Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Roma

An article in The Herald reminds us that the Holocaust was not limited to the Jewish population .

An estimated 1.5 million were murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe, an episode that has come to be known in the Romani language as the Porraimos (the "devouring"), or Romani holocaust.

In communist eastern Europe after the war, the state set about targeting Roma, with social policies aimed to settle them forcibly and to eradicate "anti-social traits".

The number of Roma in the whole of Europe could be between 10 million and 12 million, according to a recent EU report .

The history of the Roma in Europe is a tragic one. Migrating from northern India to Europe in the eleventh century, most Roma live today in eastern and central Europe, particularly in Romania and Bulgaria, with many large communities in other European countries. In the parts of the Ottoman empire today located in modern-day Romania, they have endured persecution and enslavement at the hands of landowners and clergy since the middle ages, being emancipated from slavery only in the mid-nineteenth century.

Despite efforts to socially engineer their assimilation, the vast majority of Roma remained marginalised and discriminated against by both state and society. Anti-Roma racism across Europe remained rampant, and some governments in western Europe organised programmes of forced sterilisation of Roma women .
In many countries, segregation in schooling and housing is still a fact of life, social attitudes towards Roma are poisonous and pogroms are not unknown. Negative social attitudes and disastrous state policies toward the Roma has resulted in the reinforcement of the very conditions that contribute to their continued marginalisation, including low literacy levels, poverty, poor housing, poor health and low life expectancy.

Throughout their history the Roma have had good reason to be mistrustful of authorities, and have survived at the absolute margins of society.

Selling the Big Issue in Scotland may not be everyones idea of escape but for those Roma seen on Scottish streets doing just that , it is may be a lot better than where they have come from .It would be nice to be minded of that and how they have suffered in the past and become the forgotten victims of Nazism .

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