The president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski, has expressed outrage at the decision by the U.N. to formally exclude the Roma from its commemoration ceremony on International day in Memory of the Holocaust, January 27, in the General Assembly Hall in New York City. He noted that “the Holocaust was the implementation of the Final Solution, Hitler’s genocide programme intended to eradicate the genetic contaminants in his plan to create a master race. Only Jews and Roma were subject to the Final Solution, and both peoples lost the same percentage of their total number. However, since the end of the war in 1945, nothing has been done to acknowledge the Romani survivors.”
The European Roma and Travellers Forum, based in Strasbourg/France, is Europe’s largest and most inclusive Romani organization, bringing together Europe’s main international and national Romani NGOs and organizations. The Romanies across Europe, from Britain to Turkey, continue to face exclusion and discrimination at all levels. Regarding the January 27th commemoration, the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, no Romani representation was sought. Inquiries from Romani leaders have gone unanswered. Prominent Romani activist Ian Hancock (Director, The Romani Archives and Documentation Center, University of Texas/Austin) stresses: “The United Nations’ decision to exclude Romanies from Holocaust remembrance only perpetuates the marginalization of our people in the historical record.”
The National Socialists killed between 25 and 35 percent of all Romanies living in Europe, and as many as 70 percent in those areas under Nazi control the longest. Hancock and others argue that it is outrageous that there is no inclusion whatsoever of the Romani victims of the Holocaust in the planned UN event. Letters of complaint questioning this decision can be directed to Ms. Kimberly Mann (at firstname.lastname@example.org), manager of the United NationsHolocaust Outreach Programme.
Gypsies under Fire in Gaza
This exclusion from the space of history and memory comes against the backdrop of the assault on Gaza, where a number of Domari Gypsies, direct cousins of the European Roma, have become victims of the Israeli onslaught. In so doing, the Israeli political class and its conscript army have viciously trampled upon a centuries-old bond of solidarity specifically between Jews and Romanies.
Amoun Sleem, head of the Domari Society of Gypsies in East Jerusalem, has noted: “We receive a lot of information and alarming signals from Dom families. Many Gypsies have already lost their lives, and many more have been left wounded. Those who are left live in fear and despair, worrying about what is yet to come. The ones living in Gaza have often lost everything they had.” Her organization is seeking material help to aid distribution of food boxes to some 1,000 Palestinian Domari families in dire need in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as blankets and clothes for the needy Domari Gypsies who are bombed out or have fled their homes in Gaza.
The Dom community constitutes an impoverished and discriminated underclass in Palestinian society, and likewise across much of the Arab world, Turkey, and West Asia, including occupied Iraq Amoun reflects: “Although the Dom consider themselves Palestinian, their non-Arab ethnicity elicits such intense abuse that nearly 60% of the Dom community has failed to complete elementary school. Unskilled and uneducated, the Dom are locked into a cycle of dire poverty and derision.”
The work of the Domari Society in Palestine is exemplary in the Arab world. In this dark hour of brutal massacre in Gaza, it is mobilizing to assist its community under Israeli military attack — the close Asian cousins of that other pariah peoplewho in Europe suffered together with Jews in the Nazi extermination camps.
Bill Templer is a linguist based in Southeast Asia.