Romania plans to teach students about Roma killed during the Holocaust to raise awareness about the dark episode in the country’s history, a government adviser said Monday.
In the following three years, schools will introduce classes for students to learn about the Holocaust when thousands of Roma were deported and killed.
The Romanian state is also planning to build the Museum of Roma History and Culture.
There are believed to be at least one million Roma in Romania. Many do not declare their ethnicity due to widespread prejudice against the group.
Knowledge about the Holocaust is patchy. Some people are unaware Roma were targeted by the Nazi-allied government
The announcement about the new initiatives was made Monday on European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
“The tragedy of the Holocaust against the Roma is now part of our collective memory,” said Alexandru Muraru. He is the prime minister’s advisor in charge of fighting anti-Semitism and preserving the memory of Holocaust and communism.
“Today…. we commemorate the extermination of half a million Roma children, women and men killed in Europe during the Holocaust. We have a duty to… learn from the lessons of the past and the sacrifice of so many innocent people to build a more tolerant society that respects otherness and embraces diversity,” a statement from Alexandru Muraru said.
Under Marshal Ion Antonescu, some 25,500 Roma were deported to Trans-Dniester and 11,000 never returned, he said.
Brăilă Constantin was 11 when was deported in 1942 with his family simply because he was a member of the Roma community. He was forced to labor on a state-owned farm.
“A soldier and a brigadier… forced us to go to work in the morning. If someone didn’t go…. after 10 days the Germans would come and shoot him,” he said.
“I also witnessed the executions „, he said.
“We have a duty to tell our children that, eight decades ago, children like them were condemned by Romanian authorities to death, starvation, cold and disease,” Mr Muraru said.
“We have a duty to tell students in Romania that the state administration from 1940-1944, in the name of a criminal ideology, facilitated and implemented the persecution and extermination of Roma through enslavement and misery “, he added.
„We have a moral duty to say that the Roma men, who were fighting for the country, were taken out of the Army to be sent to Trans-Dniester which was directly governed by the Romanian military and administrative authorities.”
The Elie Wiesel International Committee for the Study of the Holocaust published a report in 2004 in which it said Romanian authorities were responsible for the deaths of 280,000 to 380,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma from 1940 to 1944 during World War II.
Romania has a national strategy with “funding and clear deadlines for preventing and combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, radicalization and hate speech,” the statement said.