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Memorial Day of the Roma Genocide

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - Santayana

( August 3, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Al Jazeera carries a report on a genocide that is frequently over-looked and whose descendants still suffer discrimination and deportations. August 2nd was a Memorial Day of the Romani Genocide - the Porajmos ("the Devouring")

On August 2, 1944, 2,897 Roma and Sinti, men, women, and children incarcerated in Auschwitz-Birkenau were loaded onto trucks, transported to gas chamber V, and liquidated as part of Hitler's genocide. All of them were killed in a matter of hours, their bodies then disposed of in the crematorium. Upon the liberation of Auschwitz by western forces in 1945, there were no Roma or Sinti among the survivors.

Roma all over Europe are exposed to hate speech and violence, writes Kushen [AFP/Getty Images]

The West German government only recognised the racially based nature of the killings of Roma in 1982; due to the delay, many of the survivors died before receiving compensation that the government had made available to other victims.

Roma all over Europe are exposed to hate speech and violence. Politicians throughout Europe target them as scapegoats for the ills of the society at large. In recent years, a stunning number of high-level, "mainstream" politicians (including the former president of France, a former foreign minister of Romania, a former justice minister of Denmark, a former prime minister of Italy and a UK MP) have spoken of Roma as predisposed to crime. In France a mayor suggested that Hitler "did not kill enough" Roma. In Hungary, a leading journalist and co-founder of the ruling Fidesz Party, published an op-ed calling Roma "animals" that "need to be eliminated" "right now by any means". Extremist groups in Hungary, the Czech Republic and elsewhere deliberately adopt Nazi tropes and tactics; for example, conducting jackbooted marches through Romani communities carrying flaming torches.

State policies and practices at home have produced increasingly segregated societies. Physical walls have been built in Slovakia, Romania, and elsewhere to separate Roma communities from the main population. Romani families have been routinely evicted from city centres in France, Italy, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. A Hungarian city recently offered to pay Roma tenants to leave their rental homes on condition that they agree to settle only outside the city. Romani children continue to face segregation in schools, including tracking into special education. Such segregation, coupled with racist speech, leads to dehumanisation and creates a climate that enables violence, examples of which are all too common, such as the ethnically motivated killing of six Roma including a four year-old boy in Hungary five years ago, or the recent brutal beating of a Roma boy in France.

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