null Statement of the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities on International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day

As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities, I regard it as my responsibility to commemorate the life-changing events in the history of the communities of national minorities living on the territory of Hungary. Each year, it is my sad obligation to pay tribute to the half million European, and among them, several tens of thousands of Hungarian Roma victims of the Holocaust on the occasion of the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. 

It is not easy to remember the past when recollections only bring pain and suffering, however, there are three reasons why we are obliged to do so in relation to the Roma Holocaust now and every single day.

On the one hand, this is necessary because sadly, less and less survivors of the terror are still alive today. They cannot tell their stories, they cannot answer our questions any more, and we cannot embrace them to ease their pain now. 

On the other hand, these horrors should not exist in any form whatsoever these days. Those who can now live their lives without fear in Europe are responsible for all persons who are still despised, excluded or persecuted because of their nationality, financial situation, physical features or identity. 

Thirdly, this is important because we remember and remind for our future: we cannot allow that murderous ideas, political ideologies, or prejudice coming from the lack of information or discriminative behaviours snatch away the right of decision of people about their lives, also jeopardizing their freedom, dignity and lives.

And we have one single tool for fulfilling this triple responsibility: we should notice and act with determination against all forms of hate speech and discrimination. 

We should also help our children do so: I am convinced that a society can only develop healthy protective mechanisms against dangerous tendencies if young people are equipped with authentic knowledge on history and society, broad perspectives and the right critical attitudes from their early childhood, to make them able to recognize and stand up against exclusionist intentions and those inciting to hatred.

We must also be outspoken when we discuss the challenges of our day regarding livelihood. One cannot understand or effectively treat the discrimination of the Roma in the social field, in the labour market, in education, or housing, or their health-related problems without being aware of the roots of these problems and taking the current social situation into account.

As the Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities, I have provided support with the handling of countless individual infringements, and in policy statements and joint reports with the Ombudsman, I have presented the requirements related to the research and teaching of the history of the Roma, including the Holocaust, the possible actions against hate speech and hate crimes, as well as the different areas of enforcing the individual and community rights of the national minorities.

There is always a community behind a success story, and a community is not merely the total sum of its members but it has its own automatic movement pointing to the same direction, faith in the same goal and it can only make achievements with joint action. Cooperation, thinking together, and respect for the freedom of the individual are the only way leading to genuine freedom and the protection of human dignity.

Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay
Deputy Commissioner for the Rights of National Minorities, University Professor