Declaration of official Roma genocide remembrance day in Poland

PRESS RELEASE
OSCE human rights chief welcomes declaration of official Roma genocide remembrance day in Poland
WARSAW, 29 July 2011 – Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), welcomed today’s decision by the Polish parliament to declare 2 August as the official Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day.
 
“This is a historic step forward in the official recognition of the persecution and extermination of Roma and Sinti during World War II,” Lenarčič said.
 
ODIHR Director Ambassador Janez Lenarcic
at the Sejm, Poland's parliament, in Warsaw
on 16 November 2010. (OSCE/Curtis Budden)
 
He encouraged other OSCE participating States to follow Poland’s example in recognizing and commemorating the deportation and killing of Roma and Sinti under Nazi rule.
The 2 August marks the day when the last group of 2,897 Roma and Sinti, mostly elderly people, women and children, were killed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1944. In total some 23,000 Roma and Sinti died in the "Zigeunerlager" and gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
 
The official recognition of the suffering of Roma and Sinti during World War II is important for raising awareness of this long-neglected genocide and integrating it into mainstream remembrance and education, Lenarčič said.
“Remembering the past is indispensable if we are to be successful in our contemporary efforts to fight intolerance, discrimination and hate crimes,” he added.
 
On the occasion of this year’s remembrance day, ODIHR is organizing an international seminar in Cracow, Poland, on 1 August to discuss ways to teach about the Roma and Sinti genocide with the aim of preserving the legacy of the victims and combating modern forms of racism and discrimination. Representatives of national and local authorities, historians and other experts, as well as some 90 young Roma will participate in the meeting.
 
ODIHR and the Council of Europe will also launch a website on the Roma and Sinti genocide. The website has been jointly developed to promote knowledge and teaching on the subject. (http://www.romagenocide.org/)
 
ODIHR assists the OSCE's participating States in implementing their commitments to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance and non-discrimination. The 2003 OSCE Roma and Sinti Action Plan calls for the inclusion of Roma history and culture, particularly their experience during the Holocaust, in educational material.