also the case for Tibor Nagy. After the death of his wife and brother he was diagnosed with diabetes, and as a result has become blind in one eye. He doesn’t have money for diabetic food and medication. In winter, Nagy and his daughter are often left without firewood and have only the bare necessities of food.

Photo of the Nagy family in their current home

 Like the other surviving victims of the Roma murders, Nagy could have regularly applied for compensation from the state – if not a final judgment against the perpetrators. Last August three of the Roma murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment and an accomplice to 13 years. All four have since appealed. When the second trial will begin remains unclear.

Tibor Nagy wishes that the perpetrators could be imprisoned to the end of their days. In a resigned voice, he says he can’t expect much more from life. “The murderers killed my wife and brother and they destroyed my life. I won’t have much happiness in this life anymore.”

 

4
Sep

‘Racists’ blamed for Homeless Tent attacks on Roma

A local group assisting homeless EU migrants in southern Stockholm has claimed that “racists” were behind the weekend attacks on camps which left tents and car tyres slashed.

A campsite in Högdalen cleared by police in February. Photo: TT

4
Sep

Sweden remembers Roma Holocaust

A travelling family in 1951

 

 

Some 70 years have passed since the so-called “gypsy night” when close to3,000 Roma died at Auschwitz-Birkenau and memorial ceremonies were held in Stockholm and Malmö on Saturday to mark the event.

4
Sep

Sweden orders Textbook on Roma Discrimination

A Romani language class in Malmö. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

 

In March the government published a white paper detailing what Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag called “an unknown and dark part of Swedish history”. The document revealed historic treatment of Roma in Sweden, detailing systemic abuse and police opinions that it would be best to kill them off.  The government also created a Commission Against Anti-Romanyism, aimed at “bridging the trust gap between the Roma groups and the rest of society”.

On Thursday the government announced it had asked the commission to create school and teaching materials from the white book, to be used in all of Sweden’s secondary schools.  “If we are going to fight the alienation of Roma that we see today, we must be aware of this dark history of abuse,” Ullenhag told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

 The Swedish National Agency for Education, the Living History Forum, and the Roma discrimination ombudsman will collaborate to produce the school materials. Ullenhag said that Swedish students should already be learning about the history of Romani people in Sweden, but that the quality of available materials and   information had been poor.  “Some of this information we didn’t even know about until the white book was released,” he remarked.

 Dialects of Romani have been spoken in Sweden for 500 years, and it counts as one of the five official minority languages of Sweden. Scando-Romani has even given Swedish some of its modern words, including tjej, a common word meaning “girl”.