We pause today to mourn and remember the hundreds of thousands of Romani men, women and children who were savagely and senselessly murdered by the Nazis during World War II.
On August 2, seventy years ago, Romani men, women, and children were taken from their quarters at Auschwitz-Birkenau and sent to the gas chambers. Over the course of a single night, the Nazis sent 2,879 Roma to their deaths. Entire families were lost.
Today, we remember the 23,000 Romani persons from 11 countries who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the 19,000 who perished. We remember the men, women, and children who died from inhumane medical experiments, and the many more who died from disease and starvation. And we remember that the appalling murder of Roma didn’t stop at the camp’s edge. In parts of Nazi‑occupied territory, Roma were rounded up, shot at village outskirts, and dumped into mass graves.
Above all, we remember our common responsibility to stand strong against the cruel sting of bigotry and injustice. Racism against Roma persists even today, and racism anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. We must condemn all prejudice wherever it springs up, because we know that words of hatred too often become acts of hatred.
Teaching about Romani experiences during the Holocaust is critical in combating prejudice. We commend Germany’s efforts to remember the Romani victims of the Nazis, including the memorial unveiled in Berlin two years ago.
We can learn from our history, and, together, we can change its course for generations to come.