Monday, January 31, 2011



Sunday, January 30, 2011 11:35 AM

Elton John’s wealthy neighbors seek to keep out gypsies from their village

Pop superstar Sir Elton John is a resident of a small wealthy village on the grounds of Windsor Castle who are seeking to keep gypsies out of their quiet hamlet.

Elton's well-heeled neighbors are outraged over plans to construct gypsy and traveller camp near Old Windsor.

The famed singer of such standards as ‘Your song’ and ‘Rocket man’ flew into Britain last week and reportedly went to his Windsor home with civil partner David Furnish and their son Zachary.

Maurice "Fred" Sines, a racehorse owner who claims to be of Romany (gypsy) origin, is the controversial developer behind the scheme to house the gypsies in Windsor. Sines owns mobile home parks across Britain. He has a long history of getting into disputes with neighbors angered by the presence of his housing developments.

Reportedly Sines' planned community would be located near Elton's palatial estate.

Last week irate Windsor residents staged a mass protest against the gypsy camp.

"I know they have to live somewhere, but this is right in the middle of the village," one parish resident said.

Elton is reportedly mulling over the issue and has not yet officially joined his neighbors in opposing the gypsy camp.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I was just informed about the death of Jill Johnston this past September.
I'm sadden by her passing. 
I was lucky to have known Jill back in the 1970's New York. 
She had a tremendous influence on me personally and Lesbian politics in general.  How I admired and loved her.  She was the first publically out and proud Lesbian I had ever met, and one of the most supportive of women.  She just accepted us "baby gays" as we were, and inspired many of us with her brilliance, compassion and fearlessness.

I especially fell in love with her when she engaged Yoko Ono and John Lennon in a satirical correspondence in the Village Voice.  She'd write articles describing her love for Yoko (who she knew through the art scene in New York) and either John or Yoko would respond in a letter to the editor declaring their love for her, as well as their love for each other. 
The following is Jill's obituary in the New York Times

Jill Johnston, Critic Who Wrote ‘Lesbian Nation,’ Dies at 81


Published: September 21, 2010

Jill Johnston, a longtime cultural critic for The Village Voice whose daring, experimental prose style mirrored the avant-garde art she covered and whose book “Lesbian Nation: The Feminist Solution”spearheaded the lesbian separatist movement of the early 1970s, died in Hartford on Saturday. She was 81 and lived in Sharon, Conn.

The cause was a stroke, her spouse, Ingrid Nyeboe, said.

Ms. Johnston started out as a dance critic, but in the pages of The Voice, which hired her in 1959, she embraced the avant-garde as a whole, including happenings and multimedia events.

“I had a forum obviously set up for covering or perpetrating all manner of outrage,” she wrote in a biographical statement on her Web site,

In the early 1970s she began championing the cause of lesbian feminism, arguing in “Lesbian Nation” (1973) for a complete break with men and with male-dominated capitalist institutions. She defined female relations with the opposite sex as a form of collaboration.

“Once I understood the feminist doctrines, a lesbian separatist position seemed the commonsensical position, especially since, conveniently, I was an L-person,” she told The Gay and Lesbian Review in 2006. “Women wanted to remove their support from men, the ‘enemy’ in a movement for reform, power and self-determination.”

At a debate on feminism at Town Hall in Manhattan in 1971, with Germaine Greer, Diana Trilling and Jacqueline Ceballos of the National Organization for Women sharing the platform with Norman Mailer, the moderator, and with a good number of the New York intelligentsia in attendance, she caused one of the great scandals of the period.

After reciting a feminist-lesbian poetic manifesto and announcing that “all women are lesbians except those that don’t know it yet,” Ms. Johnston was joined onstage by two women. The three, all friends, began kissing and hugging ardently, upright at first but soon rolling on the floor.

Mailer, appalled, begged the women to stop. “Come on, Jill, be a lady,” he sputtered.

The filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker captured the event in the documentary “Town Bloody Hall,” released in 1979. Mary V. Dearborn, in her biography of Mailer, called the evening “surely one of the most singular intellectual events of the time, and a landmark in the emergence of feminism as a major force.”

Ms. Johnston continued to write on the arts but took a strong political line with a marked psychoanalytic slant evident in “Jasper Johns: Privileged Information” (1996), which explored the artist’s works as a series of evasions and subterfuges rooted in conflict about his homosexuality, and in the two volumes of her memoirs: “Mother Bound” (1983) and “Paper Daughter” (1985), both of them subtitled “Autobiography in Search of a Father.”

Jill Johnston was born on May 17, 1929, in London and taken to the United States as an infant by her mother, Olive Crowe, after her father abandoned them both. She was reared by a grandmother in Little Neck, on Long Island.

Throughout her childhood she believed that her parents had divorced, but in 1950, when The New York Times ran a short obituary about her father, an English bell maker named Cyril F. Johnston, she learned the truth.

Her mother informed her that she and Johnston had never married. A lifelong fascination with this absent figure, whose company, Gillett & Johnston, supplied bells and carillons to churches and cathedrals all over the world, motivated her to write “England’s Child: The Carillon and the Casting of Big Bells” (2008), a biography of her father and a history of bell making.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Tufts in 1951 and studying dance at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, she began writing for The Dance Observer. She was soon hired by the fledgling Voice to write the weekly column Dance Journal, which ran until the mid-1970s.

The revolutionary currents of the time found expression in her increasingly wayward Voice column, which soon took in all aspects of the counterculture and by the late 1960s had become a freewheeling series of dispatches about her adventures in the arts and on the road.

“Now I was a chronicler of my own life, by 60s standards perhaps not too egregiously adventurous and experimental, but in a newspaper in full public view, in the most fractured Dada style of work I had admired as a critic — a rather wild spectacle in those woolly times,” she wrote on her Web site.

She developed a singular prose style — what the writer Pattrice Jones, writing in the Web magazine in 1999, called “part Gertrude Stein, part E.E. Cummings, with a dash of Jack Kerouac thrown for good measure.”

One 1964 column began: “Fluxus flapdoodle. Fluxus concert 1964. Donald Duck meets the Flying Tigers. Why should anyone notice the shape of a watch at the moment of looking at the time?”

Ms. Johnston would soon shed this style and her amorphous politics, which she described in “Lesbian Nation” as her “east west flower child beat hip psychedelic paradise now love peace do your own thing approach to the revolution.”

In 1969, members of the Gay Liberation Front, correctly intuiting that the unidentified companion on her weekly adventures, chronicled in The Voice, was a woman, invited her to a meeting. Her political conversion began, and “Lesbian Nation” was published in 1973.

Her marriage to Richard Lanham in 1958 ended in divorce six years later. Besides her spouse, Ms. Nyeboe, whom she married in Denmark in 1993 and in Connecticut last year, she is survived by her two children, Richard Lanham and Winifred Lanham, and four grandchildren.

Since the 1980s Ms. Johnston often wrote for Art in America and The New York Times Book Review. She also wrote other books, including “At Sea on Land: Extreme Politics” (2005).

Although she later said that she regarded “Lesbian Nation” as “a period piece,” Ms. Johnston held fast to her version of feminism and reaffirmed it in “Admission Accomplished”(1998): “The centrality of the lesbian position to feminist revolution — wildly unrealistic or downright mad, as it still seems to most women everywhere — continues to ring true and right.”
To view Jill's presentation at Town Hall please visit.
****I just checked this site and it's been removed.  The one listed below is also good though it leaves a lot out from the original.

It's a hoot.

PS.  Germaine Greer and Betty Friedan were two of the other participants.  This was right around the time of the Lesbian purge from NOW.




Pubs in Poznan face claims of racism against Roma

Poznan, 28.1.2011 15:47, (ROMEA)

Incidents of racism have been reported against Roma in the Polish city of Poznan.

According to reports by the newspaper ‘Gazeta Wyborcza,’ numerous pubs in this area are guilty of removing Roma from their establishments and banning them entry to begin with.

Journalists from the newspaper were sent to such pubs with people of Romani descent, where the latter were refused entry. According to one owner, his reason for this was because of disorderly behaviour on the part of Roma, stating that they come in ‘large groups and raise hell.’ He went on to say that ‘they make a mess- their tables after leaving look like they were hit by an earthquake.’

