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2 August: International Roma Genocide Remembrance Day or Porajmos, the extermination of Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz

August 2 2021

Porrajmos
Roma and Sinti

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Roma Genocide Remembrance Day has been established by the European Parliament for a few years now. This date is devoted to the Roma and Sinti genocide during the Second World War, known in Romani as Porrajmos (the Devouring) or Samudaripé (extermination), which caused half a million victims.

Piero Terracina, a survivor of Auschwitz and a direct witness of the liquidation of the Zigeunerlager, used to recall the night of 2 August 1944, "I was locked up and it was night and there was a curfew, but I could hear everything. In the middle of the night we heard people shouting in German and dogs barking, they ordered to open the barracks of the Zigeunerlager. Screaming, crying and a few gunshots came from there. Suddenly, after more than two hours, there was only silence and from our windows we could see the glowing flames of the crematorium in the night sky. In the morning, our first thought was to look towards the Zigeunerlager. It was completely empty, there was only silence and the windows of the barracks slamming."

Approximately 4,000 people, mostly women and children, were exterminated in the gas chambers; they were part of the 23,000 Roma and Sinti (Zigeuner, as they were called in the Nazi documents) deported to Auschwitz.

The remembrance of the Porajmos is an opportunity to reflect on the evil generated by racist ideologies, which paved the way for discrimination and annihilation in concentration and extermination camps. It is a story of contempt and persecution of Europe's largest minority. It is a wound on the European continent, questioning consciences on how many violent words and attitudes still target the Roma people, and on how far away their full integration in education, health and housing is.