Germany Unveils Memorial to Roma Killed by Nazis

Historians estimate between 220,000 and 500,000 Sinti and Roma traveling people in Europe were killed by the Nazis, who regarded them as an inferior race.

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Germany unveiled Wednesday a national memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Sinti and Roma killed by the Nazi regime, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying, "Every single death fills me with mourning and shame."

Many in the audience wept as a survivor, Zoni Weisz - who was helped as a 7-year-old boy to escape when his parents were put on an Auschwitz-bound train in the Netherlands during World War II - described the last moment he saw his mother.

She was among 2,900 Sinti and Roma killed in the gas chambers in August 1944.
Weisz attacked contemporary discrimination against Sinti and Roma in many European countries. He said "Society has learned almost nothing from what happened. Otherwise they would treat us in a different way. The world barely speaks of the fate of the Sinti and Roma."

Merkel responded that remembering the victims went hand-in-hand with a commitment to protect minorities today.

The long-delayed monument, a circular dark pool of water with a small triangular plinth at the centre, is close to Berlin's monument to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and a separate memorial to homosexuals killed under the Third Reich.

Historians estimate between 220,000 and 500,000 Sinti and Roma traveling people in Europe were killed by the Nazis, who regarded them as an inferior race. Some died in massacres and others perished in the death camps such as Auschwitz.
Germany agreed 20 years ago to appeals from the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma for a memorial, but the project was held up amid disputes over the design, cost and mistakes during construction.

An Israeli artist, Dani Karavan, conceived the dark pool as a symbol for death and loss but also for the re-emergence of life.

Merkel called the new monument a "lake of silent tears." An aconitum flower was placed on the plinth to inaugurate the memorial, and a fresh flower is to be placed there daily as a symbol of new life after the tragedy.

"It's restrained, like we wanted. We didn't want something monumental," said Romani Rose, president of the Central Council.

It is located in a park close to the Reichstag parliament building. Nearby plaques detail the story of the Sinti and Roma and the genocide.

The new memorial will be looked after by the same foundation that manages the nearby Holocaust monument, a vast field of grey, tomb-like concrete slabs.

A further memorial, to the disabled and mentally ill who were killed under the Nazis' euthanasia policies, is also planned, Merkel said.

Dutch vice-minister of Health Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten at the inaugural ceremony of the memorial to the murdered European Sinti and Roma in Berlin, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. Credit: AP

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