Representatives of Roma associations from fifteen different countries met on the 28th, 29th and 30th of November 2016 in Valencia, in order to regain the historical memory of the Roma genocide that murdered half a million Roma people during the Second World War.
In order to carry out this event (the greatest carried out about Samudaripen so far), as part of the project MEM-ROM, Maranatha Federation of Gypsy Associations has counted with the support of the European Commission, which has co-financed this Seminar within the framework of the program “Europe for citizens”, counting with the financial and logistic support of Generalitat Valenciana (the Valencia Regional Government) and Diputación de Valencia (the Provincian Council of Valencia).
At the opening of the Seminar, the Regional Minister for Social Inclusion of the Generalitat Valenciana, Alberto Ibañez Mezquita, and the councilwoman of Social Welfare of the Valencian City Council, Isabel Lozano, emphasized the importance of this meeting as a tool for recovering the historical memory of the Roma people and moving forward to more inclusive and tolerant societies. Ibañez has underlined his commitment to Roma people and he has also indicated that the Valencian Strategy for Roma People’s Equality and Inclusion will refer to gypsy culture as a source of wealth and diversity to the valencian culture.
More than a hundred people have participated actively in the sixth edition of the Roma International Seminar, in order to recover from oblivion the suffering of the Roma community.
Following the opening of the Seminar and the inauguration of the photo exhibition that will be shown in several European countries, Peter Höllenreiner, who survived to the Auschwitz concentration camp, talked about some of the most tragic experiences he lived there to an attentive audience in a crowed room. He shared his suffering with the attendees and condemned the Roma people’s pressure and persecution that, nowadays, is still present in some European countries.
Maria Anna Willer, writer, journalist and author of Der Junge Aus Auschwitz…eine begegnung, a book about Auschwitz survivors based on the testimony of Peter Hollenreiner himself, could complete and comment Peter’s memories at the Seminar thanks to the data she collected while she was writing her book. “It was hard to write about Peter´s life” -she concluded.
Höllenreiner, Willer and Iovanca Gaspar, a sociologist in charge of accompanying Roma families in Munich, observed that the silence and the denial of this tragedy (Samudaripen) have been common in Germany and other European countries until very recently. “There is still a sense of guilt because it concerns not only the fact of repairing the damage through financial grants, but also and above all, the fact of recognizing the victims and asking for forgiveness. Unfortunately, it has not always been done appropriately”.
After a presentation of the forgotten tragedy in Transnitria, and according to Violeta Dumitru, head of Roma Women Association in Romania, and Ochita Pau, head of the Romanian Association O del Almenta, “Samudaripen is still alive somehow becauseRoma people’s discrimination and suffering are still an overlooked reality”.
Marcel Courthiade explained that the fact of forgetting Samudaripen was a strategy carried out in order to sideline Roma people, underestimate their collective identity and eliminate their shared history. “We cannot tolerate silence anymore, because forgetting our people’s history means to forget ourselves”.
On his behalf, Aldo Rivera, psychologist at the organization Madhouse in Munich, warned the audience that it was needed to build up a network of specialized psychologists and psychiatrists “in order to improve the quality of the research on the genocide consequences and to give a better care to victims and families, that are still suffering the consequences of the horror they were subjected to”. Furthermore, he explained that Roma people have an enormous capacity to overcome the suffering through art and community. Consequently, the fact of remembering the past is also a kind of collective reflection therapy and a way to transform the pain into the pride of belonging to Roma people.
Nazzareno Guarnieri, the president of Fondazione Romaní Italia (F.R.I); Sandra Sornowska of the Polish Association CKRR, and Ana Dalila Gomez, president of PRORROM, analyzed what Samudaripen was and what it meant during and after the second World War in countries such as Italy, Poland and Colombia.
These interventions made clear that Samudaripen was not only a problem confined to the history of Nazi Germany, but also it caused a period of generalized hate against Roma people in a Europe full of racism, fascism and intolerance. This problem is likely to re-emerge at any time.
During the Seminar’s closing ceremony, which took place in the beautiful room Alfonso el Magnánimo in the cultural centre La Beneficencia, Juan Carlos Moragues, delegate of the Spanish government in the region, ensured the commitment, solidarity and involvement of the Spanish Government with the gypsy community.
In her part, Mercedes Berenguer, who is in charge of Social Welfare and Education policies in the regional government, argued that Samudaripen should be studied at schools and universities. In addition, Jose Alfredo Maya Maya, president of the Maranatha Federation, claimed: “It is necessary to make Roma people more aware of their capacity to influence society in order to eliminate discrimination and any prejudice still present. We need to organize ourselves in order to assert our rights as a community, so we have to start by recovering our historical memory”. The closing ceremony finished with the interpretation of the Roma anthem Gelem, Gelem.