Young Romani Gypsy and Traveller people participate in Auschwitz Roma Genocide Remembrance

15 September 2017
Young Romani Gypsy and Traveller people participate in Auschwitz Roma Genocide Remembrance

GATEHerts took five young people to participate in the Roma Genocide Remembrance 2017.

The initiative is led by TernYpe – International Roma Youth Network, the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and their partner organisations. The event aims at raising awareness among young Europeans, civil society and decision-makers about the Roma Genocide, as well as about the mechanisms of antigypsyism in a challenging context of rising racism, hate speech and extremism in Europe.

Our role is to facilitate young people.. ....says GATEHerts.

It’s not just about bringing a youth group to the event in Poland, it’s also about being involved throughout the learning process and working with them to understand the history of Roma persecution, its causes and consequences, by giving them the opportunity to participate in this initiative. 

The event offers a unique learning opportunity for participants and gives young people from different backgrounds a chance to be able to share experiences and perspectives by learning from each other.

With this initiative, young people advocate for the official recognition of the 2nd August as the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, to pay homage to the victims, heroes, survivors.

Aside from the workshops, the programme includes meetings with survivors (or witnesses), remembrance ceremonies, and the exploration of current issues relating to anti-Gypsyism and extremism. 

On the young peoples return from this trip we encouraged the participants to share their experiences to help raise awareness about the Roma Genocide, as well as about the mechanisms of anti-gypsyism in a challenging context of rising racism, hate speech and extremism in Europe.

If you would like to be part of next year’s event please contact GATHerts


HeGATE Herts Josie ODriscoll and Sherrie Smith with Roma Genocide  (279px * 308px)

(Photo caption: GATE Herts Josie O’Driscoll and Sherrie Smith with Roma Genocide survivor Raymond Gurême)

Shannon Macdonald

“Young people need to know more about Travellers so eventually stigma and racist stereotypes will be a thing of the past”

My names Shannon Macdonald, I’m a Scottish Traveller, I’ve been interested in photography since I was very young, I love photographs because I love memories and I love trying to capture a moment, I’ve worked a lot with MECOPP and I’ve done photography exhibitions for the SMHAFF festival in Edinburgh, so I was incredibly honoured to have even been asked to go to Dihk an ha Bister, to take photographs on behalf of Article 12.

I haven’t worked with Article 12 very much yet and I’ve only ever done photography for them so I had no idea how the workshops and events they are involved in worked, but I was very excited learn more.

Going to Krakow and having the opportunity to meet so many amazing people was an incredible experience. Visiting Auschwitz was very emotional for me, I didn’t expect for it to affect me so much, but seeing the photographs of people made me very upset, it made it feel real and it was very hard to think about because you could actually imagine these people and what their lives were like and how hard it would have been for them.

I honestly can’t believe I had the honour to meet Raymond Gurême, (the Roma genocide survivor) he is an amazing and beautiful man, he reminded me a lot of my own grandfather and old travellers with his mannerisms and his characteristics, he made me realise that all Travellers are very alike regardless of where they’re from, I feel so lucky to have even been in the same room as him, people like him make me proud to be a traveller and I’ve not stopped telling people about him since I got home, I went into this not knowing anything about  Roma and I feel like I’ve learned a lot.

I would love to go to more of these events because it’s important to spread awareness and learn about the Roma Genocide, because I knew very little about it before I went, and even in school I learned all about the Jewish people during the holocaust but nothing about the Roma, school is a place of education and the fact they’re missing out such a huge part of history is just ridiculous, even our tour guide in Auschwitz seemed to know very little about the Roma,  and I think that’s terrible. Young people need to know more about Travellers so eventually stigma and racist stereotypes will be a thing of the past. Until then I can only hope that events like this one and all the organisations involved keep working hard to educate people about the Roma genocide.

David Donaldson

“In my eyes things always change from the bottom up and change is always led by the young”

My name is David Donaldson, I’m 19 and I’m a Scottish Traveller. I was born in Perth and most of my family are Perthshire Travellers. I attended a few different primary schools, having to continue to move due to discrimination and never quite fitting into the community. After moving house a few times it was eventually time for me to go to secondary school. My time at secondary school was relatively uneventful, however I am now studying Social Anthropology and International Relations at Aberdeen University. Although I am at University most of the time I try to keep myself busy in my spare time as well. I’m a Counsellor at Childline, on a lacrosse team and do a lot of travelling. I always shift during the summer and love cracking to the aulder yins.

