null Message from the Minority Ombudsman on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Roma Holocaust

Every year on 2 August, on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Roma Holocaust, we should remember and remind each other of the immeasurable hardships and pain suffered by our fellow Roma citizens during one of the darkest chapters in human history. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “(…) disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, (...) and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” We must therefore remember and recall that the key to social coexistence, both in principle and in everyday life, is solidarity, the functioning of democratic values and institutions, and peaceful cooperation between the peoples of the world. Inclusion, equality and social justice are rights for all communities. 

As Minority Ombudsman, like my predecessors in office, I have consistently and firmly maintained that all those affected by the genocide perpetrated by the National Socialist regime, the Roma, Jewish, disabled and LGBT victims who died in Nazi death camps, must not only be remembered regularly, but also that we must raise awareness of the historical processes, human and social crimes that led to the Holocaust.

The systematic persecution and genocide of members of the Roma community during the Second World War was a direct consequence of the prejudice and hatred accumulated over previous centuries, the mechanisms of discrimination in almost all walks of life and the social indifference associated with it. Sadly, the seeds of related racist ideologies and the exclusion that they foster still exist and thrive worldwide.

The political, economic and environmental crises, especially the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the devastating war raging in our neighbourhood, remind us that the tragedies that threaten the most vulnerable are not just shadows of the past. The fight against ideologies based on intolerance and even violence is as important today as it was during the Roma Holocaust. A united stand is needed to ensure that such terrible acts are never forgotten and never repeated. 

The protection of human life and dignity is the primary responsibility of public figures, since their public statements can reinforce existing social processes in any direction, and their personal examples and statements can contribute to raising the level of public discourse, but also to reinforcing negative trends.

My position, expressed in my professional papers over the years, remains valid: hate speech, which is growing in everyday life – and is amplified by the anonymity of online speech – poses an extraordinary threat to social peace even when it does not rise to the level of a criminal offence. I am convinced that it is in our common social interest and our common responsibility to act against this.

On the Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join my colleagues in paying tribute to the cohesion and strength of the Roma community, which has faced enormous challenges throughout history and today faces economic and social exclusion. Together with the Roma communities, their representatives, and representatives of state, civil and church organisations, we must now and in the future strive to ensure equal opportunities and a dignified life for all our Roma fellow citizens by eliminating disadvantages.

Budapest, 2 August 2023.

                                                                                             Prof. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay
                                                                                                  Minority Ombudsman