Monday, January 10, 2011


Press Release

January 10, 2011


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which documents the tragic fate of Europe’s Roma at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II, is alarmed by the precarious situation of the Roma in today’s Europe. It calls on European central and local governments to be mindful of the danger that is unleashed when an ethnic group is singled out and targeted for discrimination and the need to uphold the rights and freedoms of Roma in accordance with international and regional obligations.

Recent anti-Roma acts and sentiment span the continent. 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.

The Vice Mayor of Milan, Italy Riccardo De Corato, said about the Roma “these are dark-skinned people, not Europeans like you and me.” (Italy’s Crackdown on Gypsies Reflects Rising Immigrant Tide in Europe, Washington Post, October 12, 2010). A Hungarian member of the European parliament, George Schopflin, representing the government party Fidesz, declared “the Roma are those who need to change. Their contemporary existence is absolutely dysfunctional.” (Evenimentul zilei, Bucharest, August 22, 2010). In September, the Vice Chairman of Jobbik, the far-right Hungarian party, and a member of the European Parliament, Csanad Szegedi called for the mass internment of Roma in “public order protection camps”. And in October the Czech Republic’s former deputy prime minister Jiří Čunek declared that “Romanies genetically lacked discipline”.

Roma have been an important part of the culture and history of Europe for centuries. Originating from the Punjab Region of India, the Roma population settled on the European continent between the 8th and 10th century C.E. They were called “Gypsies” because Europeans mistakenly believed that they came from Egypt. They often worked as craftsmen, blacksmiths, cobblers, tinsmiths, horse dealers, and tool makers as well as musicians, circus animal trainers and dancers.

Roma were persecuted for centuries all over Europe. During the Middle Ages, the Roma were expelled from Spain and France. At the beginning of the 15th century, the first anti-Roma laws were enacted in Germany. In Romania, which has the highest Roma population in Europe today, Roma were sold as slaves as late as 1856 by private landlords and the Orthodox Church.

Their persecution culminated during the Holocaust when they were targeted for destruction by the German government. At least 220,000 Roma were killed by the Nazis and their allies. They were murdered in Nazi killing centers in occupied Poland and in Croatia, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Several thousand Roma became victims of Nazi medical experiments. The German authorities incarcerated Roma in the concentration camps of Bergen Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, and Ravensbruek. Thousands were deported to the killing centers of Auschwitz-Bikrenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. About 23,000 Roma were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau alone. At least 30,000 Roma were massacred in the Baltic States and elsewhere in the occupied part of the Soviet Union by German mobile killing units. In occupied Serbia, thousands of male Roma were shot while women and children were murdered in gas vans by German troops. In Croatia, local fascists killed about 25,000 Roma, many of them in the Jasenovic concentration camp. In Romania, the government of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the main ally of Hitler on the Eastern Front, killed approximately half of the 26,000 Roma deported to Transnistria, in occupied Ukraine. In France, thousands were interned in local camps, and Roma in occupied Belgium and the Netherlands were deported to Auschwitz.

The economic and social situation of European Roma is complex. However, they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms granted other citizens. The history of the Holocaust shows that targeting an entire group leads to an increase in xenophobia, racism, and extremism throughout society, potentially resulting in harmful consequences for individuals, communities and nations. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum urges Europeans – government officials and citizens alike -- to understand the plight of Roma within its historical context.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit


Casimire said...

