WASHINGTON –The U.S. Helsinki Commission welcomed the Polish Parliament’s adoption today (July 29) of a resolution recognizing Romani victims of Nazi genocide and establishing August 2 as a remembrance day in Poland. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski will participate in a remembrance event at Auschwitz on the 2nd.
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission said, “The vicious racism that led to the Nazi genocide against Roma seven decades ago continues to foster hatred and hate crimes against Roma. Recognizing, teaching, and remembering that painful history in a most dignified, solemn way is a critical part of combating bigotry against Roma today.”
“Throughout the OSCE region, including the United States, there is a crying need to better research, document, and convey information about the genocide of Roma,” added Senator Ben Cardin (MD), the Commission’s Co-Chairman. “This month, I met with Father Patrick Desbois whose efforts documenting 800 WWII-mass grave sites in Ukraine and other areas has included the identification of 48 mass grave sites Roma. I commend him for this important work.”
Smith noted that even basic information about the Holocaust is sometimes incorrectly represented. “It is an historical error when news agencies reporting about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi German-occupied Poland call it a ‘Polish concentration camp.’”
Cardin concluded by expressing regret that Germany has thus far failed to complete work on a memorial for Romani victims. “Last year, I wrote to the German Minister of Culture regarding long-delayed efforts to build a memorial in Berlin for Romani victims of the genocide. There has been negligible progress on that effort, and I hope the German government will exercise greater leadership to get this memorial built.”
During the Holocaust, approximately 23,000 Romani people were killed at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp from many countries in Europe. Many Romani children died as the result of medical experiments performed by the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele; others died from starvation, disease, and abuse. On the night of August 2-3, 1944, the “Zigeunerlager” (“Gypsy camp”) was liquidated and 2,897 Romani men, women, and children were killed in the gas chambers. The total number of Romani people murdered during the war is conservatively estimated at 500,000.
Poland recognizes January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, as Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United States delegation to the commemoration event at Auschwitz on August 2 will include Ambassador Ian Kelly, Head of Delegation to the OSCE, and Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Douglas Davidson.