WASHINGTON–The Chairman and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission welcomed the unveiling of a memorial in Berlin for the Romani victims of the Nazi regime’s genocide against the Roma.
Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, commended German Chancellor Angela Merkel for participating in this historic event and honoring the Romani people who suffered and the estimated 500,000 who perished in the genocide of WWII. “Today marks an important step in acknowledging and teaching about the fate of Roma at the hands of the Nazi regime and the Axis powers: persecution, confiscation of property, forced sterilization, slave labor, inhumane medical experimentation, and ultimately genocide.”
Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission, noted the Commission’s long-standing support for building a memorial and stated “I commend Romani Rose, who lost so many of his own family, for his tireless work to ensure that Romani victims of genocide are remembered and honored. I am deeply heartened that efforts to build this memorial, underway for over a decade, have finally been realized. There is much work still to do, however, across the entire OSCE region to change the attitudes and prejudices that were at the heart of Nazi crimes.”
Smith added, “Earlier this year, I chaired a hearing on the extreme violence and threats of violence against Roma which, in some countries, are actually on the rise. Just a month ago, a Romani camp near Marseilles was burned down by a mob. While today provides an opportunity to remember the tragic genocide of Roma, those experiences should compel us to intensify our efforts to combat today’s bigotry and acts of violence.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.