Remembering the Holocaust’s Roma (or Not)

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Here’s a part of the Holocaust that rarely gets mentioned: “A staggering 95 percent of the Czech-born Romani and Sinti population perished in the war, most through extrajudicial killings.” Or that up to a million and a half Gypsies (I’m allowed to call them that, without quotation marks, because my mom is Hungarian Roma) were exterminated during World War II. A chilling article by Brian Kenety at Czech Position (ceskapozice.cz/en) uses yesterday’s anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—within which there was a special camp for Roma—as an occasion to give that tragedy its rare due. Though 70 percent (!) of Europe’s Romani were killed in the war, no testimony was given by or about the group at Nuremberg.
 
Of course, the Roma continue to be persecuted across Europe, with everything from illegal deportations to assaults by skinheads. For its part, the Czech government is keeping up its end of insulting Gypsies by refusing to memorialize their 66-year-old slaughter. Rather than any sort of commemoration at the site of the biggest Czech concentration camp where Roma were held, there’s…a pig farm.

“I think the fact that there is a pig farm is still run on the Lety site shows that, in general, the Roma are still considered to be second-class citizens,” says European human rights activist Markus Pape. “Especially when you look at Lidice [the site of the massacre of in reprisal for the assassination of reprisal for the assassination of Nazi governor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942] and Terezín [the concentration camp known in German as Theresienstadt] and other places of Nazi persecution of the ethnic Czech or Jewish population in this country, it is not understandable…why the Roma victims don’t deserve similar recognition.”

The whole article is well worth reading. Warning: some disburbing archival photos accompany it.

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