It's August 2nd and the Roma Holocaust continues - say Drive 2 Survive
Today is August 2nd and Roma Holocaust Day. Today is the 77th anniversary of the night in 1944, in Auschwitz, Poland, when the Nazis murdered 2,897 Roma men, women and children. On this day the Auschwitz “Gypsy Camp” was liquidated. Only four Roma survived to see liberation the following year.
The Roma often resisted the Nazis by fighting back in whatever small ways they could, in the previous May the SS planned to murder the entirety of the “Gypsy Camp”. The concentration camp Roma prisoners had received a tip-off and mobilized and united together, making crude weapons from whatever they could. This saved some of them who were transported, but the weak, elderly, children and women were left to perish on 2nd August. Many Roma gave their lives believing it was better to die free than live as slaves to the government’s unfair laws and regime. They demonstrated resistance in the face of adversity and hope for a better future.
The German state oppression of the Sinti (German Gypsies) and Roma predates the Nazi regime. From as early as 1899, German legislators introduced law after law to restrict the rights of the Roma by observing, monitoring and restricting them, keeping them out of public areas, and limiting the places where they could settle. Laws forbade them from entering whole sections of the country. The prevailing thinking was that any time a Gypsy was behind bars, the country was a safer place. When the Nazis came to power, more laws targeted Roma as "undesirables" and a racial group that needed to be contained.
Remembrance of the Roma Holocaust is important. This week the government’s UK Holocaust Commission and Holocaust Memorial Day trust announced that in 2024 they will open a new £100 million education and remembrance centre In Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Palace of Westminster, the centre of our democracy.
The exhibition will address the complexities of Britain’s ambiguous response and invite visitors to critically reflect on whether more “could have been done, both by policymakers and by society as a whole.”
“The view of Parliament from the Memorial will serve as a permanent reminder that political decisions have far-reaching consequences. We have a duty to ensure that we all understand how this evil was allowed to happen; how so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and perhaps more importantly how so many others stood silent,” said a commentator in The Times of Israel.
“The Westminster memorial will be permanent reminder that political decisions have far-reaching consequences,” say Lord Eric Pickles and Ed Balls from UK Holocaust Commission. However, there is still much to be done, and there is no Roma representation on the commission.
Yet, as the Government mouths platitudes about remembering political oppression in the past, they press ahead with the racist and inhumane section 4 of the Police and Crime bill: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2019-21: Part 3 and 4- Public order and unauthorised encampments - House of Commons Library (parliament.uk)The proposed Government legislation will criminalise Gypsies and Travellers and seize their homes, whilst fining each individual up to £2500 each. The consequences will be far-reaching. The stereotype and narrative that it sets is that we are criminals and unwanted in this country.
It is not enough to just listen, learn and remember – remembrance without purpose and without action changes nothing. There has to be change. We owe this to each and every victim, so that their memory will live on and so future generations can learn what hatred, stereotypes, ostracizing and isolation can do if left unchecked and unchallenged.
This week the Ministry of Housing also announced they will be giving £1.4 million to support Gypsies, Roma and Travellers to improve education. No discussion with stakeholders, no consultation, no asking what we want or need.
We want and need sites and homes. We need them to stop implementing policy and law to hinder our existence. We need the Government to stop inciting prejudice that make mental health and suicide some of our biggest issues. We need them to stop repeating what they know will make things worse. Then we can engage with education in a more than tokenistic way. We need security, we need sites.
We need the everyday hate to stop and society to treat us the same as other human beings. In health, education and employment, we fare badly across the board. The Government should invest in a Roma integration strategy to improve our lives.
Whilst they are criminalising and fining families for just living their lives, sites are not being built or private sites passed for planning by councils. We have been failed inherently for decades. The Government know this because their own Women and Equalities Committee told them this in their 2019 report.
We need to come together, stand in solidarity. This is why Drive2Survive (D2S) July 7th Event | Drive 2 Survive was established. We are determined to use peaceful protest and highlight the aspects of our cultures that are not told by the media. We realise we are stronger together and solidarity in numbers and supporters. We are grassroots, learning as we go. We also formed to mobilise our communities so that our voice is heard and given due weight and attention.
The underpinning aim of D2S is to build the united power of the communities using our rich culture and history. We need to work together to change the narrative. We are stronger together and it’s time for less talk, more action. Like our ancestors, we need to arm ourselves with what we have and challenge the oppression that threatens our very survival, in whatever way we can. If you want get involved or learn more about how you can get onboard and support a change for our people email us at contact@Drive2Survive.org.uk
You can also join us at Appleby fair 12th-15th August 2021 for our Drive2Survive culture festival. Details to follow….
By Sherrie Smith, Drive2Survive Co-Chair and Gypsy and Traveller Equality Essex.
(All B/W photographs courtesy and (c) The Robert Dawson Collection)
Drive2Survive will be holding an online event to remember and commemorate. Monday 2nd August 6pm speakers include Grattan Puxon and many more. Register here: