BERLIN (Reuters) - The first Sinti and Roma keynote speaker at Germany’s Holocaust remembrance day told parliament on Thursday the mass murder of Roma during the Nazi era was the “forgotten Holocaust” as they continue to suffer across Europe.
Zoni Weisz, 73, was only seven years old when he was separated from his family and fled the German transports from the Netherlands to Auschwitz.
He was saved by the grace of a policeman and spent the war in hiding. His parents and siblings were murdered in Auschwitz.
“A half-million Sinti and Roma — men, women and children — were exterminated in the Holocaust,” Weisz told the Bundestag on the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz, with Chancellor Angela Merkel standing just a few steps away.
“Society has learned nothing or nearly nothing, otherwise it would treat us more responsibly,” Weisz said, who worked as a florist for the Dutch royal family.
The term “Roma” refers to various groups of people who describe themselves as Roma, Sinti, Gypsies, Travellers and other titles.
Last year France began expelling Roma migrants to Bulgaria and Romania, straining ties with Germany and drawing legal action from the European Union, which was later dropped.
Hungary’s leading far-right party has also pushed to have Roma segregated from society in camps. In Germany, where the government goes to great lengths to commemorate victims of the Nazi era, the genocide of the Roma was only first acknowledged in 1982.
After nearly two decades of planning, a memorial to Sinti and Roma will be unveiled in Berlin this year, among other memorials. The memorial will be in the shape of a fountain and designed by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan and will be in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, a short distance from parliament.
Berlin will also unveil a memorial street named after a book banned by the Nazis that told the love story of a German boy and a Roma girl called “Ede and Unku.”
A school will also be named in the city after boxer Johann Trollmann, a Sinti boxing champion who had his title denied him by the Nazis in 1933 and was later murdered in a concentration camp near Hamburg.
Editing by Ralph Boulton