Exhibition in Germany on Roma Holocaust

10 April 1997

German President Roman Herzog paid tribute to Roma and Sinti in Heidelberg, Germany on March 16, when he spoke at an exhibition commemorating the Roma Holocaust.

Opening the exhibit, Herzog told guests, „Along with our Jewish population, you, the Sinti and Roma community, shared the terrible experience of persecution and genocide during the rule of National Socialism." Herzog went on to say, „The exhibition which we are opening today shows how long-running discrimination ended in persecution and murder."

The exhibit is part of a new cultural centre supported by a grant of 10 million marks from the German government. „The centre should be a bridge to the present and make visible the many contributions of the Sinti and Roma community to German culture," said Romani Rose, a leader of the German Sinti and Roma community.

Between 1933 and 1945, half a million Roma and Sinti were murdered across Europe, including some 20,000 from Germany. Parliament President Rita Süssmuth said the fact it had taken 52 years after the end of the Nazi dictatorship to open the centre, reflected how long it had taken the country to recognise the crimes that had been committed against Roma.

Herzog rejected the theory that Roma had only been caught up in the Holocaust by chance. „Hitler himself ordered the deportation of all Sinti and Roma to concentration camps." He said the genocide of Roma and Sinti was pushed through out of the same racist motives and with the same intention of a planned and final annihilation as that of the Jews.

Herzog welcomed in particular concentration camp survivors to the event. „If the victims have a lesson for the present, it is a warning against indifference, self-satisfaction and narrowness," he said. But Herzog said Germany had still not shaken off all its prejudices about Roma; „Today we have still not reached our goal."

In February, German Roma complained to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg about a local court ruling which declared them unfit to sub-let apartments. A court in the western city of Bochum had ruled that Roma were in general „not appropriate as subtenants of an apartment" because they were „a population group which largely has no fixed abode."

Rose stated at the time it was important to have the „scandalous judgement" overturned, and that it was reminiscént of persecution of the Gypsies under the Nazis.

(Reuters)

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