10th anniversary of the memorial: Federal President Steinmeier asks Sinti and Roma for forgiveness

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. (Copyright: Central Council of German Sinti and Roma / Jens Jeske)

On the 10th anniversary of the handover of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered under National Socialism, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at today’s ceremony at the memorial: “On behalf of our country, I ask you for forgiveness – for the immeasurable injustice done to the Roma of Europe by Germans during the National Socialist era, and for the disregard that German Sinti and Roma also experienced in the Federal Republic after the end of the war. I ask for your forgiveness. Mangau tamen, prosaran man!” He went on to say that the everyday discrimination against Sinti and Roma had to stop, as members of the minority still often conceal their origins, their language and their culture for fear of humiliation or hostility. No one in this country should be indifferent to this.

Zoni Weisz. (Copyright Central Council of German Sinti and Roma / Jens Jeske)

Zoni Weisz, an 85-year-old Sinto Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands, who lost his entire family in the Nazi genocide, warned in his speech that one must remain vigilant, especially in times when the influence of right-wing politicians is increasing. He called the memorial, as he did in his speech at the opening 10 years ago, a memorial of hope: “We hope that fascism, racism, antisemitism and antigypsyism will not take the form they had in the 1930s. Hope that we can live together in peace despite the great differences between cultures and peoples, and hope that we respect each other.”

Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council, warned against new hostilities against Sinti and Roma. There have been many positive developments, “yet despite these developments we must take note that a new nationalism and a new racist way of thinking are once again taking hold.” Antigypsyist and antisemitic agitation again can again lead to “people being made scapegoats and having their existence threatened”. Attacks on minorities “shame the entire country”, also because “these crimes of racial hatred are often excused with failures of the security authorities”. He rejected calls for a “final stroke” to the commemoration of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. This would “deprive today’s society and future generations of this country of the opportunity to learn lessons from history, for the future of all of us”.

Romani Rose welcomes Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In the middle, Uwe Neumärker (Director of the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) and Iris Spranger (Berlin Senator for the Interior, Digitalisation and Sport). (Copyright Central Council of German Sinti and Roma / Jens Jeske)

Today, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary, the Central Council also published a statement by Romani Rose on its YouTube channel, in which the Chairman of the Central Council talks about current challenges in the fight against antigypsyism, about society’s responsibility, and about remembering and commemorating the Holocaust against the Sinti and Roma in Europe (in German):

Roma activist Irina Spataru recalled the still prevalent systematic discrimination against Sinti and Roma in Europe: “We experience unequal treatment of Roma refugees from Ukraine and still witness police violence and institutional discrimination. One of the basic prerequisites for combating antigypsyism is the recognition of racial persecution, the recognition that our ancestors had to die just because they were Sinti and Roma.”

The speeches by Zoni Weisz, Romani Rose, and Irina Spataru can be downloaded here (in German):

Speech Zoni Weisz

Speech Romani Rose

Speech Irina Spataru

The speech of the Federal President can be found on the homepage of the Office of the Federal President.


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