Maribor – A ceremony was held in Maribor on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on Tuesday in memory of the Nazi genocide against the Roma and Sinti. As part of the event entitled The Night When Violins Went Silent, French documentary The Forgotten Genocide was screened, and a ceremony will also be held in Murska Sobota on Wednesday.
Addressing the event at the Maribor Synagogue, Deputy Mayor Alenka Iskra said such memorial events were important to keep the memory of various wrongs alive.
This is particularly important in a time when the rhetoric and behaviour of some is dangerously reminiscent of what happened eight decades ago, she said. “It is unacceptable that despite all the warnings and memorial events people have still not taken this in and some continue to spread intolerance and do not acknowledge those who are different,” Iskra stressed.
A representative of the younger generation of the Roma community in Maribor, Amanda Fetahi, said the events that happened during the Second World War were very sad. “Many things are different now and we all have equal rights, but unfortunately similar things are still happening in some places.
“I personally do not feel discrimination, but I meet people who say it is happening to them,” she said.
She noted that the education system in Slovenia did not offer much information about Roma history, so younger generations of the Roma mostly draw this information from their parents or grandparents, or the internet. “But unfortunately, young Roma are not very aware of their past,” she said.
Marjetka Bedrač from the Maribor Synagogue said most Roma communities in Europe had abandoned the nomadic way of life before the Second World War, but their way of life was still considered slightly immoral and not in line with the norms of the majority population.
“Although the Nazis recognised their Indo-European descent, they labelled them as a deficient race that needed to be exterminated,” she said.
On the eve of 2 August 1944, the most Roma were killed at once when the Zigeunerlager, or “Gypsy Camp”, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was destroyed in a move that killed more than 3,000 Roma women, children and elderly people.
In total, 21,000 Roma people from 14 countries died at the camp. From Slovenia, 71 died there and another six in other camps.
Latest estimates put the number of Roma victims of Nazi violence at half a million, with some estimates pointing to a million or a million and a half victims. The Roma as an ethnic group were the second largest victim of Nazi violence, right after Jews.