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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Roma mark Holocaust at Auschwitz
Mourners place wreath at Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial
Roma from across Europe came to the camp
Hundreds of Roma have filed through the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to honour those massacred there 60 years ago by the Nazis.

Roma, also known as Gypsies, came from across Europe for the ceremony in the former death camp in southern Poland, which has been preserved as a museum.

It was the largest act of remembrance for the Holocaust's Roma victims.

Some fear Roma losses are overshadowed in histories of the Holocaust, in which millions of Jews were killed.

At least 250,000 Roma are believed to have been killed, with 19,000 of the 23,000 sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau dying in a special section of the camp where Roma were held.

Many succumbed to typhus and smallpox epidemics but 2 August is remembered as the day when German Nazi forces marched old Roma men, women and children into the gas chambers as Soviet forces closed in.


On Monday, beside the barbed wire fence in a corner of the 175-hectare field that housed the Birkenau death camp, both Roma and political leaders talked of the need not to forget the Holocaust, or "Pharrajimos", of their people.

Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
Auschwitz stands as the most notorious of the death camps
"Auschwitz-Birkenau is a symbol of the genocide perpetrated on our people," Roman Kwiatkowski, chief Roma representative in Poland, said.

A German envoy to the ceremony, Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, said his country fully acknowledged its guilt towards the Roma and the Sinti, a related people.

"Like the Jews, the Sinti and Roma were brutally persecuted and systematically murdered with an inhuman determination," he said.

"This genocide is part of our history. As Germans, we carry the historic and the political responsibility."


The Nazis considered the Roma racially inferior and "anti-social".

Mr Kwiatkowski said his community feared the Roma deaths would be forgotten and he reminded listeners that present-day communities still faced discrimination.

The Nazis' crimes were, he said, "a warning to present and future generations".

Between six and eight million Roma now live in modern Europe, most of them in the east.

Apart from the ceremonies at the death camp, Roma in Hungary were planning to hold a silent vigil to mark the anniversary.

The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"A ceremony in amongst the old gas chambers and huts"

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