Strasbourg, 2 August 2016: With a minute of silence at noon beside the Holocaust memorial stone in front of the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, the European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF) remembered more than 3,000 Roma exterminated by the German Nazis during the night of 2-3 August 1944 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
"Today, it is time for every nation to stand up to say WE WILL REMEMBER so that it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. We will not allow any excuse of anti-Gypsyism in our countries. We will not allow any form of prejudice to disrupt the multi-faith democracy we are so proud to call our biggest value,” said Miranda Vuolasranta, ERTF’s President.
Joined by the Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ambassador Katrin Kivi, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the Council of Europe and Nawel Rafik‑Elmrini, Deputy Mayor of Strasbourg, the ERTF President expressed concern over The Roma continued struggle for justice and for recognition of their place in the history books as victims of the Nazi regime.
Remembering the Holocaust is the key - to fighting modern day racism and intolerance. It means a commitment to valuing human beings, their dignity and their rights. Remembering is not enough; laws, which protect the dignity and rights of human beings, have to follow. That was the logic of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that is the logic of ensuring the principles of equality and non-discrimination within basic laws or constitutions. In the same way, law enforcement tools must be applied effectively to prevent or punish violent manifestations of racist and extremist ideologies. The Council of Europe, as the Human Rights Organisation is playing the key role in developing strategies and actively defending these values.
The ERTF organised “The Forgotten Voices Conference “conference in April this year in Romania. This two-day conference was dedicated to the Roma victims of the Holocaust and aimed to achieve both the official and international recognition of the Genocide of the Roma, as well as improve the knowledge and teaching of the Roma Genocide in schools and amongst the wider public. As a result of the conference Guidelines on the Steps towards Achieving Official Recognition of Anti-Gypsyism and on Promoting Remembrance and the Teaching of Roma History in Schools was produced.
Ms Vuolasranta invited the International Organisations and in particular the member States of the CoE to make the most of it and put in practice the suggestions listed in that document.
We must all work to close the empathy gap in our world today, where most of us ignore or dismiss the legitimate grievances of others.