From the 19th to the 22nd of November 2015, a European Training Seminar on the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust of the Roma Genocide took place in Berlin, Germany. The ETS contained meeting with a Holocaust survivor, a variety of
Meeting with Holocaust Survivor Margot Friedländer
Turbulent current world events highlight the importance of remembering history in order not to repeat past mistakes. 94-year old Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer shared her personal story with the delegation, having recently returned to Berlin to live after spending more than 60 years of her life abroad in the United States.
She spoke of the importance of the connection between generations, and how she feels it is crucial to have a dialogue with young people in order to explain the past to them and prevent them from making bad choices today. She presented her memoir of how she survived the Holocaust, reading some excerpts and answering participants’ questions afterwards. She emphasized that despite the difficulties presented by her old age, she feels it is necessary for her to continue sharing her story and transmitting her message: that we must remain human beings in all situations.
French Diplomacy: Solidarity Gathering at the French Embassy in Berlin
The delegation was welcomed to an evening reception at the French Embassy in Berlin, hosted by His Excellency Phillippe Etienne, the French Ambassador. A minute of silence was held in commemoration of the victims of the Paris terror attacks which had taken place only the week before. The Ambassador spoke of the importance of solidarity and strength in the face of these attacks which aimed to divide and destroy European society.
The delegation then listened to a speech by Charlie Hebdo journalist Zineb El-Rhazoui, who added the context of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier in 2015. Her speech was a powerful reminder of the importance to speak out against ideologies in order to fight them. Benjamin Abtan, the President of EGAM, also addressed the delegation and stressed the importance of a unified front against racism, antisemitism, racial discrimination and genocide denial at a time when these trends are on the rise in Europe, fueled by ideologies such as islamism and nationalism, and leading to increased violence, hate speech and discrimination.
The evening was an occasion to demonstrate solidarity and commemorate the recent attacks, bringing together the delegation of activists from over 20 countries, across Europe and beyond, with the French diplomacy in Germany.
Plenary Session: “I support civil society’s fight for human rights” by Peter Meiwald (Member of the Bundestag)
Peter Meiwald spoke to the delegation to affirm his support of EGAM’s efforts for greater cooperation between civil society and government actors. He also supports EGAM’s projects on refugees, and shared his perspective as a politician on the current refugee crisis affecting Europe, and Germany in particular.
Germany is an economically prosperous country, he stated, with large amounts of available and empty housing. In light of this, it is unacceptable that refugees coming to Germany often wait on the streets, spending their nights outdoors especially as the temperatures fall. However, he also spoke of the huge budget that Germany has allocated to tackling the refugee crisis and the large numbers of refugees it has been able to accommodate as a result – as well as the possibility that Germany could even accommodate more.
His perspective was a valuable addition to the discussion on refugees, which had so far focused on the perspective of civil society.
Conference: “How to fight racism together: shared involvement of civil society and local & national public institutions”
The conference addressed the need for enhanced synergy between civil society and institutions at the local, national and European level, as this relationship is currently not prominent enough at national levels and almost non-existent at the European level. Two panelists discussed and presented EGAM’s future coordination efforts on this matter:
Benedetto Zacchiroli, President of European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR): ECCAR is the European component of the International Coalition of Cities Against Racism launched by UNESCO in 2004. It gathers tens of cities together as the leading European network empowering local authorities in their common fight against racism. Together with EGAM they will form a structured partnership to effectively work together in the fight against racism, building a forum of NGOs and local authorities. A Memorandum of Understanding outlines collaborative efforts on Testing, and identification and dissemination of best local practices.
Julie Ward, Member of the European Parliament (UK): Julie Ward spoke to the delegation about the launching of a network of MEPs and MPs, in coordination with EGAM, involved together in genocide prevention, the transmission of memory and the fight against genocide denial. Its first action as a unified network will be to go to Kigali in April 2016 to take part in the commemorations of the genocide.
German Government: Christoph Strässer, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid
Christoph Strässer met with the delegation to express his support of EGAM’s initiative to build a network of MPs and MEPs, united across Europe and beyond in efforts against genocide prevention, the transmission of memory and the fight against genocide denial, as well as his support in the creation of a forum of local authorities and NGOs against racial discrimination.
Campaign Presentations and Brainstorming
“DIGNITY FOR LETY!” AND ROMA PRIDE
Launched in 2011, the Roma Pride campaign aims to combat racism and discrimination against Roma. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of Roma culture and attract political and media attention through an annual European-wide grassroots event gathering Roma and non-Roma organizations together simultaneously in different European countries (15 countries in 2015). The next steps are the June 2016 Preparatory Meeting and the next Roma Pride Day on October 2nd, 2016.
The “Dignity for Lety!” campaign calls for the removal of a pig farm which currently operates on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp for Roma people, and calls for the installation of a memorial. A manifesto gathering more than 200 signatories (including 83 MEPs and MPs coming from 22 countries) was published by numerous prominent European newspapers in October 2015. The next steps of the campaign include meeting top EU leaders and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, as well as launching legal proceedings at the national Czech level and the EU level, and finally creating a Committee to formulate a practical plan for the farm’s removal.
Today is Srebrenica Memorial Day. We honour the 8,372 men and boys murdered in the genocide 24 years ago, their Mothers and survivors.
Approximately 30,000 people will attend the collective funeral for 33 recently identified remains at the Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial Cemetery.
#IRMCT pays tribute to victims of Srebrenica genocide.
Face à l’oppression en Turquie, l’Europe doit agir !
La lettre écrite par notre Président @BenjaminAbtan , @CLAPOTMireille MP et @JoseFariaMEP MEP a été publiée par le journal Portugais, O Público.
La lutte pour les droits humains continue !
The European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, as a European #antiracist organization, and the We Belong to Here Association protest in the strongest possible terms against the – today in #Hungary held – far-right and racist action intimidating the Roma community.