The International Remembrance Day for Roma Victims of Genocide in the Second World War (Samudaripen) was marked at the Roma cemetery in Ustica near Jasenovac in central Croatia on Tuesday.
The event, commemorating Roma killed in the WWII Ustasha-run Jasenovac concentration camp and other Nazi camps, was attended by state officials, foreign diplomats, Roma delegations from a dozen European countries, and members of the clergy.
The commemoration was organized by the Kali Sara association of Croatian Roma.
MP Veljko Kajtazi, who represents ethnic Roma in Parliament, and chair of the event’s organizing committee, said at the ceremony that around half a million Roma had been killed in World War II.
“A message should be sent from this place that we learn from history and that we have taken a stand by marking the cemetery and establishing a museum at Ustica, a place of suffering of the Roma community… This place is the biggest place of suffering of the Roma people in Europe. We must help bring young Roma and non-Roma people closer together so that fear and disinformation do not lead to such evil ever again,” Kajtazi said.
“Roma taken to the Jasenovac concentration camp lived there in inhumane conditions and were most frequently just a number, without their identity having been registered,” he added.
According to available information, 16,173 Roma, including 5,608 children, were killed in Jasenovac. “It took us 80 years to recover from that attempt to annihilate our people,” Kajtazi said.
A religious service was held by the Roman Catholic priest Milan Vidakovic, the Imam of Sisak, Alem Crnkic, and the Serb Orthodox priest Luka Bosanac. A prayer was also recited in the Romani language.