A manager of another bar says that he uses the pretence that all his tables are reserved as a way to prevent Roma from entering.

Poznan is a contender for the European Capital of Culture for 2016, an award which promotes and values diversity, thus making these allegations of racism seem even more out of place.

The police have not yet launched an investigation into the complaints. Poland’s Interior Ministry though have sent mediators to Poznan to help facilitate discussion between pub owners and Roma with regards to this issue.

This follows the occasion in July last year in Limanowa, southern Poland, whereby a crowd armed with stones attempted to forcibly remove the Romani Daga family. Prior to the attack, there had been disputes between the Dagas and local residents, with one case involving members of the former attacking one Roman Guzik. However, whist these individuals were prosecuted, no one was arrested for the mob attack on the Dagas. Instead, the event was heavily portrayed as an appropriate response to deal with the apparent unruliness of Roma.

Andrzej Mirga, who is part of a Polish governmental commission on minorities, has said that very few racist incidents against Roma in Poland are reported. However, the situations in Poznan and Limanowa show that there is still a way to go to deal with discrimination against Roma, with the need to address the attitude that negative action against this group can be justified on the basis of perceived (whether real or not) anti-social behaviour.

Minesh Patel,,, Institute of Race Relations, Warsaw Business Journal


Friday, January 28, 2011


                                                         FROM CESKAPOZICE.CZ

Holocaust: The ‘Devouring’ of the Czech Roma

27.01.2011 06:38,


A staggering 95 percent of the Czech-born Romani and Sinti population perished in the war, most through extrajudicial killings

Some 22,000 Roma and Sinti were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Porrajmos, literally “the Devouring,” is the term the Romani people use to describe the genocidal wave of terror known to most of the world as the Holocaust. While estimates of the total number of so-called “Gypsies” (the dark-skinned Roma, Sinti and other peoples who migrated to Europe from the Indian subcontinent centuries ago) killed during the Second World War vary from 500,000 to 1.5 million, records show nearly 22,000 died at Auschwitz before the notorious Nazi death camp was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945.

Nearly every Romani man, woman and child who survived internment in Czech-run camps near Hodonín (Moravia) and Lety (Bohemia) — now the site of a controversial pig farm — later perished in the so-called “Gypsy family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau before its liberation by the Soviet Army, 66 years ago this Thursday. Countless more were killed in extrajudicial killings.

“The percentage of Roma killed in the so-called Czech lands — the mass murder of the ethnic Czech Roma — was almost ‘perfect,’ almost total,” Markus Pape, a German-born human rights activist who for more than a decade has worked closely with the local Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH), told Czech Position in an interview on the anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation, noting that a staggering “95 percent of the Czech-born Romani population” perished in the war.

Nearly every Romani man, woman and child who survived internment in Czech-run camps later perished at Auschwitz-BirkenauHistorians believe that the vast majority of Romani victims were in fact slaughtered outside the death camps — killed with a bullet to the head and tossed in a roadside ditch or buried in shallow graves in the fields and forests where they had sought refuge. Einsatzgruppen (mobile “task forces”) killed tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied eastern territories; these victims were left out of the Nazi’s otherwise meticulous records.

“The generally accepted [conservative] figure is that half a million Roma were killed in the Second World War. In Auschwitz — the main site of their systemic killing — there were 22,000 Roma victims,” Pape said. “This shows that most were killed in the forests, during local massacres [pogroms] or by the Wehrmacht — who often justified it as necessary to purge territory behind the front of possible spies. Therefore, there is no exact number; there is no list of names, as it was done without any administration.”

The Porrajmos as a ‘historical footnote’

The horrors of the death camps have been exhaustively documented. However, the wartime fate of the Roma — who, like Europe’s Jewish population, were persecuted for centuries before being singled out for extinction by the Nazis along racial lines — is less widely known or understood; their tremendous suffering and loss often reduced to little more than a historical footnote. An estimated 70 percent of Europe’s Romani population died in the “Devouring,” yet no Roma were called to testify at the post-war Nuremberg Trials — and no one spoke there on their behalf.

While the fate of the Roma may now seem inevitable, in the earliest days of the Third Reich, their origins posed a problem for Hitler’s racial ideologues. Nazi anthropologists knew that the Roma had arrived in Europe from India and believed them to be descendents of the original mythical “Aryan” invaders of the subcontinent, who returned to Europe.

While the fate of the Roma may now seem inevitable, in the earliest days of the Third Reich, their origins posed a problem for Hitler’s racial ideologues.

So Nazi racialist Hans Gunther found a justification for measures already long in place to control “the Gypsy plague.” If the Roma were no less “Aryan” than the Germans, he theorized, their supposed “inherent criminal character” must have stemmed from having mingled with “inferior” races over centuries of nomadic life.

In 1933, after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, the Nazis introduced a law to legalize eugenic sterilization, to control population growth among “Gypsies and most of the Germans of black color.” In 1939, the Nazi’s Office of Racial Hygiene issued a statement saying, “All Gypsies should be treated as hereditarily sick [...] the aim should therefore be the elimination — without hesitation —of this defective element in the population.”

The following year, at a concentration camp in Buchenwald, 250 Romani children were used as human guinea pigs to test cyanide gas crystals. In later years, adult Roma were used as subjects in cruel experiments conducted at Buchenwald on the effects of drinking sea water on human health.

Most Romani and Sinti victims were slaughtered in extrajudicial killings, beyond camp walls But even in January 1942, when the Nazi bureaucrats decided on the “final solution” regarding the “Jewish problem” — i.e., through mass extermination in concentration camps — the so-called “pure Gypsies” (like the more integrated and well-off Sinti peoples) initially weren’t targeted for extinction along racial lines; they even continued to serve in the Germany army. (The Sinti were typically traders and merchants; their language is akin to Yiddish, in that it is nearly a German dialect; its grammatical structure follows that of German although most words have a common root with the Romani language.)

But before the close of 1942, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, the principal executor of the “Final Solution,” gave orders that all Romani candidates for extermination be transported to Auschwitz; and in November 1943, expanded the order: all “Gypsies and part Gypsies” were be treated “on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps.”

Even before Dr. Josef Mengele’s inhuman experiments began, Romani children were used as human guinea pigs to test cyanide gas crystals“Contrary to the fate of the Jews, Roma and Sinti were still taken into the German army until 1942 and only then did Himmler give the order to deport all the Roma and Sinti to Auschwitz, to the so-called ‘Zigeunerlager’ [Gypsy camp] — no matter what way of life they led, but only on the basis of their race,” said Pape, who has done extensive research on the Romani Holocaust and helped gather the testimony of survivors, in particular from Czech-run camps.

“On Dec. 16, 1942, Himmler sent a letter to all the authorities it concerned saying that the deportation of the Roma and Sinti should concern all of them — on the basis of their origin, as co-called inadaptable people. So, in the end, this was genocide. Sometimes the Czech Roma complained that they were not among the ‘inadaptable’ or criminals. But in the end, the Nazis made no distinctions,” Pape told Czech Position.

The pig farm

The vast majority of Romani people living in what is today the Czech Republic are descended from Slovak Roma; their ancestors transferred here to the Czech lands in Communist-era resettlement programs. “That’s the reason why there is such a weak protest against the Lety pig farm today; most of the Roma here today have their origin in Slovakia … where 90 percent of the population survived. The Fascist puppet government there focused mainly on the property and deportations of Jews,” Pape said. “Slovakia was, at that time, a very agricultural state, and the Roma were needed in the fields for seasonal work.”

Czech officials have been slow to acknowledge the wartime persecution of the Roma, and have come under unwelcome pressure from the European Parliament and other international organization. Not only do precious few memorials exist to honor the memory of those killed in the war, efforts to remove the pig farm from the Lety site, the largest Czech-run camp — where over 1,300 Roma were interned at a time — have been in vain.

‘Someone invented a new phrase to avoid saying the term “concentration camp”; this shows there is a strong will to deny what really happened.’

“In the last declaration by the Czech government concerning the history of Lety, they used a quite euphemistic term — calling it a ‘camp of forced concentration’. It means that someone invented a new term to avoid using the term ‘concentration camp’; this shows there is a strong will to deny what really happened there,” Pape told Czech Position.

