On May 31, 2022, in partnership with the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University (FXB Center), the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) launched a research report entitled The Roma Holocaust/Roma Genocide in Southeastern Europe: Between Oblivion, Acknowledgment, and Distortion.
The report is the result of a year-long research project – Countering Distortion of the Genocide of the Roma in Southeastern Europe – A Key Element for Developing Anti-Racism Strategies and Anti-Discrimination Policies and Practices – supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – IHRA, the Council of Europe/ Directorate of Anti-Discrimination – Roma and Travellers Team, and the Regional Cooperation Council/ Roma Integration 2020.
The event was moderated by Dr. Gabriela Ghindea, Director of AIPG’s Mediterranean Basin Program (MBP), and Dr. Margareta Matache, Director of the Roma Program at the Harvard FXB Center. The conversation featured select experts that participated in this initiative and shared their experiences and learnings during the research endeavor.
The history of Samudaripen or Porajmos (the Romani genocide) remains a peripheral theme in Holocaust and genocide studies. Only a limited number of publications and projects have comparatively analyzed the history of Roma during WWII in Southeastern Europe. Moreover, to date, no national or intergovernmental bodies have issued any texts that specifically recognize, define, or sanction the denial and distortion of Samudaripen/Porajmos. Stakeholders have for decades ignored or sidelined the legal relevance of defining and addressing denial and distortion, thereby enabling various manifestations of anti-Roma racism. This regional project thus constitutes an innovative endeavor in the field.
Through this research, carried out in eleven countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia – AIPG and the FXB Center developed a comparative study that assesses the current level of knowledge regarding the Roma Genocide in the Southeastern European public sphere, mapping patterns of distortion and their subsequent instrumentalization in discrimination and scapegoating processes targeting Roma people.
The regional report offers synoptic knowledge that spotlights Southeastern European Roma in the Holocaust and WWII history. Furthermore, it provides relevant stakeholders with expertise and recommendations to develop historically informed anti-discrimination initiatives and measures to counteract genocide distortion and prevent racial discrimination as well as identity-based violence.
The Roma Holocaust/Roma Genocide in Southeastern Europe report is based on intensive cross-sectoral and transnational cooperation. It aims to contribute to debates in different fora around the importance of addressing Roma’s often hidden history in Southeastern Europe as well as the danger of Holocaust distortion in connection with the lingering practice of anti-Roma racism in this region.
The report’s main findings illustrate that in the past several decades, some States, civil society organizations, and scholars have made great strides in increasing awareness and knowledge about the Roma Genocide in the public sphere. However, throughout the region, there is still ample space to explore and fill with research, expertise, and discussions around the multifaceted history of the Holocaust and the place of Roma experiences in its framework.
The main recommendations formulated in the report stress the need for conceptual legal and policy documents defining and confronting the denial and distortion of the Roma Holocaust at the national and intergovernmental levels. The report further emphasizes the importance of normative acknowledgment of memorial days, memory sites, and up-to-date memorialization strategies focused on the plight of Roma during WWII in order to mainstream the Roma Genocide into processes of Holocaust acknowledgment, memorialization, and history teaching.
Dr. Gabriela Ghindea, AIPG’s Director of Mediterranean Basin Programs, explained:
This research process and its result represent an ambitious multidisciplinary and international exercise that can be discussed as a possible best practice in the region since it was designed to address significant communication gaps between policymakers, civil society, and academia in the region.
The study provides a concise and comparative analysis of our current knowledge on a vast, under-researched, and highly complex topic based on foundational research in the field. Its relevance relies on the fact that it has many common beneficiaries, strengthening the component of remembrance and learning from past lessons.
The report is an excellent starting point for cross-sectoral discussions intended to build more inclusive narratives in the region, combat hate speech, and raise awareness on the importance of the topic of history teaching and remembrance. We anticipate that it will generate constructive debates in different academic and political fora about the need to discuss, recognize, define, or sanction the denial and distortion of Samudaripen/Porrajmos and to include Roma experiences in the complex framework of Holocaust analyses. We also hope the report will provide an incentive for the continuation of similar research, focusing in-depth on any of the specific research themes proposed by this joint regional effort. We are committed to further encouraging international exchange in the fields of prevention and countering distortion, and promoting historically-informed policymaking, as well as strategies that highlight the continued relevance of the genocide of the Roma in Southeastern Europe.
*All references to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).