Conference on the Genocide of the Roma (2 March 2016)



The Hungarian Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), together with the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI) and the Jesuit Roma Residential College (JRSC) are jointly organising a conference on the Genocide of the Roma. The event will be hosted in the Ceremonial Hall of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) in Budapest, on 2 March 2016.

One of the three priorities of the current Hungarian Chairmanship of the IHRA is to commemorate the Genocide of the Roma. The official action plan of the Chairmanship for 2015-16 is underpinned by the principle of a “zero tolerance policy” incorporating all forms of “hate speech and deeds, including antisemitism and anti-Roma attitudes”.

The Genocide of the Roma remains an under-researched, untaught and largely an unrecognised subject. The roots of long-standing stereotypes have not been revisited and processed in the light of this genocide, whilst the discrimination and social, economic and political exclusion of the Roma continues.

Systematic research and comprehensive knowledge of the Genocide of the Roma serves several aims. On the one hand, it strengthens the identity of the community and builds the confidence of its members. On the other hand, it restores individual dignity and empowers the group to become active participants in the struggle for Roma rights. An educated understanding of the history, causes and processes of this genocide also contributes to countering present day prejudice and discrimination. Remembrance activities enhance public consciousness about the Genocide of the Roma by acknowledging the victims and paying tribute to them. Realising the importance of the public acknowledgment of, and the responsibility for this extreme form of mass violence, civil society actors, governments and intergovernmental organisations have designed education materials, engaged in commemorative events and advocated for the formal recognition of the Genocide of the Roma and its inclusion into national school curricula.

In the past decade several international organisations addressed the issue of the Genocide of the Roma. In 2003 the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) recognised the importance of education on this issue in its “Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE Area”. The IHRA established a Committee on the Genocide of the Roma, to design education materials and recommendations for state actors. In 2014 the Council of Europe developed educational material entitled “Right to Remember – A Handbook for Education with Young People on the Roma Genocide”. On the 15th of April in 2015 the European Parliament adopted the resolution “Anti-Gypsyism in Europe and EU recognition of the memorial day of the Roma genocide during World War II (2015/2615(RSP)”.

It is against this background that the Hungarian Chairmanship of the IHRA together with the Jesuit Roma Residential College and the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest organise a conference on the Genocide of the Roma. The purpose of this event is to take stock of the strategically important dimensions of this issue by means of discussions in four different panels. The overall purpose of these discussions is to analyse the ways in which systematic knowledge, memorialisation and representation of the Roma Genocide contributes to countering the discrimination and exclusion of Roma today.

The first panel addresses “Research and Education” and gives an informative overview of relevant research in Hungary and Europe highlighting how the generation of knowledge in this particular area informs formal and non-formal education. The second panel is about “Memorialisation and Representation” discussing literary and artistic representations, including official commemorations and memorial sites and the ways they deepen our understanding of this mass violence and strengthens our responsibility to avoid the potentials of similar atrocities today. In the third panel we take stock of national and transnational civil society initiatives related to the Genocide of the Roma with a focus on their objectives and effectiveness. In the final panel, major initiatives of intergovernmental organisations for the formal recognition of the Roma Genocide, education at the national level and policies for countering current forms of anti-Gypsyism are tabled for discussion.

This conference hopes to inform the audience and the broader public about research, education, recognition and memorialisation of the Roma Genocide. By doing so, it intends to strengthen the existing epistemic community on this issue. Recognising the importance of civil society agency around the Roma Genocide, this conference aims to connect and reinforce relevant civil society initiatives in order to facilitate concerted joint action. In addition to the conference panel discussing remembrance and memorialisation, cultural events including a dance drama and readings from relevant Roma literature followed by several exhibitions and a literary corner, pays tribute to the victims and speaks out loudly against discrimination.

Venue: Hungarian Academy of Sciences - Ceremonial Hall (Széchenyi István square 9., 1051 Budapest)

RSVP by Tuesday, 1 March 2016, 12 PM

Please find the programme of the Conference in the PDF below.