“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, 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 is 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.”

Even though the Czechoslovak authorities made a major investigation into what happened at Lety— and found most of the perpetrators who caused the death of at least 241 children — none of the guilty persons was ever punished. “This fact is to very difficult for the Roma to accept,” Pape said.

At the same time, most Romani survivors of the Czech camps agree to speak about their experiences only if they are not shown or identified on local media, so great is their fear, even today, of persecution by skinheads and other racist groups active in Czech society. “The local government has also abused the fact that the Roma in the area, who are of Slovak origin, don’t want to protest because they don’t want to drawn attention to themselves.”

Auschwitz and ‘Uncle Mengele’

A law establishing Lety as a work camp for “nomads” was passed in March 1939 by Czechoslovakia’s proto-fascist Second Republic. In 1942, the Nazis designated the Lety facility as a “concentration camp” specifically for Roma. Those who survived the malnourishment and typhoid rampant in the Czech-run camps of Lety and Hodonin, met their death in a special “Gypsy family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau, but not without a fight, Pape said.

The first transport arrived on February 26, 1943, when the Gypsy Family Camp (Familienzigeunerlager) was still under construction; when completed, it comprised 32 residential and six sanitation barracks, according to the figures compiled by the death camp’s museum and memorial association. “Diseases killed the majority of the prisoners in the Zigeunerlager. Children deported to or born in the camp were particularly at risk, with noma (‘water cancer’), scarlet fever, measles, and diphtheria all endemic,” it notes.

The Germans intended to exterminate the Roma completely as early as May 1944. On May 15 that year, Gypsy Camp director Unterscharführer Georg Bonigut ordered the inmates to stay in their barracks. The next day, some 50 to 60 SS men surrounded the camp and attempted to force the prisoners out of the barracks. They attempted to force the prisoners out of the barracks, but failed to do so.

“In May 1944, thousands of Sinti and Roma [at Auschwitz] barricaded themselves in, ready to fight the SS men. They had found out that on that same day all of them were to be killed, by gas, at once. The SS decided not to attack, or try to kill these people,” Pape told Czech Position. “Unfortunately, later on, the ones who were still healthy enough to work were sent on to other concentration camps and only a few of them survived; and the children and old people were killed in a massacre in Auschwitz."

Unlike in the case of Jewish and other inmates, the Roma and Sinti interned at Auschwitz had been allowed to stay together as families because the Nazis had learned from past experience that separating Romani parents from their children made them impossible to control as a group and exploit for forced labor.

‘They screamed day and night. Then their parents — I remember the mother’s name was Stella — managed to get some morphine, and killed the children to end their suffering.’

Survivors of Auschwitz have said the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele — known for his inhuman experiments and fascination with twins — seemed particularly keen on working with Romani children, who called him “Onkel Mengele.” He would bring them sweets and toys and personally escort them to the gas chamber.
“I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away,” Vera Alexander, a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz who looked after 50 sets of Romani twins, told the American scholar and rabbi Michael Berenbaum.

“When they returned, they were in a terrible state: They had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents — I remember the mother’s name was Stella — managed to get some morphine, and they killed the children in order to end their suffering.”

Nazis gassed 2,897 Roma and Sinti at Auschwitz-BirkenauThe liberation of the Auschwitz — 66 years ago today — came too late for the Roma, as it did for over a million Jews there, tens of thousands of Poles and political prisoners, homosexuals and “asocials” of all nationalities. Nearly 22,000 Roma died in its gas chambers, or from starvation and disease. Just months before the liberation by the Soviet Army, the Nazis closed the “Gypsy family camp,” gassing some 2,897 Roma on Aug. 2, 1944, a date marked by the Diaspora every year to commemorate the “Devouring.”

Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated by the United Nations as the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust coinciding with the day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


While Sinti/Roma victims of the Porraimos have been included in ceremonies in Germany (see previous post), the European Parlimant has still neglected to recognize the Romani Holocaust.  Morgan

Roma and the Holocaust Memorial Day

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 во 13:15


National Roma Centrum (NRC) with deep concern about Roma victims from the Holocaust, on the occasion of 27 of January, Holocaust Memorial Day, issues this press release remembering Roma victims and those who suffer from the Holocaust, Pharraimos.

We call upon remembrance of the fact that Roma were victims in Holocaust as well, subjected to arbitrary internment, forced labour, and mass murder. Yet it is not known precisely how many Roma were killed in the Holocaust. The fact that Roma Holocaust is not recognized is indicating nourishment of Antiziganism which is widely spread in Europe today.

We are witnesses that Roma are trying to survive confronted with constant deterioration of socio-economic condition, stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination, lack of measures to protect cultural and language identity. Many initiatives were raised and formally supported, but still we have very clear gap in between Roma and non Roma populations. Roma Pharraimos in Europe during the fascists era was anticipated with these enclosed policies toward Roma. Regrettably today in the height of 21st century, life of Roma is based on fear from persecutions, evictions and everyday discrimination.

Million of Roma nowadays try to survive and to live in Europe, faced with prejudices, discrimination, violence, inhuman treatment, threats to their life, persecution and violent murders racially motivated. We call upon states to introduce Holocaust education and information about Roma victims.

The words of Universal Declaration of Human Rights hold a promise for all mankind — and those ideals continue to inspire millions across the world, NRC urges all public and state authorities to work for improvement of Roma situation.



Roma ‘finally’ get official Holocaust commemoration in Germany


The Roma community will for the first time be guest of honour at official Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations in Germany today, after a decades-long battle for greater recognition.

Nearly 66 years after World War II ended, a Roma Holocaust survivor will address the Bundestag lower house of parliament, just as Berlin names a street and a gymnasium after Roma murdered by the Nazis.

Dutch-born Zoni Weisz, 73, will speak on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, which Germany has marked since 1996 with official memorial ceremonies for Holocaust victims, the vast majority of them Jewish.

“It is the first time that the fate of the Sinti and Roma of Europe has been placed at the centre of the commemorations. Finally,” said the head of the Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany, Romani Rose.

The Bundestag said Weisz was “surprised and honoured” to have been chosen to speak on the “forgotten Holocaust” - what historians say was the extermination of between 220,000 and 500,000 of the around 1mn Roma in Europe.

The Roma and related Sinti, like the Jews deemed racially inferior by the Nazis, were also systematically persecuted, confined to ghettos and special camps, deported and killed.

In concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Ravensbrueck, they were the subject of grotesque medical experiments. But West Germany did not recognise the genocide until 1982.

Weisz, the son of an instrument maker, is one of the sole survivors of his family, which was deported in 1944 when he was seven. He owes his escape to a policeman who helped him flee during the raid. His parents, sisters and younger brother were murdered at Auschwitz while Weisz survived in hiding.

“Until 1944, we were a completely normal, happy family” in the eastern Dutch town of Zutphen, Weisz has said. He later became florist to the royal family.

The eastern Berlin district of Friedrichshain will today rename a street ‘Ede and Unku’, the name of a 1931 book telling the true story of a friendship between a German worker’s son and a Sinti girl before the Nazi era.

Unku, a nickname for Erna Lauenberger, was deported with her family and killed at Auschwitz.

‘Ede and Unku’ was banned by the Nazis and its young author Grete Weiskof, a Jewish communist writing under the name Alex Wedding, fled Germany in 1933.

Meanwhile a gymnasium in Berlin will be named after the boxer Johann Trollmann, aka ‘Gypsy’ Trollmann, who fought for Germany’s light-heavyweight title in 1933. Although he won on points, the Nazis denied him his title for having a fighting style that was “un-German”.

Trollmann, a Sinti who protested the decision by dyeing his hair Aryan blond, was later killed in a concentration camp.

“The fates of Erna Lauenburger and Johann Trollmann represent the fate of half a million Sinti and Roma victims of the genocide. But there has not been enough discussion of these crimes,” said local councillor Jan Stoess.

“Germany had played down this genocide for decades,” said Silvio Peritore of the Central Council of Sinti and Roma. “Zoni Weisz’s speech at the Bundestag is a positive sign.”

Germany is also to inaugurate this year near the Reichstag parliament building a memorial to Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis.

