Ladies and gentlemen,
The International Romani Union is most grateful for the invitation to
participate in this conference. We are grateful above all to the government
and the people of United States of America who have made it possible for
the historical truth of the around 12 million Romanies be heard, the truth
of a people which the Nazis planned to completely exterminate, as too they
planned to eliminate the Jews. Receiving the opportunity to participate
in this conference also moves us to express our gratitude to our brothers
and sisters to whom we are linked by historical fate, the Jews, whose systematic
study of the Holocaust has contributed to keeping alive the memory of our
In contrast to the Enlightenment, whose most learned representatives,
Denis Diderot and Jean d'Alambert, gave humanity the encyclopedia, a compendium
of all the scholarship, social and artistic experience of the time, our
age has seen the creation of an “Encyclopedia of the Holocaust“! The sufferings
and the anguish of my people, the Romanies, and the half a million Romanies
murdered in Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Buchenwald,
Dachau, Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Jasenovac etc. occupy significantly
more space in this encyclopedia, an encyclopedia of death, than do the
entries in contemporary general encyclopedia on my people's history, social
life and culture from our origins through until today. My people's entire
history and current way of life are literally overshadowed by our better
documented and more comprehensively researched “way of death”. This trail
of death and suffering began in Dachau in 1934 and led via Marzahn near
Berlin (where in 1936 during the Berlin Olympics a camp with a cynical
name “Resting Place” was set up specially for Sinti and Romanies) all the
way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and so-called “Gypsy Camp” B II e. Christian
Bernardae describes in his book “Vergessener Holocaust” (Forgotten Holocaust)
how 4,000 Sinti and Romanies were sent to Crematorium no. 1 there in just
one night, from the 2nd to the 3rd of August 1944.
On the 3rd of August 1994 the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the
Romanies’ extermination was marked in Auschwitz. Assembled there at the
place of our mothers’ and fathers’ suffering, we received letters from
the President of Poland, Lech Walesa, from the President of Czech Republic,
Václav Havel, and also from Pope John Paul II. The message of the
Pope read as follows:
Together with all the participants of the commemoration in
Auschwitz I kneel down, deeply moved and in defense, at the place which
holds the ashes of the Nazi's genocide. In particular, remember the tragic
fate of the Gypsies, our sisters and brothers, who were interned in the
concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. I have done this many times as Metropolitan
Bishop of Kraków, and today I do it as Pope.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I contemplate the history of my people an image of Simon Luis appears
before me. Simon Luis was a Romani from France interned in the concentration
camp in Buchenwald. Simon was tattooed over much over his body – on his
fingers, his back, his arms and hands. When the Commandant noticed this
he ordered that Simon be flayed alive. The English Holocaust researchers,
Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxton, describe how Simon's skin was removed
from his body, treated, and then used to cover the Commandant's desk. When
I try to imagine the tattooed signs and symbols on that poor man's skin
I always arrive at the conclusion that the history of my people is in fact
like the skin of that martyr.
To respect the historical truth I also must mention another incident
from the long series of sufferings and sorrows of my people. In a group
of people who Dr. Mengele was conducting experiments on were two Sinti
children, the Mechau brothers. These children were selected out to suffer
for the simple “reason” that, following an interplay of the laws of genetics
each had one blue eye and one dark eye - a case of so-called heterochromia.
It is told that Dr. Mengele pulled out the children's eyes and then killed
them single-handedly. The eyes of these martyrs, which will remain open
as long as we exist on this planet, and which I feel are also watching
us here at this conference, were sent to the laboratory of the Ophtalmological
Clinic in Berlin.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is no scale on which to measure the eyes and the screams of children!
Never will there be scales to weight human skin with tattooed signs and
symbols. There is no gauge for the ashes and the blood of Auschwitz.
Truth and justice are the only measure of things.
For my people, however, truth and justice have passed us by.
