Zagreb - International Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, or Samudaripen, was commemorated on Wednesday in Uštica near Jasenovac, where an estimated 16,000 Roma were killed in a concentration camp during World War II.
The ceremony was attended by numerous delegations of Roma communities, the Deputy Speaker of the Croatian parliament and the Speaker's envoy Furio Radin, the parliamentary representative of the Roma and another 11 ethnic minorities MP Veljko Kajtazi, the Croatian president's envoy Ivo Žinić, the prime minister's envoy Minister Nada Murganić, Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić, the Chairman of the Council for National Minorities Aleksandar Tolnauer, the Head of the Alliance of Antifascist Fighters and Antifascists of the Republic of Croatia Franjo Habulin.
Deputy Speaker Furio Radin said in his address that Roma victims have been forgotten for long, ignored, rejected and thus killed again. Stressing the importance of the integration of Roma, who have been persecuted for centuries, Radin said that a policy of exclusion of Roma had continued in Europe.
MP Kajtazi said in his address that Uštica was the site of the biggest atrocity against the Roma community, which was decimated in WWII. He said that here genocide had been committed "not only against Roma, but against humanity, all present European values and all the values of the modern Croatian state."
"Between 1941 and 1945, at least 16,173 Roma were killed here, including 5,608 children and 4,887 women. We believe that this number was even higher because, unlike other ethnic groups, Roma were counted by the number of wagons in which they were transported," Kajtazi said.
He noted that the scale of the atrocity was shown by the fact that the Roma community had managed to return to its pre-WWII size only 70 years after the war. Warning that the war suffering of the Roma remained outside researchers' focus, Kajtazi expressed a desire for a museum on the suffering of the Roma to be built at the Uštica cemetery and called on the Jasenovac Municipal Council to accept the proposal by the Roma community that a street in the town be named after Roma victims.
The Croatian president's envoy Ivo Žinić noted that every victim of the fascist or Nazi regime deserves respect and minister Nada Murganić recalled that the present government had set out in its four-year programme to improve and support the programmes of ethnic minorities, including the Roma. The Head of the Alliance of Antifascist Fighters and Antifascists Franjo Habulin and the Chairman of the Council for National Minorities Aleksanadr Tolnauer also addressed the assembled at the ceremony.
International Roma Genocide Remembrance Day commemorates August 2, 1944 when 2,897 Roma were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp.