President Klaus Iohannis on Sunday has described the brutal murder of Roma during the Holocaust and says Romania was also responsible for killing Roma during the Nazi occupation.
“Almost half a million children, women and Roma men were killed during the Nazi occupation of Europe,” Iohannis said in a message to mark European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.
“On the orders of Romanian dictator and Nazi ally Ion Antonescu, 25,000 Roma were deported to Trans-Dniester and 11,000 Roma lost their lives,” he said.
“It was unimaginable pain and an irreparable loss with many dying of disease, cold and hunger,” Iohannis said.
“It was without doubt, an act of systematic and deliberate murder.”
Three weeks ago, Iohannis signed off on a law that officially makes August 2 the National Day to Commemorate the Holocaust against Roma.
On August 2, 1944, 2,897 Roma at the so-called “Zigeunerlager” (Gypsy camp), men, women and children were rounded up and murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It would take Europe decades to recognize the Roma Holocaust. In 2001, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum opened a permanent exhibition on the Roma and Sinti, and August 2 was commemorated as an unofficial day of remembrance there until 2015, when it finally gained official recognition
“Discriminated against, humiliated, denied their rights, excluded from society, and in the end killed, Roma were the victims of a criminal regime characterized by racism, discrimination, terror, propaganda, persecution and rights’ violations”
“With pain we admit some perpetrators were Romanian,” Iohannis said.
“The genocide against the Roma is often ignored and barely studied,” he said, adding it should be studied in schools and publicly debated.
“Taking responsibility for the Holocaust and the atrocities that happened in that period we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.”
Michelle Kelso, Assistant Professor George Washington University, expressed similar sentiments in comments made to universul.net.
“The Nazi genocide against Roma is unfortunately still understudied and infrequently taught,” she said.
“Roma face continued discrimination and racism throughout Europe, and are often targets of extremist movements that harbor xenophobic hatreds similar to those of the Nazis,” she added.
“The commemoration date of 2-3 August helps us to remember that Roma are European citizens whose history must be remembered and taught,” professor Keslo said.
There were about 665,000 Roma in Romania according to the last census in 2011, although the number is believed to be much higher.
Roma suffer widespread prejudice in Romania. Politicians and other public figures sometimes associate them with stealing, child exploitation and trafficking.
But Iohannis said he also believed Romania was a regional model for recognizing the Holocaust and had fully taken responsibility for the dark past and learned that lesson of the sacred promise that such atrocities should never happen again.”
In October 2019, Iohannis gave the green light for the creation of the country’s first national Holocaust museum in Bucharest in a move to create more public awareness of what happened during World War II.
Romania has also banned fascist, racist and xenophobic organizations and symbols.
Up to 380,000 Jews were killed in Romanian-controlled territories during World War II and 11,000 Roma, according to Yad Vashem — The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
Iohannis, a pro-European centrist, said Europe was facing “a series of crises which could undermine our fundamental values.”
“Populism, extremism, racism, xenophobia, and Holocaust denial are growing in a threatening way.”
“It is our duty to defend human rights and promote respect for the law, tolerance and togetherness, and equal treatment of people regardless of their racial or ethnic origins.”,
“Education and study of the Holocaust are essential for the health of our democracy.”