Remarks by Ambassador Colleen Bell
at the Memorial Event of the Roma Holocaust
August 2, 2016
Distinguished guests, Mayor Borbely , Deputy State Secretaries Langerne and Latorcai, esteemed diplomatic colleagues, and friends, welcome, and thank you for joining me this afternoon to pay tribute to the victims and the legacy of the Parrajmos. And to Istvan Makai and the Roma Civic Association, thank you for inviting me to participate in this important event, and for the work that you do every day to benefit the Roma community. I am happy to have the opportunity to visit the Center for Roma History and Culture for the first time – This is a wonderful place. I’m very pleased to be here.
Today we pause, to mourn and remember the thousands of Romani men, women and children who were savagely and senselessly murdered and enslaved by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. We pay tribute to the victims of the past, who have so often been forgotten, as we acknowledge that the Parrajmos was not only the result of an evil regime that killed millions in a few short years, but it was also the result of hundreds of years of discrimination and persecution.
And that discrimination continues today around the world. I have seen it first hand in communities disrupted by discriminatory policies that evict Roma people from their homes. It is present when Segregation occurs in schools, denying Roma children a future that could be better. Sadly, anti-Roma prejudices persist in parts of society.
But, what I have also seen is the tremendous spirit of the Roma people. That spirit shines in the efforts of countless heroic individuals and organizations — like the Roma Civic Association and many others — to make Hungary a better place for everyone. I also see the Hungarian government making honest efforts on many fronts to improve the situation of the Roma. The hard work of all these people can be seen across Hungary. During my trips that I made in the countryside with my black Cadillac, I have met ordinary citizens coming together to demand respect for their basic rights, like clean water, sanitation, and safety. I have seen Roma women join forces to support each other against domestic violence. And organizations throughout Hungary are working with the government to ensure that Roma children are not segregated from their non-Roma peers in inferior schools.
The horror of the Parrajmos and the long history of discrimination against the Roma provide the backstory to the challenges we face today, and to the heroes that have risen up to meet those challenges. We remember those who were sacrificed to the cruel forces of history, as well as those who survived to carry forth the legacy of the fallen. Above all, we remember our common responsibility to reject bigotry and injustice. The United States stands proudly with our Roma brothers and sisters in Hungary and around the world. Together, we will make steady strides towards equality and freedom to ensure that the Parrajmos can never happen again. As you have said so eloquently: “The future is in our legacy.” Thank you.