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Remembrance ceremonies held on Roma Holocaust Memorial Day

CANDLES were lit yesterday to remember the hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people murdered by the Nazis as well as to highlight the ongoing persecution of nomadic communities. 

August 2 was the 77th Roma Holocaust Memorial Day which marks the horrific events of 1944, when 2,897 men, women and children of Roma or Sinti origin were murdered in the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti people — the only other racial minority alongside the Jewish community targeted in the “final solution” — were killed in total by the Nazi regime and its allies. 

Many more were imprisoned, used as slave labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.

Marking the day, Traveller Movement CEO Yvonne McNmara said: “Roma Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to for us to collectively grieve the victims of the Romany genocide. 

“As we light candles to remember those who lost their lives to supremacist violence in our past, it is important we remain mindful of Roma, Sinti, Gyspy and Traveller communities who continue to face institutional discrimination and racism in the present.”

MPs on the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma said in statement: “We must make efforts to look back and not forget the acts of prejudice and intolerance which led to the Holocaust.

“In tribute to all those who lost their lives, we must work together to ensure that we live in a society free from persecution. Together, we must take a stand against racism.” 

Campaigners also highlighted the continued persecution of Roma communities throughout Europe, including the recent killing of Roma man Stanislav Toma by Czech police, and the British government’s policing Bill. 

Writing in the Morning Star, Romany journalist Jake Bowers warned that the hostile environment experienced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities has been “cranked up” in Britain. 

“Priti Patel’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill not only limits the right to protest, but also seeks to completely outlaw nomadic Gypsy and Traveller culture,” he wrote.

Mr Bower said that direct parallels have been drawn between the proposed legislation and state violence against Romany populations in Nazi Germany, where nomadic life was outlawed before the setting up of the death camps. 

The Bill seeks to criminalise trespass, giving police the power to seize Gypsy and Traveller homes and issue fines.

An online event, organised by the Drive2Survive coalition, will be held on this evening to mark the day, featuring speakers from GTR and anti-racism groups. 

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