Peritore said there were about 10mn Roma in Europe, 70,000 of whom have a German passport. Tens of thousands of others live in Germany, most of them refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo.


I wish that Germany would examine its present policy of deportations of Romani immigrants, especially in keeping with the inclusion of Sinti/Roma in Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Tomorrow 27 January, is Holocaust Remebrance Day.
The following is from


Please consider signing your name in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims and the millions of non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust (Homosexuals, Poles, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma/Sinti, and the Handicapped).

Local Holocaust survivors lost more than 2600 family members in the Holocaust.

Please help us to collect 2600 signatures in their memory.

TO SIGN YOUR NAME and read more about International Holocaust Remembrance Day -


Angela Davis was born on 26 Jan. 1944.
Angela is one of my consistent heroes.  She has been an important influence in my own politics and activism.  I have admired her since her "FBI 10 MOST WANTED" days.


Following are two articles about Angela.
The first is a short biography.
The second is a recap of an interview/presentation.

Angela Davis, the daughter of an automobile mechanic and a school teacher, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on 26th January, 1944. The area where the family lived became known as Dynamite Hill because of the large number of African American homes bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Her mother was a civil rights campaigner and had been active in the NAACP before the organization was outlawed in Birmingham.

Davis attended segregated schools in Birmingham before moving to New York with her mother who had decided to study for a M.A. at New York University. Davis attended a progressive school in Greenwich Village where several of the teachers had been blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.

In 1961 Davis went to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to study French. Her course included a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. Soon after arriving back in the United States she was reminded of the civil rights struggle that was taking place in Birmingham when four girls that she knew were killed in the Baptist Church Bombing in September, 1963.

After graduating from Brandeis University she spent two years at the faculty of philosophy at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University in Frankfurt, West Germany before studying under Herbert Marcuse at the University of California. Davis was greatly influenced by Marcuse, especially his idea that it was the duty of the individual to rebel against the system.

In 1967 Davis joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party. The following year she became involved with the American Communist Party.

Davis began working as a lecturer of philosophy at the University of California in Los Angeles. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1970 informed her employers, the California Board of Regents, that Davis was a member of the American Communist Party, they terminated her contract.

Davis was active in the campaign to improve prison conditions. She became particularly interested in the case of George Jackson and W. L. Nolen, two African Americans who had established a chapter of the Black Panthers in California's Soledad Prison. While in California's Soledad Prison Jackson and W. L. Nolen, established a chapter of the Black Panthers. On 13th January 1970, Nolan and two other black prisoners was killed by a prison guard. A few days later the Monterey County Grand Jury ruled that the guard had committed "justifiable homicide."

When a guard was later found murdered, Jackson and two other prisoners, John Cluchette and Fleeta Drumgo, were indicted for his murder. It was claimed that Jackson had sought revenge for the killing of his friend, W. L. Nolan.

On 7th August, 1970, George Jackson's seventeen year old brother, Jonathan, burst into a Marin County courtroom with a machine-gun and after taking Judge Harold Haley as a hostage, demanded that George Jackson, John Cluchette and Fleeta Drumgo, be released from prison. Jonathan Jackson was shot and killed while he was driving away from the courthouse.

Over the next few months Jackson published two books, Letters from Prison and Soledad Brother. On 21st August, 1971, George Jackson was gunned down in the prison yard at San Quentin. He was carrying a 9mm automatic pistol and officials argued he was trying to escape from prison. It was also claimed that the gun had been smuggled into the prison by Davis.

Davis went on the run and the Federal Bureau of Investigation named her as one of its "most wanted criminals". She was arrested two months later in a New York motel but at her trial she was acquitted of all charges. However, because of her militant activities, Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California, urged that Davis should never be allowed to teach in any of the state-supported universities.

Davis worked as a lecturer of African American studies at Claremont College (1975-77) before becoming a lecturer in women's and ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. In 1979 Davis visited the Soviet Union where she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and made a honorary professor at Moscow State University. In 1980 and 1984 Davis was the Communist Party's vice-presidential candidate.

The following is a recap of a presentation/interview  Angela gave in 2009



Angela Davis came to KPFA recently to record an interview with Block Report Radio. –

Walking around the University of Virginia’s Academical Village, activist and philosopher Angela Davis remarked that the Lawn rooms seem as cramped as prison cells.

The feeling made her realize that Thomas Jefferson’s architecture compels the observer to think about his legacy, Davis said in her keynote address for the Carter G. Woodson Institute’s conference, “The Problem with Punishment: Race, Inequality and Justice,” held April 16 and 17.

The connection is no mere coincidence. The rooms on the Lawn provide student residents with the privacy to contemplate knowledge, while prison cells confine the prisoner to give him the privacy to penitently contemplate his crime.

The idea of the penitentiary emerged at the same time as the American Revolution, but it has proven a failed experiment in democracy and an institution of racial injustice when one in 100 Americans is behind bars and half of them are Black, she said.

Davis called for a new movement to abolish what she called “the prison-industrial complex” in the U.S., which has become the largest jailer in the world.

Violent people should be dealt with, she said, in the context of the reasons behind the violence and how it is perpetuated. “Simply dumping these people in prison only has the tendency to reproduce more violence,” she said.

The American-style penitentiary system is spreading internationally and having a devastating effect, she said, with prisons serving as receptacles for people who can no longer find a place in their societies.

This may be an auspicious moment in U.S. history to confront the prison crisis, marked in part by President Obama’s election and the economic crisis, she said.

Davis was one of about 30 scholars and others who participated in the multidisciplinary two-day symposium that aimed to contribute serious discussion to the growing national debate on the growth of the prison-industrial complex and racial disparities in the U.S.

In residency at U.Va. for the week, Davis spoke Thursday night to a packed house in Newcomb Hall Ballroom that included hundreds of students – some even traveling from Charlotte, N.C. – as well as faculty, conference participants and community members, including those who identified themselves as ex-convicts and ‘60s radicals during the question-and-answer period following her talk.

Davis and Deborah McDowell, director of the Woodson Institute, both mentioned that Jefferson designed not only his renowned buildings at the University and Monticello, but also an early penitentiary. He contracted architect Benjamin Latrobe to design the first prison in Virginia, with cells for solitary confinement.

Putting offenders in prison was considered a more enlightened idea than the less humane conditions and practices criminals were subjected to around the turn of the 19th century, Davis said.

The example of Jefferson’s legacy, she said, tells us “to be aware of the histories we inhabit.”

The prevalence of corporal punishment for actions that were considered crimes clashed with ideas for the new democracy. Because of slavery, however, the need for corporal punishment persisted, she said.

For example, Davis recounted what ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass told a British audience in London at the time: Although laws were written to sentence a white man to capital punishment only for the crime of murder, there were 70 crimes that could lead a Black man to his death.

“These are the historical roots we see today. The ideas were incorrect, but the early American government saw prisons as progressive, a move away from retribution,” said Davis, who was active in the Black Power Movement and spent time in jail in the early ‘70s, before being acquitted at trial.

“Prison was supposed to allow people to reform themselves. Incarceration turned out to be far more damaging to the psyche … and could not effect rehabilitation,” she said. “We have to undo past damage.

“Racism fuels the prison-industrial complex,” she said. “The vast disproportion of Black people makes it clear. … Black men are criminalized.”

Law enforcement surveillance determines who gets caught and who goes to prison, Davis explained. Many people commit acts that, if discovered, would result in prison sentences, but they are safe because the police don’t target their communities for surveillance.

‘Racism fuels the prison-industrial complex,’ said Angela Davis. ‘The vast disproportion of Black people makes it clear. … Black men are criminalized.’

The assumption, even among some African-Americans, that Black people have a proclivity to criminal activities is part of the daily working of racism.

“The fear of free Black bodies is contained in the systems and strategies that criminalize racism,” Davis said.

She advocated for more productive modes of addressing people who do harm to others and their communities.

‘The fear of free Black bodies is contained in the systems and strategies that criminalize racism,’ Angela Davis said.

“When we think of 2.3 million Americans being in prison on any given day, and all the resources required to sustain the system, why do we not mobilize to change this?” she asked.

It is because of the fear of confronting persistent racism and its history in the U.S., she said. “We are all infected.”

