Romania observes deaths of thousands of Roma in Holocaust

By Nicolae Dumitrache, Associated Press | Posted - Aug. 2, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.


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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania on Wednesday commemorated the deaths of thousands of Roma at a Nazi concentration camp, as Holocaust survivors recalled the horrors of more than 70 years ago.

Romania's foreign ministry said young generations should be educated about "this tragic episode in European history," referring to Aug. 2, 1944, when about 3,000 Roma were killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania says 50,000 Roma were deported to Trans-Dniester in the Soviet Union and 11,000 died. An exhibition opened Wednesday to commemorate the deaths.

Constantin Braila, an 86-year-old survivor who was deported when he was 13, saw his mother, siblings and grandfather die in Trans-Dniester.

On Wednesday, he talked about the hardships and deaths. "We were about 100 families of Roma. By the time spring came ... there were less than half of us left. All dead. Due to hunger, lice, unwashed, without medicine."

"I went through so many things and troubles. ... I was hungry, dirty (and) full of lice. We would take the fleas off by hand ... we would go to the field and shake them off there." Braila said he had received no compensation from the state. "I think the government does not care about our situation."

Hans G. Klemm, the U.S. ambassador to Romania, attended the exhibition.

"This is very, very important," he said. "Today marks a terrible event in Romania's history but also for humanity, it is very important that we not forget what happened during the Holocaust here in Europe, here in Romania."

The ministry said Roma survivors from Trans-Dniester should benefit from "decent social conditions," urging government institutes and civic groups to work together to "eliminate... discrimination and incitement to ethnic or racial hatred."

Romania has more than 1 million Roma. Many are poor and face prejudice.

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Nicolae Dumitrache

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