In Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Liquidation of the Romani Camp at Auschwitz

As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to the Permanent Council
Vienna, July 24, 2014

The night of August 2nd marks the 70th anniversary of the “liquidation” of the Romani camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, when the Nazis murdered 2,879 Romani men, women and children in the gas chambers. These Roma were transported primarily from Germany, Austria, Poland, and the Czech lands, with smaller groups from France, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Belgium, the USSR, Lithuania, and Hungary, as well as individuals from Norway and Spain. During the course of the war, the majority of the 23,000 Roma sent to Auschwitz died there.  Elsewhere in Nazi-occupied territory, Roma were killed by SS, police, and regular Army units at the outskirts of villages and dumped into mass graves.

In the end, the Nazis murdered several hundred thousand Roma, with some estimates of over one million victims. It is difficult, however, to estimate the size of the pre-war Romani population in Europe and wartime losses since scholarship on the genocide of Roma remains in its infancy. Many important archives, such as the Lety archives, only became available to a broader community of researchers since the fall of communism. On September 18, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will hold a public symposium focused on new research on Roma and the Holocaust, and we welcome the insights that this additional research may reveal.

We call on all countries to remember the genocide of Roma and commend those that have taken steps to memorialize Romani victims. However, just saying “Never Again” on this solemn anniversary does not prevent violence and hate. The lessons of history should inspire our commitment to confront intolerance today. Across the OSCE region, violent attacks targeting Roma occur. Earlier this month in Spain, protestors set fire to two homes of Romani residents who were accused of stealing. On June 13, in France, a 17 year old Romani boy was abducted, locked in a basement, brutally beaten, and left for dead in a shopping cart after a mob accused him of theft.

We welcome the swift condemnations and ongoing investigations of these attacks by the Spanish and French authorities. However, we believe that more can be done to prevent attacks in the first place. Roma persons are subject to prejudicial views from large parts of societies and suffer discrimination in areas such as education and employment due to stereotyping. Roma are also often targets of divisive political rhetoric. Going forward, as we all seek to build more tolerant societies, education about Romani experiences during the Holocaust is an important way to demonstrate to young people and the general public the ghastly extremes to which anti-Roma prejudice can lead and is an important part of combatting anti-Roma bias and violence today. Teaching tolerance toward all and condemning all forms of discrimination are crucial in combatting hate-based violence.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.