Davis pointed out there are no great disparities in drug use among the range of people and communities. Recently, law officers have shifted their surveillance to rural white people and, oddly enough, that has subjected them to the same form of racism to which Black men are subjected.

Law enforcement surveillance determines who gets caught and who goes to prison, Davis explained. Many people commit acts that, if discovered, would result in prison sentences, but they are safe because the police don’t target their communities for surveillance.

Americans must develop and negotiate social relations to be able to talk about racism without it being so uncomfortable, she said, adding that a justice system must be created that is not based on revenge, but rather is more restorative.

The political climate seems to be more hopeful, she said, lauding Virginia U.S. Sen. Jim Webb’s recent call for prison reform.

Anne Bromley is on the media relations staff at the University of Virginia – her beat: African-American Affairs.
She can be reached at

This story first appeared at UVaToday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



24 January 2011

Mexico bishop and indigenous champion Samuel Ruiz dies

The Mexican bishop and indigenous rights campaigner, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, has died at the age of the 86.

He passed away in hospital in Mexico City from complications arising from respiratory problems and diabetes.

Samuel Ruiz served as bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas for four decades.

He was best known for his role as mediator in the conflict with Zapatista rebels, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize several times.

President Felipe Calderon said his death was a "big loss" for Mexico.

"Samuel Ruiz worked to build a fairer, more equal, more dignified Mexico without discrimination, where indigenous communities have a voice and where their rights are respected by all," Mr Calderon said in a statement.

Bishop Ruiz led the diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas from 1959 to 2000, when he stepped aside on reaching the retirement age of 75.

Inspired by the liberation theology that swept the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America in the 1960s, he was an outspoken advocate for the rights of the indigenous Maya people of Chiapas, who are among Mexico's poorest and marginalized communities.

His followers knew him as "The Bishop of the Poor" or simply as "Jtatic" - father in the Tzotzil Maya language.

Peace broker

On 1 January 1994 Chiapas saw a shortlived armed uprising by a previously unknown rebel group, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), which said it was fighting for indigenous rights.

Bishop Ruiz was chosen to mediate between the government and the rebels.

In 1998 he was pressurized to resign as mediator by the government, amid allegations that he was too sympathetic to the Zapatistas, but the uneasy truce he helped to establish in Chiapas has held ever since.

Bishop Ruiz was also criticised by conservatives in the Church who saw him as too influenced by left-wing political ideas and too flexible in his approach to indigenous religious practices that combined Catholicism with traditional Maya beliefs.

The conflict in Chiapas raised his international profile, and he became a widely-respected advocate of indigenous rights throughout Latin America.

One of his legacies is the Father Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre, which he founded in 1989.

The organisation is named, like the diocese Bishop Ruiz represented, after a 16th Century Spanish priest and defender of indigenous rights.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Ah, the following youtube was forwarded to me from Yvonne Slee, a Romani activist in Australia.

This is a very enjoyable clip.

Do you recognize any of these women?

Hints     Papusza

The woman who sang the last song (in Spain) in the movie Latcho Drom

and Yvonne Slee herself.

I hope you enjoy this video clip.  I did. 

Thanks Yvonne.

Sunday, January 23, 2011



Tullia Zevi, prominent Italian leader and Jewish journalist, dies

January 23, 2011

(JTA) -- Tullia Zevi, longtime Jewish leader and one of the most prominent women in post-war Italy, died in Rome.

Zevi, who would have celebrated her 92nd birthday on Feb. 2, died Jan. 22.

Italian politicians joined Jewish leaders in paying tribute to Zevi, a journalist who served as president of the umbrella Union of Italian Jewish Communities from 1983 to 1998.

"She was a distinguished intellectual and untiring promoter of the culture of peace, who worked against any form of social discrimination," said President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano praised her "deep civic commitment and exquisite humanity and culture." She was, said Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, "a personality of great human and intellectual dimensions."

Born Tullia Calabi in Milan, Zevi and her family were vacationing in Switzerland when Italy's Fascist government imposed anti-Semitic racial laws in 1938. She spent World War II in exile in France and the United States. She worked with anti-fascist groups and studied at Radcliffe University and the Julliard School of Music, becoming an accomplished harpist.

After the war she returned to Italy and became a journalist, serving as a correspondent for Israel's Ma'ariv daily newspaper from 1960 to 1993. She also wrote for JTA from 1948 to 1963 and for London's Jewish Chronicle. Among her assignments were covering the Nuremberg trials and the trial of Adolf Eichman in Jerusalem in 1961.

Her husband, Bruno Zevi, was an anti-fascist activist and noted architect who died in 2000.

Zevi was the first, and to date only, woman to serve as president of the UCEI. During her tenure Pope John Paul II made his historic first visit to the Rome Synagogue in 1986, and the Italian state signed a landmark accord governing its official relations with the Jewish community.

Zevi, meanwhile, became a national figure of moral authority, speaking out frequently against all forms of prejudice and discrimination. In 1992 she was named Knight of the Grand Cross, Italy's highest civilian honor.

"She leaves a vacuum that will be difficult to fill," said Rome Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Canada to study end of Czech visa restrictions

By Peter O'Neil. Europe Correspondent,
Postmedia News January 21, 2011
The Canadian government is sending experts to Prague later this month to assess whether Canada can safely lift its visa restrictions on the Czech Republic without opening the door to a new wave of Roma refugee claimants.

"The experts are going to research how the Czech authorities protect minorities and assist their integration," the Czech Press Agency reported Friday.

Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, confirmed that the experts will participate in a five-day "information gathering visit" starting Jan. 31.

Visa restrictions were imposed in 2009 in a bid to shut down a wave of Roma arriving in Canada, claiming persecution in the Czech Republic. The number of claimants soared almost immediately after visa requirements were removed in late 2007.

The large number of migrants caused a strain on social services in the Hamilton, Ont., area, where many tried to settle, according to one media report.

The Czech government was infuriated by the 2009 decision and the foreign relations committee of the Czech parliament's lower house has retaliated by blocking a Canada-European Union agreement on air transportation, according to the Czech media report.

Wouldn't it be great if half the money spent on studies and fact finding missions actually went to do something significant for Romani and other oppressed people ?



 Roma asylum seekers give up on Canada

By Syed Badiuzzaman, AFP
November 3, 2010 

In recent months, France drew a chorus of international criticism for rounding up hundreds of Roma from illegal camps and sending them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

Unemployed and twice attacked in his native Czech Republic, 50-year-old Ladislav Bledy came to Canada with his family in July 2009 seeking asylum.

Frustrated after 15 months of waiting for his case to be heard by Canada's refugee board, he withdrew his application — along with hundreds of fellow Roma — and is now returning to his homeland to face yet more uncertainty.

"I came to Canada along with my wife and three children for a better life. We all waited here for 15 long months but nothing happened," Bledy said through an interpreter.

"And there is no guarantee that our case will be heard in the near future," he said, adding that he fears more assaults by "neo-Nazi skinheads" upon his return to the Czech Republic.

Some 30,000 Roma live in Canada and 15,000 in Toronto. Currently, 8,000 Roma are awaiting a hearing. They include 4,000 Hungarians, 1,300 Czechs, 500 Slovaks and the rest from Romania and few other countries.

In July 2009, Canada imposed visa requirements for travelers from the Czech Republic, an EU member, after a steep rise in refugee claims, particularly among Roma people. It took similar action against Mexico.

"A large percentage of Roma refugee claimants are withdrawing their claims and going back home," immigration lawyer Max Berger said.

More than 250 of Berger's Czech Roma clients have withdrawn their applications, fed up with endless hearing delays and alleged political interference, and feeling hopeless after seeing other bids rejected.

Canada's acceptance rate of Roma refugees from the Czech Republic topped 80 per cent prior to 2009, but it plummeted to virtually zero following a crackdown on what Ottawa said were abuses of its system.

"I find it hard to believe that the Czech Republic is an island of persecution in Europe," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said last year.

A mid-2009 Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic did not notice any persecution of Roma. Rather it found an increased level of protection for Roma, according to a mission report.

In recent months, France drew a chorus of international criticism for rounding up hundreds of Roma from illegal camps and sending them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

Paul St. Clair, executive director of Roma Community Centre in Toronto, sees similarities between France and Canada as far as the treatment of Roma is concerned.

