“We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
From 1-2 March a conference on the genocide of the Roma was co-organised by the Hungarian IHRA Chairmanship and held in Budapest at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
The conference was organized together with the Tom Lantos Institute and the Jesuit Roma Residential College. Addressing the audience, the IHRA Chair, Szabolcs Takács, stressed that society could not allow room for any exclusionary ideas that were aimed ethnic or religious groups.
The IHRA Chair continued, "We were part of the genocide carried out by the Nazi regime as perpetrators and victims, and as passive spectators and rescuers of human lives as well."
"Confronting the past without compromise’ – he added, ‘in this respect, Hungary has no reason to be ashamed’.
Against the backdrop of discussions organized alongside the conference, Mr Takács talked about how the best way to maintain the political, legal and social commitment against exclusion was to raise public awareness, through education. He also mentioned the role of international cooperation in ensuring equal opportunities for the Roma.
Anna-Mária Bíró, Director of the Tom Lantos Institute emphasized that ‘it is the self-understanding of the Roma that we should primarily focus on in connection to their history and the Roma Genocide. The interpretation of those events should not be carried out by others. She indicated that presently the infrastructure required for such work is inadequate. She claimed that the violations of human rights which led to the Roma genocide still exist in Hungary and referred to the segregation in education as an example.
Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and Director of the Documentation and Cultural Centre of the German Sinti and Roma spoke about the importance of the internal cohesion of societies. He said that the spread of populist ideas on the continent undermined the fundamental values which were achieved as a result of ‘tedious social progress’ after World War II and the Holocaust. The German expert expressed his appreciation of the fact that the topic of the genocide of the Roma had been integrated into the national curriculum in Hungary, remarking that this has yet to be achieved in his country.
Ágnes Daróczi, Director of the Romano Instituto Roma Research Institute, Vice-President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, called attention to the unexplored elements of the genocide of the Roma, emphasizing: ‘we are at an enormous disadvantage because we have not yet confronted our past, have not documented it, have not specified (…), what it is exactly we do not wish to see return’.
The conference was proceeded by a cultural event on 1 March. Speaking at the event, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog said: ‘It is our duty to release this huge potential to serve our common future. We trust that commemoration serves this purpose’.
Zoltán Balog also noted that he took the issue as a matter of honour, so in 2012, as the first country in Europe, the topic of Roma culture and history, including the genocide of the Roma, was incorporated into the national curriculum.
IHRA Chair, Szabolcs Takács, underlined: ’this is the last event organized by the Hungarian IHRA Chairmanship. Looking back at the last period we can state that Hungary has successfully guided the organization in the past 12 months, aware of the responsibility from the past and committed to the future’.
The dance-drama commemorating the genocide of the was performed by the Khamoro Dance Theatre, with the contribution of students from the Jesuit Roma Residential College and the choir of the Dohány Street Synagogue.