In three intensive days of Seminar, we could not only remember and bring back memories of the most dramatic historical episode for Rromani people, but also we could reflect on the challenges that we still have to face as a community.
Peter has relived with us some of his most tragic life experiences. He has shared his personal memories, his personal pain. He has personified the suffering of the Rromani people and, through his words, we have come to understand the scope of this underestimated tragedy, that has been forgotten by History, and which is still, in an indirect and more subtle way, a daily rampant reality for a lot of Rromani people.
The fact of remembering this historical events, is not only an exercise of collective reflection. It is, first and foremost, a way of maintaining our identity alive, contributing in this manner to a world-wide promotion of diversity and accordingly combatting discrimination, which is always, as Nazzareno said, the result of diversity rejection. Through linguistic diversity and diversity of cosmovisions, mankind multiplies its abilities to face the (often unexpected) challenges of life and increases its harmony on this planet. This means that it is a major asset not only for peoples bearing a non-dominant identity (as it is our case) but for the entire mankind.
Oblivion has been the mechanism used for sidelining Rromani people, denying Rromani history and underestimating Rromani collective identity. This brought a major loss not only for the Rroms themselves but as well for Europe as a whole.
The Rroms’ genocide, or Samudaripen in Rromani language, should not only be described in terms of quantity or numeric value – probably 500.000 to 600.000 directly killed Rromani victims. It cannot be only understood in full on the mere basis of the number of killed victims. In other words, it is necessary to underline the quality aspect of the Samudaripen and to point out the magnitude of all the indirect sufferings caused to by our people, including survivors and the community as a whole. Let us recall that Rroms were considered, as Marcel Courthiade explained, “contents of freight wagons” (sometimes not even counted) or “surplus of elimination”. He also detailed 15 elements which led to the “oblivion” of the Genocide. Decades after the war, German authorities were still denying the racial character of Himmler’s Auschwitz-Erlass (decree) and subtely justifying his criminal actions.
It is also crucial to circulate the word Samudaripen (or Sa-Mudaripen), as the real Rromani name of this genocide, and discard the Jewish fondamentalist concept of “Holocaust”, heavily loaded with a providentialistic theological feeling (and as such rejected by most Jews, who say Shoah instead) as well as the obscene and respectless word Porrajmos.
Thanks to Aldo Rivera and Iovanca Gaspar, we could understand why all this suffering caused by the Samudaripen is still present in our daily life; why and how it is transmitted from generation to generation as a traumatic experience and frustration – not only at the individual and family, but also social and collective, levels; how the horror started to become part of the victims and how it was extended to their family and social network – shared by young Rroms at the very moment they hear about it for the first time.
The negation of Rromani identity is still a tangible reality in the XXI century, but Rromani people are known for being amazingly able to overcome pain and reinvent themselves, thanks to their capacity to recover through creative life, music, art, work, family and community. And, ultimately, for their capacity to stay alive and standing upright.
Integration, in its genuine meaning, is a symetrical respectful recognition of both sides of the process, and therefore it cannot be achieve without the recognition by the majority of our values, heritage, true history (not legends coined by outsiders), culture and creativity, contribution to Europe, including economical inputs, in one word the reality of our people. Such a recognition should not be a simple declarative act but should be embedded into school curricula, general culture and ultimately everybodies’ basic awareness.
We should be proud of that, and we should also be proud to be part of a community that is an example of integration and coexistence, because we have never subjugated other people. Rroms have always been well integrated, preserving their values and heritage, while sharing those of the majority population – except when they were excluded, expelled, imprisonned, enslaved, murdered or otherwise treated as innate enemies of the mainstream population. Unfortunately this historical fact is seldom recognized by others and this negation is a politically correct expression of modern Gypsophobia.
Thanks to Violeta, Sandra, Nazzareno, Ana Dalila…we have remembered that Samudaripen was not only a matter of Germany, because many other countries played an active role in order to achieve our extermination. And it is only now when some of those countries begin to apologize for what they did. The excellent 45-mn movie DUJ RROMA, with Peter’s brother Hugo – another victim of the Samudaripen, as the main character, made palpable the everyday life in Auschwitz-Birkenau and as such should be widely circulated with multilingual subtitles (10 languages available so far) through schools and other educational structures all over Europe.
Rromani people have been socially presented throughout History in a pejorative way, being subjected to cultural denial and to rejection of their identity. When authorities are asked why no actions have been taken to defend actively Rromani people, the only answer is silence. We cannot accept that silence anymore. We have to reclaim the incorporation of all our History, not only Samudaripen, to be part of the curriculum of schools, secondary schools and universities, on the basis of the current state of art in this matter, not while repeting the legends of the past.