"Everybody is yelling and screaming at France, but Canada is doing exactly the same thing. The difference is Canada is doing it in a legal and nicer way," St. Clair said.

Berger criticized Kenney's statement and the persecution report for creating a "bias" which has cast what he called a "pall or taint" on the refugee board's decision-making, adversely impacting Roma's asylum bids.

Several immigration lawyers launched a suit in federal court seeking to have their clients' failed asylum bids reheard and for the new panel to be ordered to disregard Kenney's comments to media.

Rocco Galati, another immigration lawyer, echoed Berger, saying Kenney's statement was "political interference with the judicial process of Canada" and "unconstitutional."

A spokesman for the refugee board acknowledged it was dealing with a backlog of cases — currently 53,658 — but denied any government influence on its decisions.

The board "is not a political organization," spokesman Charles Hawkins told AFP. "It has an arm-length relationship with the Immigration and Naturalization Services and the Canadian government.

"Claims are heard on a case by case basis. All refugee claimants are treated in the same manner. They all go through the same process."

Despite the European Union's threat of retaliatory action against Canada unless it lifted the visa requirements, these still remain in place and, according to Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi, have stemmed a tide of "bogus asylum claims" from the Czech Republic.

Friday, January 21, 2011


 This video is both interesting and entertaining.  Hope you enjoy it.

Watch the +RESPECT video “Roma people in the history of painting: a journey across cultures and style”

January 20th, 2011

The presence of Roma people in art masterpieces witnesses their history and traditions.


Thursday, January 20, 2011




Unraveling the Gypsy Myth

Across Europe and the United States a minority remains segregated from mainstream society. The 21st century has brought little improvements to the Roma people, commonly known as Gypsies, who have been fighting discrimination and deeply ingrained stereotypes for centuries.

Story by Nina Strochlic

Illustrations by Sarah Abadi

She wears jeans rather than a flowing ankle-length skirt. Her ears and teeth are devoid of gold adornment. She prefers living in a house to roaming the countryside in a cloth-covered caravan.

At a glance, Morgan Ahern looks nothing like what many would associate with being a Gypsy. Small with a toothy grin, she doesn’t resemble either the mysterious bejeweled Gypsies of Hollywood or the thieving ragged Gypsies of current stereotypes. Yet, Ahern is a proud member of the ethnic group often called Gypsies, though many identify with the less-loaded term, Roma.

In 1955, when Ahern was seven years old, New York authorities raided her family’s community in Brooklyn and removed every school-aged Roma child. Ahern and her brother were taken away from their parents because their traditional homeschooling was considered truancy and child abuse by the state. They were moved to a nearby orphanage. The community crumbled – her parents moved out in an attempt to get custody, but it wasn’t until thirty years later that Ahern found them.

The history of the Roma is traced like all those constantly marked as outsiders: measured in discrimination, expulsion, and genocide. Entering a Church-controlled Europe from the Punjab region of India in the middle ages, the Roma were seen as heretics for practicing fortune telling and palmistry. They were believed to be Egyptian and called “Gypsies” for short. Europeans didn’t trust the dark-skinned outsiders and Roma communities adapted to a mobile lifestyle to avoid persecution.

Today, Ahern actively works in Roma rights with a start-up mobile museum near Seattle, but initially, the forced assimilation was a success. Forbidden to speak Romany, the Roma dialect she was raised in, and barred from seeing her family, she lost all ties to her Roma heritage. Ahern lived in orphanages, foster homes, and juvenile institutions for the rest of her childhood.

“It was a system that thought the only way to fit in or exist in a culture was to give up anything that made you different,” she says in a thick New York accent. Authorities of New York State claim it was never targeting the Roma, but Ahern doesn’t believe it, saying that non-Roma kids who also weren’t in school in their neighborhood were left alone.

Ahern was forty years old when she was reunited with her mother for the first time while crossing a Denver street. As she reached the corner, she turned and so did the woman she had just passed. They walked back into the intersection and the woman called her by her Gypsy name – a traditional name that no one but a mother and child can know. The stranger invited her out for a cup of coffee. Her father and grandmother had since died, but Ahern was reunited with what was left of the family it had taken her thirty years to find.

In 1554, being a Gypsy was punishable by death in England. At the same time the Swiss were hunting Roma men, women, and children for sport. A century later, fifteen countries had laws aimed at destroying or deporting Roma communities. The Nazis murdered an estimated half million of Europe’s Roma population during World War II. And as recently as 2010, anti-Roma sentiment erupted in France, as thousands were uprooted and deported to Romania and Bulgaria.

In response to hundreds of years of attempts at dismantling their culture, most Roma communities remain insular and isolated. Since many outsiders aren’t immersed in, or even aware of, Roma societies, there are ideal conditions for breeding stereotypes. Mainstream media, like the comic strip called “Those Thieving Gypsy Bastards,” does little to dispel beliefs of Roma as thieves and vagabonds, while popular movies, including Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” portray Roma women as scantily clad and promiscuous. In reality, conservative Roma men and women don’t show their legs in public, and discussions of sexuality are strictly forbidden. These misconceptions plague twelve million Roma in Europe and one million in the United States.

Roma are known as celebrated musicians even in countries actively repressing them. Despite being scattered across Europe and the United States, the Roma’s traditional music, customs, and language have woven tightly formed communities. Subgroups defined by region, traditionalism, language, and occupation make up the complicated cultural puzzle that few gaje, the Romany word for non-Roma, understand. The Kalderash, the largest group in America, specializes in fortune telling and car repair, while other Roma communities are blacksmiths or laborers.

While the prejudice may be more deep-seated across the Atlantic, Roma in the United States survive as an invisible group, faced with combating similar stereotypes and ignorance that pin them as uneducated criminals. Today, with the melting pot of ethnicities in the United States, American Roma are much less distinguishable than their European counterparts who are singled out by their dark skin and Indian features.

Kristin Raeesi is a master’s student studying communications and language preservation at the University of Wyoming. Growing up, her mother warned her and her sister to say they were Hungarian because people wouldn’t like them if they knew they were Roma.

Raeesi can clearly remember the only time she was taught about her heritage in school – when an elementary school teacher read a Shel Silverstein poem titled “The Gypsies are Coming.” The poem includes the line, “The Gypsies are coming . . . to buy little children and lock them up tight.” Raeesi was stunned. Her family didn’t steal children, she thought.

She followed her mother’s advice when starting new jobs and schools, preferring to tell people she was Greek or Lebanese. Then, during a rebellious streak at age twenty-two, she decided to move in with a traditional group of Roma in Oklahoma. This Roma community was known in town and the women were identifiable by their traditional long skirts.

The first time Raeesi felt anti-Roma prejudice first-hand was in a Tulsa drug store. She was shopping for makeup with one of the other girls when she noticed the shop employee trailing them through each aisle. Shocked, Raeesi confronted the woman, asking why they were being followed.

“Get out of here . . . I know who you are and where you guys live,” the woman screamed. “I’m going to tell the manager that you were trying to steal something.”

With Roma constantly portrayed as swindlers and thieves, communities are often targeted in criminal investigations. In 2006, Los Angeles Times published a story exposing a group of 800 detectives hailing from across the United States called the National Association of Bunco Investigators (NABI). According to the article, the investigators collaborate on monitoring and targeting Roma communities. Executive Director Jon Grow denies allegations that Gypsies are singled out. “No group has an exclusive right to commit any certain type of crime, but some crimes are more prevalent within certain groups,” he says. “Some crimes we look at Gypsies do, but we don’t classify anything as Gypsy crimes.”

Confrontations are more prevalent when she divulges her heritage or in places with an obvious Roma presence, Raeesi says. When she tried to apply for a minority scholarship, she was told she couldn’t because the Roma weren’t a real ethnic group. She fought back and was later granted the award. Recently, a fellow graduate student told Raeesi that she wasn’t like the Gypsies in her native Romania who are all dirty and uneducated. Later, a student presenting on Gypsy music in one of her classes blatantly stated that all Roma are primitive and without a real culture.

