"Remember the Genocide of the Roma" – a commitment for 2020 and beyond

The language of the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration leaves no room for misunderstanding. The Genocide of the Roma – perpetrated by Nazi Germany and those fascist and extreme nationalist partners and other collaborators who participated in these crimes  is central to the work of the IHRA. On the occasion of 2 August, the Remembrance Day of the Genocide of the Roma, we remember the victims of this crime, which was not officially recognized for decades.

The Genocide of the Roma and the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration

The most significant document for the field of Holocaust remembrance in twenty years, the Ministerial Declaration was adopted in Brussels on 19 January 2020 by ministers and other representatives of 35 countries. In article 4 of the declaration, Member and Liaison Countries of the IHRA pledged to “Remember the genocide of the Roma. We acknowledge with concern that the neglect of this genocide has contributed to the prejudice and discrimination that many Roma communities still experience today.”

With that, the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration shined light on the importance of remembrance of the genocide of the Roma and the struggle against anti-Roma racism.

Martin Korcok is a member of the Slovak delegation to the IHRA and the Chair of the IHRA Committee on the Genocide of the Roma. He also serves as the director of the Sered’ Holocaust Museum, a branch of the Slovak National Museum that on Wednesday opened the exhibition “Racial Diagnosis: GYPSY,” on the occasion of which the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, Martin Klus, took a strong stand against prejudice and racism towards Roma, stating that "the Government of the Slovak Republic is ready to fight against discrimination and improve the social, economic and civil position of the Roma in society,” while highlighting the international cooperation within the IHRA.

Korcok also underlines the timeliness of the commitment made by the IHRA:

“It is incredibly important that we don’t forget the suffering of the Roma and that we commemorate the victims. There can be no doubt that genocide of the Roma has, as noted in the Ministerial Declaration, been neglected far too long. Now is the time to right that wrong,” he says.

As an answer to Korcok’s call, commemorative events in many countries will take place on 2 August. In Slovakia, a country that lost thousands of Roma in the genocide, and which has commemorated this event since 2005, the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising in Banská Bystrica will host a ceremony on the memorial day, which will be open to members of the public who have registered.

In Greece, a commemorative event hosted by the Association Romani Sezi will be held at the 5th Intercultural Elementary School of Dendropotamos in Thessaloniki. Speakers will include John Mantzas and Paul Isaac Hagouel, a member of the IHRA’s Committee on the Genocide of the Roma. In Austria, Federal President Alexander van der Bellen will give a video-address, and the Swedish language version of the IHRA co-funded teaching materials at www.romasintigenocide.eu will be added to the 11 other languages available. In Italy, the UNAR-National Anti-Racial Discrimination Office will host a virtual journey through the history of anti-Roma racism. Finally, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma has launched the website of its online virtual commemoration ceremony, which will include a livestream on 2 August at 12:00 CEST. IHRA President Ambassador Michaela Küchler will be participating in this event as one of the speakers.

On the way to a working definition of anti-Roma racism

As a member of the Committee on the Genocide of the Roma – and as Committee Chair since the beginning of this year – Martin Korcok’s efforts have long been focused on the creation of a working definition of anti-Roma racism.

Similar to the role played by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in the organization’s fight against antisemitism, the working definition will be a crucial tool for the IHRA and will guide the organization in its work for years to come. Over the last several years, the working definition of anti-Roma racism has undergone a drafting process which involved international experts of the Committee on the Genocide of the Roma, as well as relevant Roma organizations in member countries. Following a number of rounds of feedback, the political level is now engaged in the discussions that should allow the working definition to be adopted by the IHRA Plenary.

“The adoption of this working definition ties in closely with the commitments made in the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration to combat all forms of racism, as, sadly, anti-Roma racism and discrimination still persist in our societies. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this challenge, making the adoption of this working definition all the more important for the IHRA at this moment,” Korcok concludes.


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Photo: Martin Korcok speaks at the official opening of the exhibition "Racial Diagnosis: GYPSY." State Secretary Klus is seated, center. Credit: Slovak MFA.