Phiren Amenca

Phiren Amenca holds a twenty-four-hour commemoration in Budapest on Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day

Press release, July 26. 2020.

This year, RGDTS-Phiren Amenca commemorates those persons of Roma origin who were killed in the massacre, on occasion of August 2, that is commemorated on the International Day of Remembrance for the Roma Victims of the Holocaust. Our public memorial event is based on cooperation between a number of civil society organisations and will take place on August 1, 2020 from 5 pm to 2 August at 5 pm on the Nehru bank in Budapest, in front of the Roma Holocaust Memorial.

Public figures, artists, Roma and non-Roma youth and activists, NGOs and representatives of religious communities and minorities living in Hungary will read the names of more than twelve thousand Roma victims one by one, without interruption. To close our commemoration, civilians, NGOs, official and embassy representatives will place flowers and wreaths in front of the monument on August 2 from 5 p.m.

Phiren Amenca International Network has joined every year since 2010 the Dikh He Na Bister (Look and Don’t forget) youth event in Krakow and Auschwitz Birkenau, attended regularly by more than 500 Roma and non-Roma young people. In 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the International Day of Remembrance for the Roma Victims of the Holocaust, nearly 1,000 young people attended the event. This year, due to the coronavirus epidemic, our one-week international event in Poland will not take place, but on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Dikh He Na Bister series of events, Phiren Amenca and ternYpe partners are preparing for online and offline commemorations at national levels.

One of the central flagship events of this European series of events will be the 24-hour commemoration of Budapest, in which hundreds of citizens will take an active, participatory role.

Phiren Amenca’s belief is that reading the names of the victims is a symbolic yet very significant way of commemorating their lives. Holocaust victims have no graves or headstones, but mentioning their names provides an opportunity to remember them individually. We often use simple statistics about our fellow human beings destroyed in genocides, but large numbers (6 million, 500 thousand, 11 million, 23 thousand …) are difficult for most people to interpret and comprehend. However, we believe that by speaking their names, we can get closer to an emotional understanding of Nazi terror: in our minds we connect faces and destinies to names and thus inevitably bring to the surface human, deep feelings that affect us in connection with these gruesome events.

Regardless of race, gender, and nationality, we must remember the Roma victims of the Holocaust for posterity. We must remember that human beings, individuals, fathers, mothers, children, siblings were murdered because of their origins, and we must remember them as persons, not as mere numbers!

During the reading, the names of nearly 12,000 Roma victims (or fragments of these, as not everyone has a complete identity) will be uttered. This list is only a fraction of the 500,000-1.5 Roma who were victims of the Nazi persecution during World War II.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Roma Holocaust, in 2014, in a joint declaration issued at the Krakow Conference, we asked the Member States of the European Union and the European Parliament to recognize the anniversary of the Roma Holocaust as 2 August. At its plenary session on 15 April 2015, the EP stated in a resolution that the Roma Holocaust during the Second World War was a historical fact. To date, however, only 5 Member States have done the same (Hungary, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania). We consider it essential that all the Member States of the Union declare 2 August to be the official day of remembrance of the Roma Holocaust and to make Roma history and the Roma Holocaust a compulsory part of the curriculum.

The lack of research and detailed knowledge of the Roma Holocaust is the result of the centuries-old antigypsyism that is still accepted in European societies. Antigypsyism, exclusion and extreme rhetoric are still commonplace in Europe and Hungary today, so we consider it particularly important to illustrate where it has led and can lead.

This year, with our 24-hour reading broadcast live on social media, we want to show how many innocent people, including many, many children, have fallen victim to Nazism and extremist ideology. The hatred of Roma did not end in 1945, so we want to show that it is time to commit to ending and to eradicate antigypsyism at the national and international level and make this effort part of official policies.  Our commemoration shows the broad commitment from civilians and NGOs and we hope that in this way it will find many followers.

Symbolically, the last readings on occasion of our extraordinary commemoration of holocaust victims killed because of their Roma origin, will be given jointly by Ágnes Daróczi, one of the greatest leaders of Roma cultural and remembrance policy and Slomó Köves, Chief Rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH).

“According to the Jewish religion, remembering is the duty of all. The Bible repeatedly calls on us to “Remember!”. I am convinced that the eternally memory of the horrors of the holocaust can only be maintained and the message of never again repeating the most horrible events of the last century can only be preserved if the process of learning about and experiencing our painful past provides a common catharsis for all. In this way, remembrance can enrich the Jewish and non-Jewish community alike with insights. This requires sincere encounters, with each other and with everyone who has been forced to experience pains unimaginable to us. The current common commemoration of the Roma victims of the Holocaust will help this process of communal catharsis,” said Slomó Köves, Chief Rabbi of EMIH on occasion of the commemoration.

Following the reading of the names of our fellow human beings who were destroyed in the former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, on 5 August 2020 from 5 pm, representatives of NGOs and public figures will bow their heads in memory of the victims.