I am very proud of my Traveller heritage and value my culture greatly. This pride has led to me become involved as a volunteer with Article 12 and HOTT.  My work with Article 12 means I am an advocate for Traveller rights and represent Travellers at events and at council meetings. I really enjoy this work because it allows me to work with Travellers to fix contemporary issues we face, as well as allowing me the opportunity to raise awareness of these issues to those in Government.

I have a great passion to learn about the history of my people. I have always been taught that you should know where you’ve come from and never forget it. Most of my folk are Scottish Travellers so I have become a member of HOTT (Heart of The Travellers), this group focuses on the conservation of Scottish Traveller history and so I really enjoy my work with them too as it allows me to learn more about the history of Scottish Travellers, and allows others to learn as well.

I have found that sometimes I’ll think of a project that would help Travellers, but that doesn’t fit within the remits of these groups. So, I also have quite a few projects going on that I take forward on an individual basis. One of these projects is putting in place an education transition programme at a local Traveller site for the bearns. This programme will help supplement and support the education they will get at the local mainstream school; and hopefully give them a better opportunity to go on to secondary school if they want to.

I really enjoy working with young Travellers to help better our lives, conserve our history and promote our culture in a modern world. In my eyes things always change from the bottom up and change is always led by the young. I was lucky enough to be invited along to participate in the Dich he Na Bister project this year. I feel privileged to have taken part in the initiative and am still in awe of all that I learned and experienced. The experience not only taught me more about the genocide of the Roma, it also broadened my knowledge of current anti-Gypsyism in Europe and the many social issues which our people experience on a daily basis. It was an incredible opportunity to meet other young Roma, Travellers and Gypsies from across Europe and to learn more about each other’s cultures. It also provided the opportunity to share experiences of good practice of policy and NGO schemes, and as I work with a charity this knowledge was invaluable.

During the project I met Raymond Gureme, a Sumaripen survivor, I spoke to him every opportunity I got. It was this amazing man who revealed something of my family’s past that I didn’t know. I found out that my family, French Manush Gypsies by the name of Dankur, were sent to Auschwitz. Learning this made my heart sink, indeed it brought me to tears when I read their name on the commemoration board at Auschwitz. However, Raymond also told me of happier times with many family as they travelled France in their vardos. For this I am forever grateful to him and the project. However, what was perhaps the most valuable element I took from the programme was the reaffirmed knowledge that young Roma/Travellers and Gypsies are not alone in our fight for rights, that we are a strong community, filled with passion.

Betsy Moby

“I feel honoured to have met so many brave and courageous Romanies”

My Name is Betsy Moby, I'm 23 years old and I am a proud English Romany Gypsy.

I was a professional Model from the age of 15 up until 21, signed to The UK’s leading modelling boutique agency, Body London. Whilst I had a professional career I also juggled studying performing arts, and later went on to study make-up & hair for film, fashion and theatre at Shepperton Studios. I have since had many wonderful experiences working in the industry, from shoots for Adidas to performing in music videos by artists such as, Mika, Nero and The Shoes and have also worked alongside Jake Gyllenhaal. I can proudly say I recently earned my first IMDB credit in the film ‘Obey’ as the Character Roselle.

Born into a very traditional family from West Sussex, my father is a proper wheeler and dealer, in scrap metal, antiques and horses and also paints traps and carts. My mother is a house-wife who has done various traditional jobs in her life, from dukkering, wreaths, and selling heather, to block paving and looking after our family. We come from a line of hard working women.

I have recently, in the last couple of months started Interning for Friends, Families and Travellers, who are based in Brighton, I decided to get involved with this Organisation as I’m very passionate and am sick of the constant prejudice and Racist Hate crime that is still inflicted upon GTR Communities (Gypsy, Traveller, Roma). For generations and generations, we have been persecuted for our rich heritage, culture, language and traditions. It’s the 21st Century and it's about time things changed.

I recently attended Dikh He Na Bister, which means in Romani, 'Look and don't forget.' The Roma Genocide Remembrance initiative, in Poland, Krakow where we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi camps. This has left images and stories that will never leave my mind. Before going I knew very little about the European Roma that were effected in World Wars Two, only from what my family told me and from doing a little bit of research prior to the trip, as it wasn't taught in school. Although it's recorded that Hitler had plans for English Romanies, we weren't affected like the Roma in other parts of Europe.

