“Forgotten victims”: Glasgow set for historic Roma Holocaust commemoration

02/08/2016
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Roma Society Scotland prepares for historic ceremony as community continues to face persecution

SCOTTISH ROMA representatives have called for greater historical understanding ahead of Scotland’s first remembrance service for the victims of the Nazi genocide against the Roma people.

The service, which will take place at Govan Hill Trinity Church tonight (Tuesday 2 August), will feature commemorative poetry readings, speeches about the Roma Holocaust, and the singing of the Roma national anthem in a service designed to draw attention to historic crimes against the Roma, and to foster understanding of the persecuted community.

Speaking to CommonSpace ahead of the service, Iliya Shterev of Roma Society Scotland (RSS) said that the Roma community had been systematically ignored in the history of Nazi crimes.

“We cannot be remembered just as ‘others’, as other victims of the Holocaust,” he said. “We don’t want to disrespect the Jews, we remember them on International Holocaust Remembrance day.

“But 2 August is the international day of remembrance for Roma victims of the Holocaust. The true number of dead will never be known. They are the forgotten victims.”

During the Second World War, anywhere between 250,000 and 1.5 million Roma were killed by the Nazis and their allies. The exact number killed in the Roma Holocaust, or Porajmos, is difficult to estimate, because of the prejudice faced by the ethnic group across the European continent before the war and the reluctance of countries to maintain accurate information on their Roma populations.

Read: Holocaust remembrance: Scottish activists speak out against today's racism

The event is being organised by the RSS, which is welcoming people from across Glasgow’s diverse communities to attend the event in order to spread awareness of the “forgotten victims” of the Porajmos. The Roma rights group believes it will be the first full remembrance service for victims of the Porajmos in Scotland.

“As far as we know, this is the first Roma Holocaust remembrance service of its kind,” Shterev said.

“We are making history. But next years event will be even bigger and eventually we want a proper memorial stone in Scotland.”

Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime systematically murdered 11 million people it considered racial and social undesirables, including six million Jews, and millions of leftwing political activists, trade unionists, LGBT people and the disabled.

However, the murder of as many as one and a half million Roma has not received the same attention as other persecuted groups. Shterev believes this is to do with lingering prejudice towards the community, which still lives in poverty and without access to many public facilities across Europe.

He said that it is important contemporary Scotland understand the history of the Roma people in order to understand their enduring problems.

“People from various walks of life are coming to the service,” he said.

“There are 4,000 to 5,000 Roma in Scotland. It is important people understand where we come from, because we are still being persecuted to this day.”

Picture courtesy of Facebook

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