Authorities should be aware of the mistake that has been made, they should also apologize once and for all, and they should set up a mechanism ensuring that atrocities like this one, never happen again, for nobody. But the truth is that anti-Gypsyism is still alive, in a modern way – thriving often under the form of Gypsophobia, “fear of the Gypsies” (“precautionary principle”). Gypsophobia is not in fact a fear of the real Rroms but of the Gypsies, namely the constructed fiction of dangerous Rroms, clearly much more saleable than any traditional “hate of the Gypsies”. Under this new clothing, discrimination remains in force and, in many places, Rromani people are still treated in an inhumane manner, because the classical anti-racist discourse is not any more adapted to this new waves of intolerance, growing under renewed appearances – most often also intertwinned with corruption, be it financial or ideologic.
We need to be able to think as a community, as a people. It is necessary to reflect on what we can do in order to invert this situation. Giving talks about the Samudaripen in schools and universities, where hardly anybody knows anything about it, is a peaceful and efficient manner to achieve such crucial changes. Conversely, forgetting the Samudaripen would be dangerous, because this would let us grow indifferent and as a result we would be much more vulnerable to injustice. Remembering the past, passing it on to future generations and increasing the visibility of this problem among people, will allow us to prevent the recurrence of horror.
What is more, we have to overcome victimization and go further, emphasizing examples of Rroms, who played and are still playing a role as political players and therefore can change realities. In addition, it is important to make our people more and more aware of their real capacity to have an effect on History.
We are a peaceful community, an example to be followed. We have never subjected anyone. On the contrary our very existence is a lesson in humanity to history. So, it is needed that we play an active role to transform our societies.
However, in order to change other people’s perception, we need to meld our own perception and to be really proud of what we are, of our heritage and potentialities. Reclaiming every life that has been taken would be impossible, but bringing back memories is possible.
What can and should we do?
We have to remember the past and make it visible. What is more, we have to claim a compensation for damage. Memory is the tool that enables us to prevent anti-Gypsyism. Something (closely or remotely) similar to the Samudaripen is not acceptable to happen again and we have to combat actively any resurgence of such social diseases leading from refusal of diversity to genocides through all forms of discrimination.
The restoration of a dignified Rromani identity, leading to respect, alleviation of discrimination and of subsequent social problems, relies on the recognition and promotion of the Rroms’ identity, Rromani language and history, nowadays accessible on the online university course “Restore the European Dimension of Rromani”.
In order to counter the negation of the Rroms’ history and identity, it is essential to teach its real course and the real events, beginning with the Proto-Rroms’ exodus from the Indian former capital city of Kannauj in 1018, their deportation to Afghanistan and Khorassan, their first contacts with Europeans during the Crusades, their life in the Byzantine space, Central Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, their slavery in Moldova and Ţara Românească and definitely the Samudaripen. One step could be done in publishing a bilingual (Rromani and Spanish/Catalan) anthology of poems devoted to the Samudaripen. Another excellent opportunity to illustrate this strategy of wide enlightment will be the millenium of the exodus of the Rroms’ ancestors from Kannauj in Madhyadesh and to make a huge cultural, scientific and political event out of it. This would be a good example of how we can ensure the knowledge transference to young Rroms and other fellow citizens, involve civil society in order to remember the past and fight against discrimination and hate crime.
The recuperation by Iberian Rroms of the gorgeous and so tender Rromani language is also a major venture, to which a Spanish and a Catalan versions of the course in line R.E.D.-RROM could contribute powerfully.
Moreover, we need to join our forces and promote the development of associations of Rromani people. We have to be active in existing networks to exchange knowledge, so that we can act together in order to defend ourselves against discrimination and injustice, giving this way an inspiring example for all other nations. The crucial point now is to make our youngsters aware of this issue and convince them them organise themselves with all other Rroms to ensure our right as a people, as a community.
One of the first actions they could do is to upload on Youtube clips explaining the outputs of this conference (especially about the use of the word “Samudaripen”) and all kinds of ludo-educational clips about our history, legacy and culture. It is essentiel in this respect to work together and provide efficient tools and appropriate answer meeting the needs of the community, to offer alternatives to our young people, and above all, to implement effective strategies in combatting all kinds of discrimination, especially hidden and/or interweaved with financial and/or moral corruption.
In conclusion, we hope that all of those reflections turn into a collaborative effort joined by Rromani associations, public authorities, and civil society as a whole, in order to move forward together towards a renewed society, truly inclusive and respectful for all.