WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) lauded unanimous passage in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday of S. Res.124, the first official acknowledgement by Congress of the genocide of the Romani people by the Nazis. The resolution, first authored by Cardin and Wicker in 2019 and reintroduced last year, also honors the history, culture and heritage of the estimated one million Romani people in the United States. It also commends the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for its work promoting awareness of the Roma genocide.
“Romani people have been part of every wave of European migration to the United States since colonial times, and have settled in every region of the country, so it is inconceivable that today, 2022, is the first time Congress has recognized their incredibly rich history, culture and heritage,” said Senator Cardin, who is a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council. “Senator Wicker and I first introduced this resolution with the intent of shedding light on the many ways Romani Americans enrich the fabric of our nation, recognize a deadly chapter in Romani history, and, importantly, shine a light on the ongoing discrimination Roma face on both sides of the Atlantic. I believe more should be done to teach about Romani experiences during the Holocaust and in modern times.”
“The Romani people are an important part of the American story, and they have proven resilient in the face of historic mistreatment,” Senator Wicker said. “This measure would raise awareness about their experience during the evils of the Holocaust. Remembering the past is essential to building a better future.”
The Romani people have faced centuries of discrimination in both Europe and the United States. Though we have taken inspiration from their art and culture, Roma have been categorically excluded from many modern societies. During the Holocaust, the Romani people were subject to genocide at the hands of Nazi soldiers; it is estimated that anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 Roma lost their lives during this time. On the night of August 2-3, 1994, 4,200 Romani men, women, and children were murdered during the liquidation of the Romani camp at Auschwitz. This date is now formally recognized as a day of commemoration by the European Union and other countries. April 8, the date of the first World Romani Congress in 1971, is now recognized as International Romani Day.
The Cardin-Wicker resolution commends the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for its work in promoting remembrance of the Holocaust and educating about the genocide of Roma. USHMM welcomed the introduction of this resolution last year, observing, “House and Senate passage will help raise awareness about the history of the Romani people, the richness of Romani culture, and to unequivocally reject the dehumanization of Roma and any violence directed against their communities.”
The text of the resolution can be found below and at this link.
S. Res 124
Celebrating the heritage of Romani Americans.
Whereas the Romani people trace their ancestry to the Indian subcontinent;
Whereas Roma have been a part of European immigration to the United States since the colonial period and particularly following the abolition of the enslavement of Roma in the historic Romanian principalities;
Whereas Roma live across the world and throughout the United States;
Whereas the Romani people have made distinct and important contributions in many fields, including agriculture, art, crafts, literature, medicine, military service, music, sports, and science;
Whereas, on April 8, 1971, the First World Romani Congress met in London, bringing Roma together from across Europe and the United States with the goal of promoting transnational cooperation among Roma in combating social marginalization and building a positive future for Roma everywhere;
Whereas April 8 is therefore celebrated globally as International Roma Day;
Whereas Roma were victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany and its Axis partners, and an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Romani people were killed by Nazis and their allies across Europe during World War II;
Whereas, on the night of August 2–3, 1944, the so-called “Gypsy Family Camp” where Romani people were interned at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liquidated, and in a single night, between 4,200 and 4,300 Romani men, women, and children were killed in gas chambers;
Whereas many countries are taking positive steps to remember and teach about the genocide of Roma by Nazi Germany and its Axis partners; and
Whereas the United States Congress held its first hearing to examine the situation of Roma in 1994: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) remembers the genocide of Roma by Nazi Germany and its Axis partners and commemorates the destruction of the “Gypsy Family Camp” where Romani people were interned at Auschwitz;
(2) commends the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for its role in promoting remembrance of the Holocaust and educating about the genocide of Roma;
(3) supports International Roma Day as an opportunity to honor the culture, history, and heritage of the Romani people in the United States as part of the larger Romani global diaspora; and
(4) welcomes the Department of State’s participation in ceremonies and events celebrating International Roma Day and similar engagement by the United States Government.