GYPSIES, PROPERLY CALLED ROMA, have always excelled in the world of music. Think of the late George Cziffra, pianist and composer, or currently Roman Patkolo, double bass. But when it comes to equality in other spheres, it is another story entirely.
Lately Roma in Britain have started a campaign for representation on the several government-sponsored bodies set up to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and combat the danger of future genocides. The campaign wants measures to stop rising anti-Gypsy racism and for this to be put on a level with those against antisemitism. Hundreds of Roma have died in racial incidents across Europe in recent years and hate crimes in the UK have doubled since the Brexit vote.
In the Holocaust, campaigners point out, the Nazis singled out both Jews and Gypsies for extermination on racial grounds. Why then the disparity when it comes to representation? The campaign is led by, among others, one-time concert bass player, Gabor Boros, whose family number some of the greatest performers in Hungarian musical history, and who was working with the organisers of the Holocaust Memorial Day event which took place on 27th January.
Boros regards it a grievous omission that not one Roma has been appointed to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Holocaust Commission and its successor, the Holocaust Foundation. “Jews and Gypsies died together under the same Nazi curse," says Boros. "My mother was rounded up and sent on a death march shortly before the war ended. I want us to be there together as equals when the Holocaust is remembered.”
Last year Boros led a delegation to meet with officials at the Cabinet Office. The way Roma had been left out reflected, he said, the marginalisation and exclusion suffered by Gypsies in Britain as a whole.
Boros was promised that every effort would be made to convene a meeting with those able to settle the issue. Despite months of correspondence no such meeting has taken place.
Meanwhile, campaigners are preparing a submission on improvements they see as essential to the way the Roma Holocaust is displayed at the Imperial War Museum. One striking omission is that no mention is made of the Gypsy uprising that took place in Auschwitz before the final liquidation of Gypsies in the camp. However, this is only a prelude to the larger question of how the Roma will be portrayed on the planned Holocaust Memorial to be erected next to Parliament.
In the UK, there are believed to be some 500,000 people belonging to Romani communities. As many as half of them are newly arrived migrants from Eastern Europe, many of whom lost family members in the Holocaust.