Remembering the victims of the Roma Holocaust and the more recent wave of ’Roma murders’ in Hungary


August 1, 2013

Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed each year since 1997 on 2 August, marks the anniversary of the liquidation of the so-called Gypsy Family Camp in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp. On that day in 1944, the Nazis killed 2,897 men, women, and children in the gas chambers. On 2 August we remember not only them, but the tens of thousands of Roma who were murdered during the ‘Porajmos’.

The Porajmos (also Porrajmos or Pharrajimos, literally, devouring or destruction in some dialects of the Romani language) was the attempt made by Nazi Germany and its allies to exterminate the Romani population of Europe during World War II. Under Hitler’s rule, Roma were – like Jews – defined as “enemies of the race-based state” by the Nuremberg laws and targeted by similar punitive policies, culminating in the physical extermination of 130,000 – 300,000 people identified as Roma within the territories occupied by Nazi Germany and its allies (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, etc.).

While Roma and Sinti living in Western Europe mainly face the painful task of coming to terms with the extermination of forefathers and relatives during World War II, physical persecution is very much a risk to be faced in the present for many Roma communities living in Central and Eastern Europe. Anti-Roma violence has clearly been on the rise in the last two decades in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia – a phenomenon which experts have linked to the emergence of social tensions in depressed economic areas, the persistence of negative stereotypes among non-Roma, the drastic weakening of state regimes after the ‘democratic transition’ and, most recently, the emergence of a virulent brand of ultranationalistic politics in the region. These factors have provided a larger room for individuals and groups who harbour grievances against minorities and are ready to take advantage of the situation.

One of the most shocking recent cases of anti-Roma violence is the series of murders that rocked Hungary between July, 2008 and August, 2009. The most infamous attack took place in the village of Tatárszentgyörgy where a paramilitary organization – the Hungarian Guard – had already attempted to incite hatred during a march in 2007. On 23 February, 2009 it was in this village that a 28-year-old father and his 5 year-old-son were shot and killed while attempting to escape from their house. The tragedy was preceded by a number of similar attacks involving the throwing of Molotov cocktails on buildings, followed by the shooting of those who tried to escape from the flames. The series of attacks claimed the lives of 6 innocent people. The 4 men accused of committing them were only arrested twelve months after the first attack. This, along with information suggesting that the secret services may have withheld information from the police and that police investigators could have destroyed important clues and evidence, raised serious doubts as to the efficiency and commitment of state organizations charged with the task of preventing hate-crime and bringing criminals to justice. The sentence which will be delivered by the judge on 6 August, 2013, will therefore play a critical role in shaping expectations towards the Hungarian judicial system, in particular its ability to defend those who self-identify (or are identified by others) as Roma.”

Link to video

Source: Communication Center X (XKK)

This video, made in memory of the victims, reconstructs the shooting of a father and his son in the village of Tatárszentgyörgy on 23 February, 2009. The accused are currently standing trial; the verdict is to be delivered on 6 August, 2013.”