Ceremony in Greece for the commemoration of Roma Genocide Remembrance Day

On 2 August, 2018, Roma Genocide Remembrance Day was honored for the first time in Greece following an initiative of the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Greek Roma Ellan Passe. The ceremony took place at the Zappeion Conference Hall in Athens and was attended by representatives and members of Roma associations in Greece, politicians and representatives of political parties, as well as representatives of the Church and many individual citizens.

On behalf of the Greek Government, the Alternate Minister of Labor, Mrs Theano Fotiou, and the Minister of Maritime Affairs, Mr. Panagiotis Kouroumplis, addressed the audience, as did representatives of the Greek Parliament and the Greek political parties, the Association of Greek Municipalities, the Region of Attica and the Greek Orthodox Church.

The first key-note speech was delivered by the President of Ellan Passe, Mr. Vassilios Pantzos, who noted the immense importance of the Remembrance Day for the Roma community, since the genocide of the Roma, as a historical event, was not an isolated event, but the culmination of a long course of discrimination, racism and persecution. According to Mr. Pantzos, the genocide of the Roma was a relatively unknown piece of history until recently, in 2015, when the Remembrance Day was established to redress a huge historical injustice and omission. Mr. Panzos pointed out that the Pan-Hellenic Confederation and the Greek Roma would remain faithful to their principles and ideals in order to eliminate the possibility of similar atrocities being repeated in the future and in order to effectively combat all forms of exclusion, hatred and prejudice against the Roma people.

In her key-note speech, the Special Secretary on Roma Social Inclusion of the Ministry of Labor, Mrs. Katerina Giantsiou, pointed out that it is still hard to believe, after many decades, that such terrible things happened in these horrible times. Nevertheless, the Remembrance Day ceremony is a statement that these atrocities have not been forgotten and will never be allowed to happen again. Mrs. Giantsiou also highlighted the need to put an end to the impoverishment and exclusion of Roma communities, noting that in this endeavor everyone, Roma and non-Roma, must play a role. Finally, Mr. Nikolaos Lygeros, a specialist in the history of Genocide recounted the history of the murder of 3000 Roma people in Auschwitz on 2 August 1944.

At the end of the ceremony a documentary film on the genocide of the Roma was shown and a musical program took place with works of famous Greek composers, among them some of Roma origin.

The President of the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Greek Roma Ellan Passe Mr. Vassilios Pantzos delivers his speech during the ceremony at the Zappeion Hall (Credit: Ellan Passe Press Release)