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Forgotten Victims, report, survey, British people, Roma, Sinti, victims of Holocaust, Mengeles, concentration camps, history, YouGov“I’m afraid that Europe is forgetting its past and that Auschwitz is only sleeping.”

According to YouGov research carried out for Friends Families and Travellers, 55 per cent of the 2162 British adults surveyed were unaware that over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were killed in the Holocaust by the Nazis.

The results of this research were published on 26 February 2020 to coincide with the 77th anniversary of the first arrival of Roma and Sinti people from Germany at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex in Poland.

In a blog for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, historian Rainer Schulze describes the conditions in the Zigeunerfamilienlager (Gypsy Family Camp) at Auschwitz-Birkenau: ‘Unlike the Jews, Roma men, women and children were not separated, which is why the camp was called Zigeunerfamilienlager.

‘All arrivals were tattooed on their arms (babies on their thighs) with a number prefixed by a Z for Zigeuner, meaning Gypsy.

‘Living conditions in the Gypsy Camp were grim. Food supplies were totally inadequate, disease was rampant, and the inmates were subjected to serious maltreatment by the SS.

‘In May 1943, Dr Josef Mengele was posted to Auschwitz-Birkenau and became the camp doctor of the Zigeunerfamilienlager.

‘One focus of his ‘medical research’ was on identical twins, and he took a particular interest in the Sinti and Roma children, subjecting his victims to ruthless experiments and horrifying torture, and killing many of them in order to dissect parts of their bodies.’

The YouGov research was commissioned by Friends Families and Travellers and posed the question:

‘Sinti and Roma communities have been living in Germany for 600 or more years. They share ethnic origins in India and are Europe’s largest ethnic minority group.

‘Over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were killed by Nazis during the Holocaust. Before taking this survey, were you aware that these people were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust?’

The Roma community in England continues to face high levels of prejudice and feels the consequences of hate every day.

Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission published in 2018 found that 44 per cent of the British public surveyed expressed openly negative attitudes towards Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities; this is more than any other ‘protected characteristic’ group.

And anti-Roma prejudice is on the rise in mainland Europe, with increasingly hostile governments in Italy and Hungary in particular and regular news reports of anti-Roma attacks.

This report calls on the UK Government to be more vocal in condemning discrimination and prejudice against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, to take steps to mark Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month in schools and to strengthen teaching on Roma and Sinti experiences of the Holocaust in the curriculum.

Responding to the research findings, Sarah Mann, Director of Friends Families and Travellers, said: “As we mark the 75th year since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we reflect upon how we can work to ensure history does not repeat itself.

“It is a great failure of our education system and of our institutions that over half of British adults are unaware of the death of over half a million Roma and Sinti communities during the Holocaust.”

Adding to this, Suzanna King, writer and director of the educational play Crystal’s Vardo, said: “It’s so important for children and young people to learn about the devastating effects of discrimination and racism and to teach values of tolerance, respect and acceptance.

“History provides important lessons to us – we must not forget them.”

And the report shares the words of Roma Holocaust survivor Ceija Stojka, who said: “I’m afraid that Europe is forgetting its past and that Auschwitz is only sleeping. Anti-gypsyist threats, policies and actions worry me greatly and make me very sad.”

To read the Forgotten Victims report click here.

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