Raeesi is currently working with Voice of Roma, a social justice group, to launch a school for Roma children in California. In the Roma communities of the United States, many parents chose to keep their children out of school as a measure to preserve their culture from outside influences. Since Roma history and traditions are virtually absent from lessons and textbooks, conservative Roma families feel mainstream education has no relevance, Raeesi says.

She has been discussing plans for a new school with the communities and is hopeful that parents will feel more comfortable when they know which subjects are taught and who the teachers are. “There was an indication that people are starting to realize the value of education and what it can give you because traditional ways of making a living are getting more difficult,” Raeesi says.

The Roma are the largest ethnic minority group in Europe, but also the poorest, with a poverty rate about ten times higher and a life expectance ten to fifteen years shorter than the average European citizen. Despite living in Europe for almost a thousand years, Roma are still seen as outsiders and prejudice remains deeply ingrained across the continent. What distinguishes their situation is that compared to those living around them, Roma communities have seen little improvement in social conditions through the centuries.

Segregation tactics prevail across Europe. Roma populations are pushed further into the fringes while suffering constant discrimination, police brutality, and poverty. Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, thousands of Roma fleeing from persecution or searching for work and decent living conditions continue to travel from Eastern Europe to Italy, Germany, and France. The large number of immigrants has embittered many citizens of these countries who have been taught to fear the Roma.

New migrants form ramshackle communities outside large cities where social services are barely existent and outsiders routinely and indiscriminately abuse residents. Government authorities perceive crime and unemployment in Roma camps as irremediable ethnic problems and use them to justify the separation rather than amend it. Cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia have walled-off sections of towns to segregate Roma occupants.

To combat this influx of Roma, governments across Europe instated mass deportations. Thousands have been kicked out of Germany, Italy, and France in the past two years under policies that equate eliminating Roma to eliminating crime. In July 2010, an internal police document explicitly singled out Roma communities in France as the focus of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s crackdown on illegal workers. Sarkozy ordered 300 Roma camps to be dismantled and their residents sent back to their homelands, claiming the deportations as a measure to decrease illegal activity.

Under European Union law, countries are allowed to expel immigrants under certain circumstances, but not for ethnic reasons. The EU Justice Commission threatened legal repercussions against France, until deciding to drop investigations in mid-October after the French government agreed to their treaties. Human rights groups like Amnesty International were outraged over what they saw as vindication for France.

Covert anti-Roma activities have been occurring for years under government auspices across Europe. Popular stereotypes have extremely negative implications for Roma communities, who are often targeted under discriminatory legislation.

Roma typically have large families because their culture puts a strong emphasis on children. During the communist period in Czechoslovakia, Gypsies were considered inferior and it was state policy to sterilize the women in an attempt to curb their population. Illiterate Roma women being treated in hospitals for other medical issues were told to sign papers guaranteeing better care, only to wake up and discover they had been sterilized. As recently as 2008, doctors trying to independently curb what many consider “the Gypsy problem” continued to sterilize unknowing Czech Roma women, according to the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).

Roma often live in substandard conditions. This house is in the only Roma-majority municipality of Macedonia. PHOTOS COURTESY Carol Silverman

Gaping disparities in education have kept European Roma communities in the grasp of inescapable poverty for decades. Many children enter the school system without fluency in the national language, since they were raised in their Romany dialect. An enormous percentage get placed in classes for the learning disabled and kept there for the rest of their education. In some regions of the Czech Republic, 50 percent of Roma children are put into schools for students with learning disabilities. In neighboring Slovakia, Roma children constitute 85 percent of the students in classes for the mentally disabled in mainstream schools, even though they only make up 10 percent of the country’s population. In October, the United Nations reported that 50 percent of Roma children in Europe do not finish elementary school.

Professor Carol Silverman, head of the University of Oregon’s Anthropology Department, is a small woman with cropped hair. She has been working and living with Roma communities across Europe and the United States for the past thirty years.

According to Dr. Silverman, when Roma children do enroll in public schools, non-Roma families pull their children out. Soon the school is majority Roma and problems of substandard education persist, though recent efforts in the Czech Republic and Hungary are being made to effectively desegregate schools.

“In the end, the good districts accept [Roma] and those very same kids learn people are people—dark skinned, light skinned, whatever language you speak, whatever culture you have—people are people,” Dr. Silverman says.

In 2008, a survey in Italy found that 81 percent of Italians consider all Roma unlikeable or barely likeable. The same year, hundreds of Roma were forced to flee as young Italian protesters threw Molotov cocktails and burned settlements near Naples.

In the camps, Roma are not only abused by outside citizens, but are often victims of police profiling and receive unusually harsh sentencing. According to Dr. Silverman, there have been multiple cases of Roma taken into police custody and never returning.

“Are there police trainings? Are there Roma in textbooks [to teach] about their contribution to European history and culture?” Dr. Silverman asks. “No – the conditions that produce prejudice have hardly changed.”

In largely homogenous societies in Eastern Europe, prejudice against Roma citizens is based on physical appearance. When Monditza Fournier was four years old, she was adopted from an orphanage in Romania and moved to the United States. “In the orphanage she was beaten, not fed, and never held due to being Roma,” her mother, Criss, says. Today Monditza is a senior at the University of Washington.

Growing up, Criss strived to educate her daughter on her Roma heritage, but neither was prepared for their first return to Romania in 2007. Criss had been warned of possible discrimination against her daughter, but was shocked by the widespread hatred also apparent in Italy and Croatia. She recalls hearing cruel comments toward Monditza, watched people spit at her feet, was forced to move to different tables in restaurants, pushed off benches in the airports, and thrown out of upper-class eateries. Monditza says she was baffled until one Romanian woman told her she was easily identifiable by her facial features and recommended she tell others she was Indian to avoid discrimination.

“It’s hard to watch when a child has to lie about who and what they are to survive,” Criss says.

Although they don’t have a centralized political leadership, European Roma have formed a handful of human rights organizations over the past decades. The largest of these is the ERRC, the Hungary-based watchdog group monitoring and assisting with Roma issues across the continent.

Catherine Twigg, the ERRC’s communications officer, says they have been investigating legalities of the situation in France. By singling out Roma as an ethnic group in the expulsions, the group believes Sarkozy’s government should face legal retribution. “From the evidence gathered so far, [the expulsions] seem to violate national and European law, as well as international human rights obligations,” Twigg says.

According to Twigg, conditions of the Roma aren’t being improved because politicians are more likely to blame them for naturally being lazy, prone to criminality, and uninterested in school, than to recognize the obstacles and lack of opportunities the group faces. Public figures and media outlets follow the same path – constantly portraying Roma as swindlers and thieves. When these stereotypes are seen as natural to the Roma as an ethnic group, problems and substandard conditions are ignored or written off. Today, the theory that crime, poverty, and unemployment are natural to the Roma leads to serious marginalization by political powers in Europe.

For decades, the media has largely ignored thousands of Roma deported from France, Germany, Italy, and other European countries. This time, international focus is on France as Sarkozy legitimizes already pervasive stereotypes by putting the Roma at the center of his hard-on-crime platform.

“It’s getting the press now in France because it’s part of Sarkozy’s political campaign, and actually getting a lot of support . . . whereas in Germany, just ordinary Roma were [taken] from small communities, put on planes, and sent back to Kosovo,” Dr. Silverman says of the deportation coverage.

In the midst of the civil war in 1999, as many as 100,000 Roma fled from Kosovo and dispersed throughout Europe. Recently, the German government decided to send 10,000 Roma refugees back to Kosovo, where instability and minority-focused crime still prevail.

After vowing to deport illegal residents in July 2010, French authorities began fingerprinting all Roma, including children, to ensure they couldn’t return. Two years earlier, Silvio Berlusconi’s government in Italy declared a state of emergency to enact the same eviction tactic, backing down only after sharp criticism from the European Union. That year, a former mayor of Rome claimed the Roma are responsible for 75 percent of the city’s crime.

Social progress for the Roma is slow but powerful. From school assimilation efforts in the Czech Republic to the media focus on deportations in France, every victory counts. In order for social and economic improvement to begin, stereotypes about the underrepresented group need to be unraveled. “We aren’t just traveling in wagons and reading palms—some people do that, but you can’t just pigeonhole everybody,” Raeesi says. “Just like you wouldn’t say that all Jewish or Muslim people are the same. We are not all the same either.”