Hi Morgan,
You have known me for quite a while now. And you know I'm on you're side. But (for a moment)let's look at the situation in Europe objectively, the situation is very complex. There really are two sides to every story. And I'm going to stick my neck out here....OK? Example....
I was married to a woman from Mainland China and she grew up during the Cultural Revolution. I could see some aspects of her personality that were strait out of Mao's Red Book. Communist system messed her up a little and ashamed of her own culture. Ex. she painted some expensive antique Chinese furnature pink because Mao said; "old things are bad"! So looking at what Romani people (in Eastern Europe) have been subjected to just the past 150 years or so. Slavery, WWII and Concentration Camps, many years of Communist rule, the fall of Communism and all the conflict that resulted. So being subjected to generations of grinding poverty and lack of opprunity...people do some very desperate things that are totally against traditional ethic order of Roma Socieity. I have been to Europe and talked to people on both sides. I think that Romani activists bury their heads in the sand a little and don't address some of the issues that might not be so pretty. Again, Poverty makes people do horrible things and if this is not addressed then there is no solution. It is creating problems in Western Europe, but deportations and building walls is not a constructive solution. Ideals, such as educating children or creating jobs, could be. But if Romani activists ignore these huge issues, then no progress can be made. I took my Granny back to England before she died. Some people told me that it wasn't Travelers themselves they had problems with, it was how they left their camps, sometimes like garbage dumps. I am not saying they are right or wrong. But compromises can't be made if things are too one sided. Educating traveler communities to leave campsites cleaner could help. I hope you understand where I am trying to go with this, you know I love our people!

Morgan said...

Well, you know Casimire, mostly I agree with the statements you make, but I always draw the line on blaming the victim.

I don't really know anyone active in Romani politics who has his or her head buried in the sand. The trafficking of children is an issue that political Romani in Europe have been addressing for years.

I also don't think we need to advertise the foibles of the Romani. That's one thing we can count on the mainstream press doing. They simply neglect to write about the good acts, and political work of Romani themselves.

They'll give us credit for music and that's about it.


Casimire said...

Hi Morgan, I guess I stuck my foot in my mouth this time... Was not trying to blame the victim and I apologize if I came across that way. What I am blaming is political system(s) for what it does to us, all people. We are not recognised in this country as a people. Even Religion hurts us, I discussed with you my experience at the Gypsy Church here in Portland, the Preacher there equating Cain (from Cain & Able Bible story) and Roma being the Son's of Cain. I was shocked when he laid that one on us. That kind of thing can really screw people up and you can see it in some of them. I am just trying to express that there are forces that are messing us up, I see what religion does to our people, even here in Portland. I'm sure a bunch of good christians behind what is happening in Europe. What Government(s) have subjected us too. Not to mention schools. This is diffacult and touchy subject, I don't want to give Romani people any bad press. I am trying to understand the situation and I guess I came across as a bit of a jerk. It seems like different people come through adversity differently. I tend to be bitter and hold a grudge. My Mom was the most forgiving and understanding person on the planet, she was a real Traveler and had it much worse then me. Growing up I had an "Auntie" who escaped the Death Camp and was the sweetest & compassionate person ever. It is a real mystery and interesting study what hardship does to different people. Really, what I was trying to say is that I can see past the superficial and trying understand what war, poverty, and opression have done to Roma people in Europe and all over. What schools, religion and even our Government have done to us here. Sometimes, hard for me to digest and then try to express properly is near impossible. I hate to leave the house sometimes, so much cruelity & uglyness. I was raised in an atmosphere of The Ethic Order and I know that is common thread ALL Roma and Travelers have. So very shocking to see that disappearing. The culture I grew up in, when you talked to an elder you even took you're glasses off! We have a hell of a lot to offer besides music, Euro man always seems to destroy what can save him. We have this Ethic Order that holds people together, could heal socieity, but it is almost dead. Just like they nearly destroyed Native American Culture, they knew how to take care of the land and the whole environment. Now Earth is so polluted almost dead. But they come in with their Bibles and treat everything in a pre-disposed manner, "God will give us a new world" as soon as we distroy this one. I see what that mind set is doing to us and very very hard to wrap my mind around it, and harder still to express my thoughts. Dig?

Casimire said...

Sorry Morgan, I came across as an ass on that last post. I really did not mean to express myself that way. Very diffacult to put these thoughts into words. It is so hard to process & wrap my head around recent reports I get from Europe, hard to believe, I am shocked & horrified. One thing I know that all Roma and Travelers have in common is the Ethic Order. It seems like Eoro Man wants to destroy what will save him. We lost so much with all the cultures destroyed. I don't blame the victim Morgan. I blame our messed up belief systems, that we don't understand. Treating the planet in a pre-disposed manner. We are such a mean spirited species.