31 July 2009 – On the occasion of the 65th anniversary, on August 2nd, of the liquidation of the so-called Gypsy camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where about 2,900 Sinti and Roma were murdered in one night, the Roma rights organisation Chachipe called on political leaders and civil society representatives to combat anti-Gypsyism. “Almost sixty five years after the victory over National Socialism, anti-Gypsyism is still vibrant and indeed resurging. Economic crisis and the deepening of social cleavages offer a favourable ground for all kind of demagogues who exploit and stir up traditional fears and hatred against Roma,” the organisation said.
Chachipe expressed serious concerns regarding the recent adoption, in Italy and other countries, of political measures which either implicitly or explicitly target Roma. It blamed the European Union for its political double talk, insisting on human and minority rights in the context of the pre-accession negotiations and in the relations with its neighbours, but failing to impose the same standards in its midst.
“The re-emergence of an increasingly aggressive and violent racism and nationalism in Europe is extremely worrying,” Chachipe said. Chachipe is afraid that the presence of nationalist and neofascist parties in the parliaments will lead to a progressive acceptance of these phenomena which could then spill over into other domains of politics. “Already today we have, for instance, police units specialising in so-called Gypsy crime, and nobody worries. Roma are segregated behind iron curtains or otherwise isolated from the remaining population, and no one notices the similarity with the past,” the organisation said.
For Chachipe there is a clear link between the present treatment of the Roma and the “collective amnesia” of the destiny of the Roma under National-Socialism. “Among the victims of National-Socialism, Roma continue to occupy a pariah status,” the organisation said. According to Chachipe there is still a tendency to play down the extent of suffering of Europe’s Roma population during WWII with reference to the alleged smaller number of victims and the reasons for their persecution where the genocidal intention of the Nationalsocialists towards Roma is sometimes still denied.
In this context, Chachipe reiterated its criticism against the policies of forcible repatriation of Kosovo Roma refugees in Germany and in other countries. The organisation reminded that Kosovo has been the scene of organised pogroms against Roma in 1999 and in 2004. “There have been other pogroms, most notably in Romania, but never did this happen on the scale of an entire region as it did in Kosovo,” the organisation said. “Kosovo’s political leaders have failed to recognise the persecution of Kosovo’s Roma population; Roma are still considered as Serb collaborators by large parts of the Kosovo Albanian population,” Chachipe said. “Instead of this, they consistently speak about the “new reality” in Kosovo, a reality which is built on the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo of its Roma.” The organisation added that the Roma who are forcibly returned to Kosovo are doomed to a life in misery and fears of persecution.
Chachipe called on the majority population to return Roma their dignity. “Roma are not the eternal nomads who are happily roaming on their way, incapable to lead what is considered as a conventional life,” the organisation said. It said that Roma continue to be excluded on the basis of the same prejudices which brought their ancestors to the death camps. “This is what makes the remembrance of the past so important,” Chachipe concluded, hoping that the experience of the past could serve as a warning for future generations.