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Some Holocaust-era intolerance still exists

BY GUEST OPINION | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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Adolf Hitler issued the Nuremburg Laws in 1935, declaring both Jews and Romani (which were then known as Gypsies in Europe and the United States) were ineligible to be citizens in the Reich because of "impure" bloodlines. Himmler organized the death camps and killing squads, and Jews and Romani died side by side in the gas chambers. Six million Jews and 3 million to 5 million Romani were murdered. The atrocities the Russians discovered at Auschwitz laid the foundation for the definition of genocide adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

Since then, Holocaust scholars have forgotten about the Romanies, allowing history to repeat itself. European politicians blame them for a poor economy and crime. In the Czech Republic, Romani children aren't allowed to attend public schools, and more than 90,000 Romani women have been sterilized since 1980. Italy fingerprinted and photographed the Romani in 2008. Neo-Nazis in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy murder Romani with near impunity. Germany, France, and Italy deport the Romani, and England practices illegal evictions.

In October 2011, Thomas Hammarberg, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe declared, "The importance of teaching about Roma history cannot be overemphasized. [R]aising awareness of the Roma genocide and building … memorial sites are the least states could do to honor Roma victims."

The United Nations declared Jan. 27 to be "International Holocaust Remembrance Day" to "[c]ondemn 'without reserve' all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment, or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur." Yet Romani will not be allowed to participate in the U.N. ceremony.

Romani aren't usually allowed inside the gates of Auschwitz for their ceremonies, either. The Romani have been told their participation would "dishonor the memory of the true victims."

The Holocaust didn't happen in a bubble. Please remember all victims on Jan. 27 and reject intolerance.

Ciuin Ferrin is the educational director of the O Porrajmos Education Society.


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