Daily Israel Report

Gypsies to Join Jews for Holocaust Commemorations

For the first time, an official delegation of Gypsies from Europe will participate in Holocaust Memorial Day events
By David Lev
First Publish: 4/12/2012, 4:48 PM

Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum
Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum
courtesy of Yad Vashem

A delegation of Gypsies from Europe will participate in commemorations to be held on Holocaust Memorial Day this year. This will be the first time that an official delegation of the European Romani Union (ERU), which represents members of the Gypsy/Romani community in the EU, will participate in Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations in Israel.

Roman Kwiatkowski, Chairman of Poland's Romanies' Association, a member group of the ERU, said that it was most appropriate that the group participate in official Holocaust Commemoration Day events. In a statement announcing the delegation's visit, Kwiatkowski said that Jews and Gypsies/Roma had both shared the same fate in Nazi Europe, as the Nazis sought to exterminate both communities. The Nazis managed to destroy half of Europe's Gypsy/Roma population, he said – a total of at least some 500,000 people, and as many as 1.5 million, by some estimates. More than 90% of the Czech Gypsy/Roma community were murdered.

The delegation will include representatives of the Gypsy/Roma community from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Slovakia.

In a recent address at a memorial event for the Gypsy/Roma community that took place at Auschwitz, Kwiatkowski recounted his experiences as a child of Holocaust survivors. “I came here with my mother,” continued Kwiatkowski, “and I can still remember two things: the crumbling monument and my mother sobbing uncontrollably. I understood very little back then, I could not comprehend the symbolism of this place and the magnitude of the tragedy and suffering connected with it. However, I subconsciously felt how important it was, and concluding from its condition, how forgotten it must have been. A sense of mission was born in me then. From the beginning of my activity as a grown-up man and an activist for the Romani community, my aim has been to refill this place with proper meaning and importance,” he said.