I was especially fascinated, passionate and saddened to learn my ancestors and distant relatives were affected by this. The trip was eye-opening on many levels and I met lots of intelligent, kind and nurturing people that had so much knowledge and stories to tell from their past experiences, and for that I feel honoured to have met so many brave and courageous Romanies. We had lectures, seminars and spoke to Holocaust survivors, one of which has stuck with me - Raymond Gureme, who managed to escape from multiple Nazi Camps.  I learned so much, this experience has inspired me to practice what I preach and to ensure nothing like this ever happens again, to unite and to spread accurate and empowering awareness outside and within our communities.

Scarlett - Betsy Smith

“I met a 92-year-old man called Raymond Gureme, a Roma Holocaust survivor, he is a true inspiration”

My name is Scarlett - Betsy Smith, I am a 13 year old Romany Gypsy. I’m a member of the GATE Herts (Gypsy and Traveller Empowerment) youth team.

This year I went to Auschwitz with the Dikh In A Bister project for the second time. The reason Dikh In A Bister do this is to raise awareness about the Roma that died in Auschwitz to the youth so they can go back and deliver training to people in their own country. Every year over 200 Roma and non-Roma youth from all over the world come to this event in Poland. It’s incredible to be there with people just like you, they suffer racism like us and share the same heritage.

Going to Auschwitz is a truly amazing experience that everyone should be a part of at some point. I strongly believe that it has changed me in many ways like I am now more interested in the war and human rights and so many other things.  When I go to Auschwitz it just gets more surreal each time especially that we still suffer such prejudice and hate like this - maybe not as big - but still as emotional and evil; for example justice for Hungary. Every year there is a commemoration for the people that died were survivors, politicians and activists give speeches at the end there are flowers laid from countries all over the word but for some reason there are no flowers laid from the UK. It's truly shameful to be there as UK representatives and have no flowers from the UK Government.

I met a 92-year-old man called Raymond Gureme, a Roma Holocaust survivor, he is a true inspiration and he goes to Poland every year. During the war, he was only a teenager but he was put in a death camp and he escaped eleven times. He did this using his acrobatic skills because before the war he was in the circus as an acrobat. It's worth going to Poland just to meet Raymond he is such a kind and powerful speaker.

For three of the five days we do workshops with people from different countries, we talk about Roma history and the struggles of being a Gypsy or Roma in our own countries. We also talk about laws and things. Did you know that Magneto in the x men was Roma in the original comics, but in the films, he is presented as a Jew? A Spanish Roma called Vicente Rodriguez Fernandez from Romapop told me this fact. He fights acts of airbrushing Roma people out of popular culture and anti-Gypsyism like this.  I strongly recommend going to Auschwitz with this project it's a life changing experience and you get to meet some very interesting people.

Bernadette Williamson (322px * 245px)

Bernadette Williamson

“Everyone was amazing and kind and it was an experience that I intend to share with others”

My name is Bernadette Williamson and I am a development worker in training for Article 12 in Scotland. Article 12 is a NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) and our work is underpinned by the principle of free participation – the right to participate at all levels of society without fear or favour. We also aim to challenge discrimination and negative attitudes towards different backgrounds – mainly Gypsy/Traveller/Roma.  Some of the work I have been involved in includes a series of workshops delivered not only to young people, but to professionals at all levels of society and all over the United Kingdom. The workshops we delivered challenged stereotypical views and stereotypes, and raised awareness about young people and their rights.

I was very lucky to have been able to participate in the Dikh he na Bister event in Krakow, Poland during July 2017. The Dikh he na Bister event was an amazing experience. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people from different countries and different ethnic backgrounds and learning more about Roma. I took part in a series of workshops that gave us information about the difficulties Roma faced during World War Two.It was interesting visiting the concentration camps but very heart-breaking at the same time. A guided tour took us around Auschwitz concentration camp and Auschwitz Birkenau. It’s something I will never forget and it made me appreciate the life we have now. I am so glad that I got a chance to be a part of the Dikh he na Bister event. Everyone was amazing and kind and it was an experience that I intend to share with others.