President stresses importance of Roma Holocaust stories, PM advocates for education of young Roma

Several politicians, Roma activists, artists and athletes attended an event commemorating Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

The event commemorating the Roma Holocaust was held at SNP Museum in Banská Bystrica.The event commemorating the Roma Holocaust was held at SNP Museum in Banská Bystrica. (Source: TASR)

The statistics of the Holocaust are comprised of thousands of individual human tragedies, each of which deserves special attention and a special mention, said President Zuzana Čaputová on the occasion of Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on August 2.

PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO), who was present at the commemoration held in Banská Bystrica, said that working with marginalised groups, without violence and extremes, is the path to success. Similar to his predecessor Igor Matovič, who attended the event last year, he stressed that “the politics of the hidden Holocaust in us” should end.

He, along with other politicians, Roma activists, artists and athletes, attended an annual commemorative event to pay tribute to more than 3,000 Roma people, mostly women, children and seniors, who were killed between August 2 and 3, 1945, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The event is known as the Roma Holocaust, or Porajmos.

Reducing the space for hatred

President Čaputová highlighted the need to reduce the space for hatred.

“There were concrete human stories of the ancestors and families of people who live here with us,” she said in a statement, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “And people who still encounter something they shouldn’t – humiliation and verbal and physical attacks for their ethnicity. Unfortunately, we’re witnessing again how easy it is to abuse prejudice to incite hatred that can grow into a terrific size, as we know from the past.”

It is our common duty to reduce the space for hatred, the president stressed, adding it should be done through humanity, mutual respect and understanding.

Čaputová also referred to the stories about the slavery of men in work camps who were forced to build water dams or railway tracks and the Roma from the southern parts of the country who were sent to the concentration camps. She added that there were mass executions of the Roma and of those that helped in the resistance movement.

Government allocates sources for Roma education

Matovič promises to end “the politics of the hidden Holocaust in us” Read more 

PM Heger pointed out that thousands of Roma were forced into gas chambers in the Auschwitz camp, including men, women, children and seniors. It was one of many horrible events that happened during WWII; these people were stripped of their rights and killed en masse.

“We must learn from history and we mustn’t allow something similar to happen again,” he said, as quoted by TASR. “We know that prejudices in us often stand at the beginning of such deeds, violence and evil. These are the source of exclusion and discrimination.”

He said that his government wants to offer equal opportunities chance to everyone living on the edge of society, including the Roma.

“We’ve allocated some sources that should be invested in educating young Roma,” Heger said, as quoted by TASR. “We believe that education from a very young age gives them a chance to be successful.”

Focus on young generations

Ombudswoman Mária Patakyová said that the more time that passes since WWII, the fewer opportunities we have to authentically connect with survivors. Still, their memory can survive through memorial days, authentic sources, documentaries and even a passage from a theatre play about a prisoner who died in a concentration camp.

Breaking the silence on the Roma Holocaust Read more 

“If we allow these tragic stories from the past to touch our hearts, we have a chance to learn from them and see what is happening around us now,” Patakyová said. “Let’s notice and stand against the hatred, discrimination and segregation of minorities.”

The government’s Proxy for Roma communities Andrea Bučková stressed the need to remind the young generations that racism, discrimination and hate speech have no place in our society.

“Unfortunately, discrimination keeps persisting in Slovakia, while the stereotypes and prejudices towards the Roma people are deepening, which has been confirmed by several polls and individual experience,” she said, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “It’s our duty to speak up against spreading this evil.”

She pointed to the government’s strategy concerning the inclusion and participation of Roma, with plans outlined until 2030. Bučková hopes that thanks to this document our country will become more tolerant and will reject any signs of discrimination and violence against the Roma.

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