My people did not suffer only under the Nazi regime – in various countries
Communist dictatorship also took a terrible toll: Romanies were murdered
in the Stalin era in the former USSR; in Romania under Ceausescu they were
brutally persecuted; in former Czechoslovakia Romani women were forcibly
sterilized … A new, dark chapter in the history of the Romanies began in
1989: there were anti-Romani pogroms in Romania; in the Czech Republic
and in Slovakia Romanies were beaten up and killed; in former Yugoslavia
there was suffering on a massive scale, particularly in Bosnia. My people
have gone down in history for its suffering, and only as such. Its survival,
its naked physical existence, bears the imprint of death, suffering and
anguish much more indelibly than it shows any signs of progressive legislation,
social justice or democracy. The historical knowledge about my people's
past and the facts of its current life stir in me the words of the Spanish
poet Antonio Marchado y Ruiz:
Sing him a song, dear brother
If it is true that all those who suffer and die for their truth are united
with God and humanity, that they become a cornerstone of the future buildings
of humanity which after all the anguish and blunders will finally be erected
on earth in keeping with principles of humanity, that would at least be
a consolation to us. We expect of this conference that it open our people
the door to justice. What our people deserve, in keeping with the laws
of historical truth and justice, must be utilized to serve its progressive
activity and social development.
the Gypsy Jesus is still waiting
to have the blood washed from his hands
to be taken from the cross!
Only those who know the history of the Romanies, who have studied the
Romani community, and who recognize the current economic, political and
social conditions and circumstances which the Romanies live under in various
countries of the world – particularly in Europe, where the Romanies’ Holocaust
and that of the Jews began – can contribute to this progress. Whoever neglects
these facts and circumstances could cause unforeseeable damage to the Romanies
and our community, which in itself is segmentary and is still based on
organic solidarity. Redistribution must therefore be carried out in harmony
with historical awareness and real needs, and must be as fair as possible.
Priority should be given to investment in the Romanies’ future, above all
the schooling and education of the younger generation; furthermore, it
has to serve the construction of ethnic and cultural institutions which
will guarantee the preservation of the Romanies’ identity but also contribute
to our development. Institutions, which will enable us to effectively combat
racism in the contemporary world, will also be of significance. Parallel
to this the economic and social problems of the many Romani families have
to be resolved.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today our people are faced with grave dangers, beginning with the armed
injustice in the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia, the violence and the threats
of neo-Nazis, and including the fact that they are forced to live in ghettos,
without enough daily bread, which is a negation of every purposeful existence
in this world. Thus for us Romanies the future has not yet been freed from
the past, nor has the past been resolved on the scale of a humane future;
our people have still seen neither victory nor defeat – we are living proof
of the fact that in the countries of both the victors and the vanquished
of the Second World War people are still tormented and humiliated. Like
no other people in the world we have been left with the burdens of life
– all that is hard, meager and cheerless. Even our children are born, so
to speak, with pre-determined dark fates. Those who deprive our children
of the right to a future commit a crime against our people.
Myself and the members of the International Romani Union's delegation
... appeal to this high and respected conference and request that, in the
spirit of historical truth and justice and in accordance with the word
and the notion “holocaust”, it make a contribution towards resolving these
problems, which will allow our dead to rest in peace and will give a sign
of hope to the living, especially our children. Those who feel the sufferings
and misfortune of our people and who sympathize with the pain will be able
to set up standards of justice and fair redistribution simply and easily.
Those, on the other hand, who neither know of nor understand the Holocaust
of our people, who do not want to hear of the Romanies’ misfortune, will
be prepared to walk all over these principles, our dead, and the future
of our people.
Together with the delegates of the International Romani Union I hope
– and am even deeply convinced – that this high and eminent conference
will effectively hinder and repulse any potential attempt of this kind,
whichever quarters it comes from.
In hope that the memory of the victims of the Holocaust will live eternally
and the hopes of the living will never falter, I sincerely thank you all
for your attention.