Romani Holocaust news from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden

The first Hungarian Holocaust museum should open in the year 2001, according to the Hungarian Culture Minister József Hámori, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on December 10, 1999. The Hungarian government will cover the costs of turning a currently unused Jewish synagogue in Budapest into a future memorial to the 600,000 Jewish and 60,000 Romani victims of the Holocaust in Hungary.

In the Czech Republic, Radio Prague announced on December 16, 1999, that 132 Romani Holocaust survivors in that country received approximately 1000 euro each from the Swiss Special Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust/Shoa. According to the Fund, this act represents symbolic help for victims of the Holocaust and is not intended to compensate them. The Prague-based Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH) bears most credit for this effort. Together with the Museum for Romani Culture in Brno, the VPORH tracked down Romani Holocaust survivors, informed them on the Swiss initiative, and helped them with the application procedure. Another 99 Romani applicants are waiting for decisions, which should be taken soon, according to Swiss sources.

In Stockholm, the first “International Forum on the Holocaust” held on December 26-28, 1999, gathered an impressive number of around 600 delegates from 46 countries. The Romani Holocaust, however, was out of the limelight: it was reportedly mentioned on only three occasions during the entire conference, by the heads of state of Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Additionally, despite the large number of delegates, only four Roma were present as members of official national delegations, and only one — Dr Ian Hancock, Romani scholar from the United States — was invited to speak at an event following the Forum. After lobbying by the Swedish Roma Association, Dr Hancock was finally invited to speak in the official part on the last day of the conference, where he criticised some governments’ verbal commitment to fight discrimination today, while at the same time actively discriminating against Roma. Because the Swedish government expressed the intention of making this an annual event, Dr Hancock proposed that there also be a permanent yearly session on the situation of Roma in Europe.

(ERRC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Prague)

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