Germany honours Roma survivor at Auschwitz liberation ceremony

 

GERMANY REMEMBERED the “forgotten” Holocaust yesterday by welcoming the first Roma guest of honour to the annual Berlin ceremony marking the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

Dutch-born Zoni Weisz (73) is the sole survivor of his family. His parents, sisters and younger brother were all murdered in Auschwitz, along with other Roma Holocaust victims, believed to total between 250,000 and 500,000.

Mr Weisz told the Bundestag in Berlin that he survived in 1944 aged seven only because a policeman took pity on him during a raid and let him escape. Mr Weisz spent the rest of the war in hiding. Turning to the present day, he said that discrimination against Roma in some Western European countries showed that Europe had yet to learn a crucial lesson from the Nazi era.

“We are Europeans, let me remind you, and must have the same rights as any other resident, with the same opportunities available to every European,” he said, singling out France and Italy.

“It is unacceptable that a people that has been discriminated against and oppressed for centuries is today, in the 21st century, still shut out and robbed of any honest chance of a better future.”

German Sinti and Roma groups welcomed yesterday’s event in Berlin, almost two decades after West Germany recognised the genocide of Roma and Sinti in 1982. A national memorial to Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis is being constructed near the Reichstag parliament building and will be unveiled later this year.

“It’s the first time that the fate of the Sinti and Roma of Europe has been placed at the centre of the the commemorations — finally,” said Romani Rose, head of Germany’s Council of Sinti and Roma.

Berlin is to rename a street in its eastern Friedrichshain neighbourhood to commemorate the Sinti killed by the Nazis. “Ede and Unku Way” recalls a 1931 book based on a true romance between a German worker’s son and a Sinti girl before the Nazi era.

The girl was deported and killed at Auschwitz, the book was banned by the Nazis and its author, Grete Weiskopf, fled Germany in 1933.

Yesterday’s anniversary has been an international day of remembrance for the six million Holocaust victims since 2005.

German president Christian Wulff met Holocaust survivors at the Auschwitz camp, near Krakow, to mark the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.