STATEMENT BY ELISABETH SÁNDOR-SZALAY, OMBUDSMAN FOR THE RIGHTS OF NATIONAL MINORITIES, ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
In 2005, in its unanimous resolution, the General Assembly of the United Nations designated January 27, the day of the liberation of the death camp in Auschwitz in 1945, as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Remembering the victims is our moral duty, just as the human rights education and sensitization of future generations are our common responsibility.
The horrors of World War II had deep social and historical roots; the events of the Shoah clearly demonstrate the transition of society from individual, seemingly isolated human rights infringements to the systematic mass termination of the lives of millions.
The Roma were not mentioned among the victims of the Holocaust for a long time. The compensation of the victims, the formation of remembrance culture, including the designation of a remembrance day, the establishment of memorial sites, the launch of scientific research, are all the results of decades-long efforts, in which the works of Roma and Sinti activists and artists played a significant role. The losses suffered by the Roma and Sinti communities in Europe and the reticence surrounding them prompted the international Roma movement, launched in the 1970s, to put the topic of the Roma Holocaust and the compensation of the victims on its agenda; these objectives have been finally, albeit in several decades, achieved.
The worldwide phenomena of the ever-growing intolerance and xenophobia, the unjustified scare-mongering against peoples, ethnicities, or simply individuals or communities allegedly opposing the values of mainstream society that we are witnessing today may induce dangerous processes in European societies. There are some examples, in Hungary as well, of processes that have caused some of our fellow citizens to lose their lives only because of their ethnic/national background. Online and offline hate speech had been among the main factors leading to the Roma killings of 2008–2009, and the dozens of other attacks against the Roma during that period.
In recent decades, the importance and necessity of Holocaust education have been explicitly pointed out by several international human rights instruments, and almost every UN guideline and statement on human rights education have proposed the inclusion of anti-racist and inter-cultural elements in general education.
In October 2017, in my capacity of Deputy-Commissioner responsible for the protection of the rights of nationalities, I issued a policy statement on the domestic state of Roma Holocaust education and its role in raising social awareness. The document covers the analysis of the domestic regulatory environment of Holocaust education, the examination of the coverage of Roma Holocaust in formal and informal education, the Ombudsman’s activities related thereto, and the presentation of domestic and foreign best practices. The professional roundtable discussion held with the participation of prominent experts on the subject also greatly contributed to the development of this policy. The policy statement points out as follows: high-quality Roma Holocaust education in Hungary may become a tool that not only enables Roma and Sinti communities to freely embrace their self-identity stipulated in the Fundamental Law and to enforce their right to preserve it but also contributes to developing and strengthening a set of values in society which is based on respect for human rights.