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Education is key to avoiding the mistakes of the past, say OSCE and UN human rights representatives on Roma Genocide Remembrance Day

In order to acknowledge the suffering of victims and work towards greater tolerance, more efforts are needed to educate young people about the horror of the Roma genocide that took place during the Second World War, said the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the United Nations Human Rights Office for Europe in a joint statement on Roma Genocide Remembrance Day.

On 02 Aug 2019

“Today is a day to honour the memory of the Roma and Sinti victims of the Nazi regime, but at the same time, learn from the past in order to combat the racist public rhetoric, hatred and discrimination we see in so many places across the OSCE today,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “That is why acknowledgement and commemoration, but also awareness raising and teaching about the Roma and Sinti Genocide are essential in order to promote a more tolerant society.”

Governments have the responsibility to remember the Roma and Sinti Genocide, but also to ensure that school curricula and other educational initiatives engage with young people to discuss the potentially dangerous consequences of racist ideologies. ODIHR has been raising awareness and promoting education about the Roma and Sinti genocide during World War II since 2003. All countries across the OSCE region have committed to improving the situation of Roma and Sinti in their societies, including combating discrimination and working towards full equality of opportunity.

“We need to tell the truth about historical injustices and recognize the contribution of the Roma to Europe,” said Birgit Van Hout, head of the UN Human Rights Office for Europe. “To rebuild trust between Roma and non-Roma, Roma inclusion strategies should also address antigypsyism, bias and prejudice by the majority population.”

Seventy-five years after the liquidation of the so-called Gypsy family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Roma and Sinti continue to suffer from intolerance, systemic racism and discrimination, and remain victims of racially motivated violence and hate crime. Up to 500,000 Roma and Sinti perished under the Nazi regime, with some 20,000 murdered in the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp alone.