International Holocaust Rememberance Day

Communication of the Minority Ombudsman on the International Holocaust Rememberance Day

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly, by unanimous decision, declared the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945, the 27th of January, as the International Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust Victims. The moral duty of all of us is to commemorate the victims, but our common responsibility is to teach and sensitize the next generations to human rights.

World War II had deeply rooted social and historical antecedents and the events occurring in the era of the Holocaust illustrate how can a society turn from the toleration of isolated human rights violations to the massive and systematic extinction of the lives of millions.

For too long time, the Roma have not been mentioned among the victims of Holocaust. Compensation for victims and the development of a memory culture – such as the adoption of a memorial day, the creation of memorials and the birth of scientific research – are the result of several decades of work, in which the work of Roma and Sinti activists and artists plays a major role. Losses and the silence of European Roma and Sinti communities have led to an international Roma movement launched in the 1970s to focus on the subject of the Roma Holocaust and the compensation of victims – these goals have been finally achieved over several decades.

In today's world, increasing intolerance and xenophobia, and the unreasonable fears of people and communities blamed to have a set of values contradicting the values of the majority society can create dangerous processes in European societies. In Hungary, we also find a tragic example of processes that have caused our fellow citizens to lose their lives due to their ethnic/national affiliation. The prevalence of online and offline hate speech can be regarded as the forerunner of the murders of Roma people committed during 2008-2009, as well as of the dozens of attacks against Roma committed in this period.

The importance and necessity of the teaching of the Holocaust has been explicitly stated in several international human rights documents in recent decades, and the United Nations Organization’s Guidelines and Recommendations on human rights education advocate the incorporation of anti-racist and intercultural elements into education.

As the ombudsman for the protection of the rights of national minorities, I issued in October 2017 a general comment on the role of education on the Roma Holocaust in shaping the attitude of the society. The document covers the analysis of the domestic regulatory environment of holocaust education, the examination of the appearance of the Roma Holocaust in formal and non-formal education, the related domestic ombudsman activities and the presentation of international and domestic good practices. The work was also greatly assisted by a professional roundtable discussion with the topic's experts. The resolution states that the quality education of the Roma Holocaust can become a tool in Hungary that can not only help Roma and other communities to live up to their right to freely confess and to preserve their identity as laid down in the Fundamental Law, but also to develop and to strengthen the value system based on respect for human rights.