ODIHR Director Link and IHRA Chair Constantinescu, on day to commemorate genocide against Roma and Sinti, say greater efforts needed to protect endangered memorial sites and ensure dignity of victims

WARSAW / BUCHAREST, 2 August 2016 – Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), called today for greater efforts to protect endangered memorial sites related to the Roma and Sinti genocide during World War II.

Speaking on the occasion of the commemoration of the liquidation of the “Gypsy family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, when the close to 3,000 remaining Roma and Sinti in the camp were murdered, they stressed that states have to do more to demonstrate their sincere and strong commitment to education about and remembrance of the genocide.

“Positively, we have seen increasing attention in recent years on the part of OSCE participating States to commemorate the Roma and Sinti genocide, and to educate people about this horrible event. This practice and these experiences should be widely shared and replicated,” Director Link said. “Promoting understanding of the Holocaust and its effect on different communities can help to create empathy and promote equality and non-discrimination for all.”

“Accurate and ethical education about the Holocaust includes the respectful and dignified preservation of memorial sites,” said Ambassador Constantinescu. “States have to take resolute action to protect endangered memorial sites and continue to do more to commemorate the Roma and Sinti victims. The history of these endangered sites should be included as part of broader efforts to educate about the consequences of indifference to racism.”

They called on governments to ensure that endangered memorial sites for Roma and Sinti victims are preserved and protected, to include this history as an integral part of civic and human rights education in their countries. They stressed that current developments, including a disturbing rise in xenophobic public rhetoric and racism, mean it is even more essential to build strong alliances among different communities.

In 2003, with the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area, the OSCE participating States committed themselves to strengthen education about the Roma and Sinti genocide. Through its Contact Point for Roma and Sinti Issues, ODIHR promotes knowledge about and recognition of the plight of Roma and Sinti during the Holocaust to counter present-day discrimination and racism, and to promote tolerance. According to ODIHR’s recent publication Teaching about and Commemorating the Roma and Sinti Genocide: Practices within the OSCE Area, seven OSCE participating States officially commemorate the Roma and Sinti genocide on 2 August, while a larger number of states commemorate the Roma and Sinti victims on the International Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is an inter-governmental organization and the foremost international network of political leaders and professionals advancing and shaping Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Its 31 member countries are committed to the tenets of the Stockholm Declaration. The IHRACommittee on the Genocide of the Roma aims to increase the commitment of IHRA Member Countries to educate, research and commemorate the genocide of the Roma.