Former Auschwitz concentration camp is pictured through a fence during ceremonies to mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation and commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in Auschwitz January 27, 2014. Aug. 2 marks the commemoration of the Romani genocide. On the night of Aug. 2 1944, the Germans liquidated the so-called Gypsy family camp (Zigeunerfamilienlager) of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, killing nearly 3,000 children, women and men. (Kacper Pempel/REUTERS)

Canada marks Romani genocide during WWII

The federal government is marking the genocide of more than 500,000 Romani murdered and persecuted by the Nazis and their collaborators in Europe during the Second World War.

Aug. 2 marks one of the most tragic mass murders committed against the Romani during the Second World War.

On the night of Aug. 2 to 3, German guards at Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp stormed the so-called Gypsy family camp (Zigeunerfamilienlager), where Roma prisoners were being held separately from their Jewish, Polish and Soviet counterparts.

Following a previous unsuccessful attempt to storm the camp in May of that year, the Nazis had already transferred all the able-bodied men to other concentration camps.

The remaining Roma fought back ferociously with stones and sticks but eventually nearly 3,000 children, women and elderly Roma prisoners were murdered in the gas chambers.

“By officially recognizing the Romani genocide—also known as the Porajmos and Samudaripen—we recognize the Romani peoples’ shared history as victims and survivors of Nazi atrocities during the Second World War,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Friday in a joint statement.

“Their story is the tragic consequence of intolerance left unchecked. It is a horrific example of where bigotry, xenophobia and the labelling of others as less than equal can lead when toxic rhetoric is normalized and encouraged.”

The Nazi propaganda considered the Romani people to be racially inferior. Feeding on anti-Gypsy racism and xenophobia prevalent through much of Europe at the time, Nazi Germany and its allies in Central and Eastern Europe organized and carried out a genocide of the Romani.

Freeland and Rodriguez acknowledged that Romani communities around the world, especially Roma women, continue to face “significant discrimination and social exclusion.”

“Canada is working within the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance [IHRA] to promote greater awareness of the Romani genocide through the IHRA’s Committee on the Genocide of the Roma,” Freeland and Rodriguez said.

“We vow to never again let such atrocities be committed against anyone, anywhere.”

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