Discrimination of Roma in Europe continues 70 years after Parajmos

Asperg, Deportation von Sinti und Roma

Romani civilians in Asperg, Germany are rounded up for deportation by German authorities on 22 May 1940

Today, 2nd of August is a date designated as Roma Holocaust Memorial Day when we remember the Roma victims of Nazi regime of World War II.

The genocide on Roma in Europe (also known as Porajmos) has widely been called the “unrecorded Holocaust” since close to half a million members of this minority has been killed, some of them in the concentration camps like Auschwitz where they were forced to wear a brown triangle, as  a mean to distinguish them from other prisoners.

Estimates are anywhere from 25% to 70% of Roma in Europe were killed in WWII. However, in most history books, Roma would be just mentioned as victims of Nazis and no further exploration of the tragedy would be done.

Not known to some, during the WWII Nazi regime, it did not seek to destroy only the Jewish population in Europe, but also Roma, Sinti, homosexual and other groups.

“The police took grandmother of my mother. She tried to escape, but they killed her. Roma people had to dig their own graves, then they were killed and thrown inside. What happened to my family is terrible”, said Hungarian Roma Gizella Kolompar.


Romani flag, approved by international representatives at the First World Romani Congress in 1971

Her son is not certain how can he explain his family history to his own children.

“It’s hard to explain that to them. My grandmother told me about this beautiful Roma girl who would put feces on herself so she wouldn’t be raped”, said Gusztav Kolompar.

Besides Hungary, massive killings of the Roma were carried out in all of occupied Europe. In fact, after Jews the Roma were the biggest victims of Nazis and fascists.

However, unlike Jews, Roma people are even today discriminated in Europe. Even in countries of the European Union, sometimes walls would be built to separate them from the rest.

Discrimination continues 

Today, the largest populations of Roma live in Romania and Bulgaria. Almost always, they live in ghettos at the outskirts of cities.

In some societies, the belief that Roma are “dirty in their genes” has even become “normal” and widely accepted. Not realised by many, example of acceptance of Roma discrimination is clearly found in languages such as Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegran and Serbian where a word “gypsy – cigani” is used as a derogatory term, but also as an insult to someone who is not Roma.

The discrimination of Roma in Europe is perhaps best illustrated by the data of the EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights which states that one in three Roma in Europe are unemployed, and 90% live under the poverty line.


Distribution of the Romani people in Europe (2007 Council of Europe “average estimates”, totalling 9.8 million)

Singling out the examples of Roma discrimination by countries today would almost be unfair, since the unfair treatment is seen all over the continent. Examples of Roma discrimination and governments that directly or indirectly violate their human rights are found in: Italy, Slovakia, Greece, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Montenegro, Macedonia, France and other countries.

In short, in almost any country Roma live in – they are discriminated and considered as “lesser human beings”.

Usually, discrimination would be heavier in those countries where more Roma are residing.

They are often denied a fair chance of education, employment and housing, which is a reason why a lot of Roma can’t even read or write. It is estimated that there are 10 to 12 million Roma in Europe today.

About Author

Agan Uzunović is a journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina writing for Revolution News and Bosnian media. Follow him on Twitter @AganU8.