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European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day: Statement by President von der Leyen, Vice President Jourová and Commissioner Dalli

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On Roma Holocaust Memorial Day today (2 August), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová and Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli said: “Today, we mark the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. We pay our respects to the hundreds of thousands of Roma victims of the Holocaust and renew our efforts and commitment for Roma equality, inclusion and participation.

"Remembering the Roma persecution is a European collective duty that reminds us of the need to tackle their persisting discrimination. Hate, racially motivated violence and ethnic profiling have no place in our Union, built on the respect for fundamental rights.

"Today, we once again invite the member sates to commit to our EU Roma Strategic Framework for equality, inclusion and participation from October 2020. Together we can make the European Union more equal, in particular for members of its largest ethnic minority.”

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Background

In 2015, the European Parliament declared 2 August as the annual European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the 500,000 European Roma – representing at least a quarter of their total population at that time– murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe.

On 2 August 2019, Věra Jourová, then commissioner for justice, joined the commemoration ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau to mark the 75th anniversary of the extermination of the last remaining Roma in the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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This year, Commissioner Dalli will speak via video message at the official virtual Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony of the European Holocaust Memorial Day of Roma and Sinti, at the initiative of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.

More information

Roma equality, inclusion and participation in the EU

EU Roma strategic framework

Holocaust

Dutch municipality disgusted with young people protesting corona measures in Nazi uniforms

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The municipality of Urk, in the Netherlands, has expressed disgust at images showing around 10 young people marching through the city in Nazi uniforms last Saturday protesting against the COVID-19 measures, NLTimes reported, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Photos online show one of them wearing prisoner stripes and a Star of David, while the others aim fake weapons at him.

“This behavior is not only highly objectionable and extremely inappropriate, but also hurtful to large population groups. With this tasteless action, a line has very clearly been crossed as far as the municipality of Urk is concerned,’ the municipality said in a statement.

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“We understand that these young people want to make their voices heard about the impact of the current and upcoming coronavirus measures,” the city mayor Cees van den Bos said, adding that ‘’this discussion is not only taking place in Urk, but throughout our country.’’

He continued, ‘’However, we do not understand the way they are doing it. Not only the municipality of Urk, but the entire community completely disapproves of this way of protesting.”

The Public Prosecution Service said it is investigating whether a criminal offense was committed.

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Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), a group that represents hundreds of communities across the continent, said this incident ‘’ underlines the massive job still left to do in education.’’

‘’The actions of the youth in Urk, part of a growing trend of comparing Covid restrictions and push back against vaccination that seeks to draw parallels between government attempts to stem the virus and the Nazi treatment of Jews, shows the massive job still to do in educational provision on what really happened during the Holocaust,’’ he said.

‘’No matter how high feelings are running, the Jewish experience of the holocaust can never be used to draw any comparison, simply because nothing compares to it in Europe,’’ Margolin added.

According to news website Hart van Nederland, the young people apologized on Monday. In a letter, they wrote. “It was absolutely not our intention to arouse memories of the Second World War.”  Howevern they they did not clarify what their intention was. “We want to emphasize that we are absolutely not anti-Semitic or against Jews, or support the German regime. Our sincerer apologies,” they wrote.

This is not the first incident around the coronavirus in Urk.  In January, a GGD testing center in the village was set on fire. In March, journalists were attacked by churchgoers who continued to attend church despite the coronavirus measures.

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European Commission

Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes: Statement by Vice President Jourová and Commissioner Reynders

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On the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes today (23 August), Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders issued the following statement: “Over eighty years ago, on 23 August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed between Germany and the Soviet Union just before the Second World War broke out. For many, this fateful day marked the beginning of a cycle of Nazi and Soviet occupation and violence. On this day, we pay tribute to those who fell victim to totalitarian regimes in Europe and those who fought against such regimes. We recognise the suffering of all the victims and their families, as well as the lasting effect that this traumatic experience left on the following generations of Europeans. Let us work together so that our shared past makes us stronger for the shared future – and does not drive us apart. Freedom from totalitarianism and authoritarianism is not a given. It is something we need to stand up for every day anew. It is at the heart of the European ideal. Together with the rule of law and democracy, this freedom is at the core of the European Treaties we have all signed. We must continue to stand, united, for these fundamental European values.”

The full statement is available online.

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100-year-old former death camp guard to go on trial in Germany

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An empty square is seen at the former Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen on the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet and U.S. troops, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) near Berlin, Germany, April 17, 2020. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

A 100-year-old former guard at the Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp near Berlin will face trial in the autumn, 76 years after the end of the Second World War, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported, writes Arno Schuetze, Reuters.

The district court of Neuruppin admitted the charges of accessory to murder in 3,500 cases, and the trial is slated to start in October. The defendant should be able to stand trial for 2 to 2-1/2 hours a day, a court spokesman told the paper.

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The court was not available for comment at the weekend.

The accused, who was not named in accordance with German media laws concerning suspects, was said to have worked as a camp guard from 1942 to 1945 in Sachsenhausen, where around 200,000 people were imprisoned and 20,000 murdered.

While the number of suspects in Nazi crimes is dwindling prosecutors are still trying to bring individuals to justice. A landmark conviction in 2011 cleared the way to more prosecutions as working in a concentration camp was for the first time found to be grounds for culpability with no proof of a specific crime.

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