Only once negative connotations no longer pervade their name in mainstream society will the Roma be able to build themselves out of poverty and live as equals. With many European and American Roma afraid to admit to their ethnicity, the first steps are the most personal. Raeesi still remembers the first time she heard her mom tell someone she was Roma. “I think she sees that it doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” Raeesi says. “It doesn’t have to be something you’re ashamed of.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011



Roma woman dies following deportation to Kosovo

By Elisabeth Zimmermann

19/01/2011 - The village of Mayen, near the city of Koblenz in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, is governed by a Social Democratic Party (SPD) administration. A Roma family originating from Kosovo had lived in Mayen since 1999. Despite the serious illness of one of the members of the family, Mrs. Borka T., the whole family was deported under inhumane conditions in early December to Kosovo. Just a month later, Mrs. T. died of a brain hemorrhage.

In the early hours of December 7, police picked up Mrs. Borka T. with her husband and her 14-year-old son Avdil from their home in Mayen. They were given just 30 minutes to pack a few personal belongings. They were then taken by police to Dusseldorf Airport and together with other refugees deported to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.

Mrs. Borka T. was examined at Düsseldorf Airport by a doctor whose job was to give the okay for her deportation. Mrs. T.’s own specialist doctors had diagnosed her as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and neuralgia. Due to these symptoms, she received regular medication and therapy with the support of the Caritas organisation. These facts were known but ignored by officials at the airport.

The ailing woman’s condition was also swept aside by the local administration in Mayen-Koblenz, which ordered the deportation of the family. The Trier Administrative Court then upheld the deportation, knowing full well that no possibilities of treatment for the woman existed in Kosovo.

The Mayen-Koblenz administration denied any responsibility on its part even after the death of Borka T. was announced earlier this year. A spokesman merely declared that the authority had relied on the judgement of the Trier Administrative Court, which had stated that there were options for her treatment in Kosovo. The spokesman refuted any correlation between a lack of drugs and the woman’s death as absurd, declaring with cynicism: “Intracranial bleeding is always a possibility”.

The lawyer for the family, Jens Dieckmann, issued a press release on January 7 describing the family’s traumatic experience in Kosovo and the subsequent brutal deportation of Borka T. and her family:

“In October 1999 Mrs. T. came to Germany with her family. Previously they had lived in Mitrovica, the city in Kosovo was at the center of fighting (in the Yugoslav war) and was divided (and remains divided) between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. She witnessed the destruction of her house during the war and the death of many of her neighbors, friends and relatives. Mrs. T. and her family are members of the Roma ethnic group and were trapped in the war between the crossfire of warring Serbs and Albanians. The Albanians expelled the family of Mrs. T., together with other Roma from Mitrovica, accusing them of collaboration with the Serbs. The family subsequently fled from the ruins of Mitrovica.

“Since fleeing from Mitrovica, where Mrs. T. experienced burning houses and countless dead and wounded, she has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. In Germany, she was therefore in constant specialist care and with the support of Caritas underwent a specific trauma therapy.”

The lawyer then went on to describe how the court in Trier upheld her deportation, although the court was fully aware of her condition. Ignoring humanitarian grounds for denying the deportation, the court preferred instead to rely on thoroughly erroneous information from the German Foreign Office that the woman would be referred to specialists in Kosovo and given immediate treatment.

In fact, the conditions on the ground in Pristina were very different. Any claim by German authorities that they could not have anticipated such a lack of medical facilities in Kosovo is completely untenable.

A number of reports and studies by refugee aid organisations such as ProAsyl or the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, have documented the desperate social and political situation in Kosovo.

There are only about 300,000 jobs for Kosovo’s 1.8 million inhabitants, and the official unemployment rate is 45 percent. For the Roma and Ashkali communities, the rate is 95 to 100 percent. There is virtually no form of support for the unemployed, and medical care is only available to those who can pay for it. Education is also bound up with paying fees. The province’s agricultural system is not competitive, and there is no significant productive sector. Kosovo’s main export is scrap metal.

In a report by the Council of Europe, Kosovo is described today as a land dominated by “mafias and organised crime”. The commander of the KLA and current prime minister, Thaci Hacim, is accused of heading a criminal cartel involved in murders, prostitution and drug trafficking. (See “Washington’s “humanitarian” war and the crimes of the KLA“)

When the T. family arrived in Pristina there were no doctors, German-speaking employees of the German Embassy or aid workers to meet them. After completing their immigration formalities, the family was completely abandoned. “You can go wherever they want,” they were told. The only money in their possession was the sum of €220.

On arrival, Mrs T. underwent a panic attack and declared she would not return to Mitrovica. The family then drove for about two hours by taxi to a brother of Mrs. T. in southern Serbia. There, around 40 family members live in a number of poorly equipped barracks. Each hut has a kitchenette and living room, where everyone eats together and at night sleep on the floor. There were no adequate facilities for a bath or shower.

The 14-year-old son Avdil, who has lived and attended school in Germany since the age of three, was totally shocked by the poverty surrounding him. Lacking any knowledge of the language, he has no chance of going to school there.

Denied essential medical treatment and drugs, Mrs. Borka T. collapsed shortly after New Year. She was taken to a clinic in Kragujevac where she fell into a coma and then died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

The tragic death of Mrs. Borka T. is yet another damning indictment of the German asylum and deportation system. Every year, thousands of people suffering from severe illnesses are deported to their countries of origin. In many cases, they have lived for years or even decades in Germany. There, they were denied a right to permanent residence and lived in a permanent state of insecurity.

Many of those deported are children who were born in Germany and grew up in the country. These children are brutally torn from their schools, their familiar surroundings and friends and deprived of any future prospects.

Even given such circumstances it was entirely within the remit of the administration in Mayen-Koblenz to grant a residence permit to the T. family on humanitarian grounds. Just two weeks before the deportation of a family, the Conference of Interior Ministers had issued a decree making such decisions possible. The state of Rhineland-Palatinate, however, decided to implement this regulation only on December 23, over a month after the decree was issued.

In his letter to the press on January 7, the family’s lawyer raised number of vital questions:

1. Why was there no medical examination of Mrs. T. immediately prior to her deportation?

2. Why were no specialists and relief organisations present in Pristina at the airport when the German authorities knew that a mentally ill woman was being deported on that day?

3. Why did the state of Rhineland-Palatinate not join the ban on the deportation of Roma from Kosovo, which had been agreed by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia? The state government in Düsseldorf had made its decision based primarily on advice from the Foreign Office and information describing the catastrophic situation facing Roma in Kosovo.

4. Why was there no stop to the deportation practice following the decision of the Conference of Interior Ministers on November 19, 2010? At the conference, it was agreed that a residency permit could be awarded to refugees who had integrated properly and protected against deportation at least until children in the family reached the age of 18. Avdil attended a school in Germany for years and would undoubtedly have fulfilled the criteria laid down.

According to his class teacher, Avdil was a good, hard-working and inquisitive student who was popular with his classmates. Nevertheless, he and his family were brutally deported.

This bureaucratic cruelty, however, is intentional. Deportations to Kosovo are the avowed aim of the agreement signed by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) and his Kosovar counterpart, Bajram Rexhepi, on April 14, 2010. It commits Kosovo to accept 14,000 refugees from Germany. In addition to more than 10,000 Roma, this figure also includes Ashkali, Kosovo-Egyptians and members of the Kosovo Serb minority in Kosovo.

Most of the Roma fled from Kosovo in 1999 during the NATO war against Yugoslavia. While the official doctrine of NATO was to protect the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian attacks and “ethnic cleansing”, the NATO- and EU-led war fueled ethnic nationalism and assisted in the campaign to drive out the Serb, Roma and Ashkali minorities from Kosovo. Some fled to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro, but most sought asylum in western Europe or hoped for recognition as refugees from civil wars. Most of those who applied for asylum in Germany were turned down.

Now, many of those who did get into the country are being deported, despite the cold winter in war-torn and shattered Kosovo. Those returning will encounter poverty, social exclusion, and housing shortages. Many lacking proper medical care will suffer illness, and for some, like Mrs. Borka T., deportation means death.