Roma Holocaust Memorial 2017 – Remembrance,  Recognition & Respect

Photos by Derek Speirs.

Members of the Irish and international Roma community gathered today at the Mansion House, Dublin to commemorate Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

In a moving tribute to the estimated 500,000 Roma and Sinti who were murdered in the Holocaust, young Roma leaders read out testimonies of Holocaust survivors and their families.

Damaris Paun reads the testimony of Danafe Spirache whose son lives in Dublin.
Bianca Paun reads out the testimony of Stelian Ciuciu who lives in Dublin and who lost 24 members of his family in the Holocaust.


“The stories my father used to tell us are hard to talk about. Stories of dead children and adults lying in ditches, of people being beaten and raped, people dying from starvation or disease without a drop of hope, of people who had been shot for a piece of bread and of people who became monsters,” read Bianca Paun on behalf of Stelian Ciuciu who lives in Dublin. “When my family returned from Transnistria there were only 6 people left from 30 which was a great loss.”  Stelian Ciuciu testimony here.  Danafe Spirache testimony here.

The event was opened by guest of honour Mrs. Sabina Higgins who spoke of the importance of the Roma Holocaust Memorial  and the need for everyone to stand up to injustice. “The politics of hate, fear and “otherness” must be rejected, and in its place we must strive for inclusion, mutual respect and ethics,” said Mrs. Higgins. “We must never allow ourselves to forget. We must remember.” (full speech here)

Mannix Serban sings the Romani National Anthem.
Mrs. Sabina Higgins.

Professor Ethel Brooks, Romani academic, activist and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council member travelled from the US to address the event. Professor Brooks highlighted the importance of testimonies in moving beyond facism and reminded people how difficult testimonies are as they force people to re-live the events.

“From the so-called “Gypsy Camp”, or zigeunerlager, of Auschwitz-Birkenau to the deportation sites in Transnistria, to the unmarked mass graves across Europe, the Holocaust took Roma and Sinti lives, decimated communities and destroyed families.

“There are many stories – many histories – that are still waiting to be told, waiting to be recognized and commemorated,” she said.  “We mark this date after years of struggle for recognition of our loss and for our status as victims and survivors of the Holocaust.”

Professor Ethel Brooks of Rutgers University USA, Romani activist and member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council spoke at the event.
Lynn Jackson, founding trustee of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Members of the Roma community spoke about the long struggle for their recognition as victims of the Holocaust. The genocide of Roma people wasn’t formally recognised until 1982 in Germany and Roma Holocaust Memorial Day was first marked in 2009.  Lynn Jackson, Founding Trustee, Holocaust Education Trust Ireland also spoke at the event highlighting the importance of a specific remembrance day for Roma.  

Members of the estimated 5,000 Roma in Ireland community also highlighted the discrimination that they continue to endure. Gabi Muntean of Pavee Point spoke of recent research that shows that 80% of Roma interviewed reported discrimination in the street or in another public setting.

Gabi Muntean of Pavee Point with Mrs. Sabina Higgins.

 “As a Roma woman living in Ireland, I have been refused from shops, verbally abused and discriminated against,” she said.  “It is important for the Irish government to show leadership; to recognize what has happened to the Roma community and also to challenge racism and discrimination that persists today.”

Ms. Muntean also spoke about the importance of pride in the Roma community.  “Roma people passed through slavery, the Holocaust, starvation and injustice. It is important for people to recognize what has happened to the Roma community.

 “It is important for the generation coming after me to know what has happened to our people and to not allow this to happen again.  It is important to live in solidarity with others and to have the courage to say we are the Roma,” said Ms.Muntean.

Mrs. Sabina Higgins hears about a Roma youth project to raise awareness on what Roma had to endure during the Holocaust.

Media Coverage:

  • ‘Sabina Higgins gives emotional address at Roma Holocaust memorial’  Irish Times
  • ‘US professor alleges racist outburst by immigration officer’ Irish Times
  • ‘President’s wife condemns rise of neo-fascist politics of hate in Europe’ Irish Independent
  • ‘Sabina Higgins: Let’s reject poisonous ideologies of anti-Semitism’ Irish Examiner
  • ‘Commemorations to take place for Roma Holocaust Memorial Day’ Morning Ireland