Communication of the Minority Ombudsman on the occasion of the International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day
As Minority Ombudsman, I consider it my duty to commemorate the pivotal events in the history of the national minority communities living in our country. Every year it is my sad duty on the International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day to pay tribute to half a million Roma victims in Europe, including tens of thousands in Hungary.
It is not easy to remember or to make others remember when it implies only pain and suffering, but with regard to the Roma Holocaust we are obliged to do this today and on every single day for three reasons.
On the one hand, because the survivors of those horrors are unfortunately fewer and fewer among us. They can't tell us any more stories, answer our questions and we can’t hug their pain away from them.
On the other hand, because such horrors should no longer exist in any form. Those who today can live their lives in Europe without anxiety also have a responsibility to those who continue to live as despised, excluded and persecuted persons because of their nationality origin, wealth status, physical characteristics or other identities.
And thirdly, we remember and remind for our future: we cannot allow murderous ideas, political ideologies or prejudices, discriminative conducts fed by ignorance to once again take away people's choice to shape their own lives, endangering their freedom, dignity and ultimately their lives.
For this triple responsibility, we have only one tool: let’s take notice and take action in due time and in a firm manner against all forms of hate speech and discrimination!
Let us help our children to do the same: I am convinced that a healthy social defence mechanism against harmful tendencies can only be developed if we equip young people from an early age with credible historical and social knowledge, a broad perspective and a critical outlook, so that they can recognise and combat exclusionary and hateful intentions.
We must also be loud when we talk about the existential challenges of the present. We cannot understand and therefore cannot effectively address the discrimination, social, labour market, educational, housing or even health problems faced by Roma without understanding the roots of these problems in the past and taking into account the current social situation.
As Minority Ombudsman, I have provided help with regard to numerous individual infringements, and in general comments as well as in joint reports with the Ombudsman I have presented the requirements for research and education on Roma history, including the Holocaust, the ways to combat hate speech and hate crime, and the various areas of enforcing individual and community minority rights.
Behind successes, there is often a community that is not just a numerical sum of its members, but one that has a common drive, a belief in a common goal and can only achieve results through collective action. Today, cooperation, thinking together and at the same time paying respect to individual freedom is the only way to true freedom and the defence of human dignity.
Budapest, 2 August 2021.
Prof. Elisabeth Sándor-SzalayMinority Ombudsman