Holocaust

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Poland

 

The MemoROM is a project funded with support from the European Commission under the Europe for Citizens programme. It aims to raise awareness about the Roma and Sinti Holocaust.

Background

Roma have a history of persecution. They are being oppressed and discriminated against for centuries for the simple reason that mainstream society does not accept them as they are. This persecution was exaggerated throughout the Nazi regime that was responsible for killing millions of Roma, Sinti and other minorities. During this period, Roma and Sinti were subjected to genocide and totally deprived of their civil rights. Discrimination against them and violation of their rights are still prevalent in today’s Europe.

These communities remain the most hated and discriminated against across the continent. Their basic rights are frequently violated and anti-Roma sentiments are alarmingly increasing across Europe. Xenophobic sentiments are exacerbated by the more and more visible presence of far-right extremism across the continent which tends to worsen with the current economic crisis. Against this backdrop, it is evident and urgent to address these dangerous trends by mobilising all efforts to seek recognition about the Roma and Sinti Holocaust and raise awareness about Europe’s darkest period to avoid its repetition.

Nevertheless, Roma and Sinti cannot be seen only through the prism of misery and from a victimhood perspective. Their contribution to mainstream cultures and histories are undeniable. Unfortunately, the role played by Roma and Sinti in national and European history is too less recognised. If these communities were one of the most discriminated ethnic groups during WWII, the participation of some Roma and Sinti to pan-European resistance movements is too less known and mentioned.

Terminology

Terminology is always a sensitive issue. In order to respect and acknowledge all the different sensibilities that such an issue could engender, we would like to contextualise our choice to use the term “Holocaust”.

“Holocaust” is deemed by some to be too historically charged as a term, namely with reference to Jews. Alternatives, like “Porajmos” or “Samudaripen”, are moreover not free of misgivings. For instance, “Porajmos” (meaning “devouring”) is not welcomed by many Roma and Sinti communities, as it is a synonym for “rape” thus offensive. Nor is “Samudaripen” (meaning “mass killing”) an agreed term from a linguistically point of view. Far from denying any cultural undertone, we believe that the term “Holocaust” best suits the aim of this project that is raising awareness about this appalling massacre among the general public. We believe that “Holocaust” is more recognisable by the majority of the population, which for the greatest part has never heard of “Porajmos” or “Samudaripen”. In conclusion, our choice was made in the sole view to reach a wider audience to the benefit of the Roma and Sinti communities.

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