Antisemitism Worldwide 2000/1
THE ROMA IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE:
THE PLIGHT OF A STATELESS MINORITY
In a comprehensive study of the Roma (Gypsies) in former communist Eastern Europe, entitled “Orphans of Transition: Gypsies in Eastern Europe” (1998), Zoltan Barany, a noted researcher of the topic, claimed there were “approximately six million Roma,” a figure which stands somewhere between the lowest and highest estimates of the population1 (see table). According to Barany, the uniqueness of the Roma lies “in the fact that they are a transnational, non-territorially based people who do not have a ‘home state’ that can provide a haven or extend protection to them. For the Roma every country is a ‘foreign’ country, a country of ‘residence’, there is no homeland to go back to, or even turn to in a symbolic capacity.”2
Since the collapse of the communist regimes, these “orphans of transition” have become both a domestic and an international issue with important political, social and economic ramifications, one that has drawn increased international attention and monitoring, and constitutes an important factor in the “acceptance rating” of the various states seeking to integrate into European structures. For decades a taboo subject, long ignored by the communist regimes, since 1989 it has come to the fore, forming a significant part of the national discourse and creating a division between liberal, democratic forces within the developing civil society and extremist, xenophobic and racist elements.
This chapter describes the impact of the Roma problem on the domestic and foreign policies of the post-communist regimes and the growing “internationalization” of the issue. The increased interest of the public and of academics locally and in the West in the fate of the Roma during World War II, as well as Jewish-Roma contacts, are portrayed as important elements of the “Roma question” on the current agenda of the post-communist states.
From Communist Taboos to Post-communist Stagnation
The communist legacy regarding the Roma is an ambiguous one, with many negative and a few positive aspects. On the negative side, generally the communist regimes’ policies included “discriminatory and coercive elements… none of the communist states shied away from institutionalized discrimination and persecution.”3 In fact none of the communist countries, except Yugoslavia after 1981, recognized the Roma as a national group. Definitions were kept intentionally unclear so that they would not have to be granted rights as a national minority. In many cases the Roma were characterized as a social group with peculiar social and behavioral characteristics – a hint that they were harming the efforts to create a “socialist society.” For years there were no public discussions, no sociological or anthropological surveys and no official statistics on Roma numbers; the only references to them were a few pictures or articles in the media which portrayed their lives as happy and prosperous under socialism.
On the positive side, the communists did try – to a limited extent – to reduce marginalization of the community and make them useful members of society. In some cases affirmative action in education raised their level of literacy. The overall results were mixed, but generally the communist legacy is a grim one. The price that the Roma had to pay – one that they quite often resisted – was their transformation from a traditional society into one more assimilated into local communities. In a clumsy attempt to break their nomadic way of life, they were banned from traveling and assigned the poorest housing. Thus, the Roma occupied the lowest rung on the socio-economic scale, living in sub-standard housing estates, that, nevertheless, often figured proudly in the communist propaganda. Their crafts, such as repairing pots and pans and basket weaving, were all endangered though not completely eradicated. Only the “musician Gypsies” – the upper stratum of Roma society – whose contribution to East European culture was immense, continued to thrive.
Thus, the Roma lived in limbo, on the fringes of society, outsiders compelled to shed parts of their identity, but never really integrated. Above all, as studies would show after the collapse of the communist regimes, the stereotypes remained, perpetuated in the classical image of the cunning Gypsy thief. The view of the Roma as “anti-social” criminals is yet another legacy of the communist regimes, which never really tackled the grave situation of these communities or formulated a clear picture of their problems and plight. According to a report by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, there was no “major attempt by governments to understand the Roma, their culture and way of life.” Thus, in the post-communist period “lack of understanding and prejudice remain at the root of many discriminatory policies directed against them.”4
Since 1989 their overall situation, as well as relations between society and the Roma, have deteriorated, although there have been a few positive developments which offer some hope for the future. In the transition to a market economy, the Roma’s economic structure underwent major changes. Most jobs in state-sponsored activities disappeared, and the “new capitalism” allowed the Roma to attempt to enter the competitive private economy and at the same time adjust to ongoing developments. Unemployment runs very high in all countries of the region, the Roma constituting the largest category of unemployed in post-communist societies.
Due to economic priorities during the first years of post-communism and the lack of adequate funds, social services were not well organized and were slow to reach the Roma. For example, in Bulgaria, which has an estimated 500,000–800,000 Roma, only 7–8 percent of Roma children attended secondary school compared to 54 percent of ethnic Bulgarians. In 1990, some 80 percent of the prison population in Bulgaria were Roma. Without adequate social welfare, many turned to begging, prostitution and crime, further reinforcing traditional stereotypes, and thus creating a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence.5 The overall view by outside observers is rather pessimistic, as a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concludes:
More generally the Roma have continued to experience social discrimination and victimization. An indication of this problem is to be seen in the failure of local officials, security services and judges to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of racist attacks on the Roma and their property, examples of which have been reported in Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak Republics.6
In many cases the East European experience demonstrates that the legal system is part of the problem and not the solution, because it treats anti-Roma violence more leniently than Roma crimes. Internal divisions and power struggles between clan leaders and local chieftains, as well as differences in customs and religion, have added to their weaknesses and ability to function as an organized community within the developing civil society. The media in particular perceive the differences between clans and local leaders as a symbol of a Mafiosi-style hierarchy and “division of labor” between crime groups, which indeed is often the case.
The whole issue of Roma political and social activism is a sensitive one. Most critics of the subject agree that “Roma politics” are often ineffective and in fact detrimental to the populations their leaders supposedly represent. In the post-communist era there are hundreds of Roma organizations and movements whose influence over the community is often slight. Political parties that have sprung up have not captured the imagination and votes of the Roma, and thus the number of Roma representatives in the legislative bodies is very low. In some countries, such as Hungary, a few Roma representatives were elected on the ticket of national parties, while in others, such as Romania, a Roma serves as representative of this recognized national minority. In general, Roma parties have neither succeeded in unifying their forcnor in cooperating with other political parties. Thus, political representation of the Roma in the region’s parliaments has generally failed; nor can one speak of the emergence of political parties which might be considered as representing the community’s interests.
On the other hand, the growing trend toward the establishment of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and local bodies reflects a developing civil society. Mostly supported by local and Western organizations, a new generation of Roma activists monitors anti-Roma incidents, represents the community to local government agencies and official institutions and coordinates activities with civil groups involved in the struggle against intolerance and racism.
The Internet has contributed tremendously to the spread of information on Roma issues and government attitudes, and to monitoring racist activities against Roma. In this regard, mention should be made of the Roma Human Rights Center, the Patrin Web Journal, RomNews.com, Amaro Drom (Hungary) and Roma Page (Hungary), as well as discussion forums such as Yahoo!’s “Managing Multiethnic Communities.”
The most significant development in the post-communist period has been the growth of extremist violence among skinheads and neo-Nazi groups, as well as a systematic anti-Roma campaign by right-wing extremist and nationalist organizations. The skinheads and other white supremacist groups present their attacks as a “defense” against Roma violence. Political movements such as the Assembly for the Republic–Czech Republican Party, the Slovak National Party, the Greater Romania Party and the Hungarian Justice and Life Party have all used the Roma question to promote their xenophobic and racist agenda. In the case of the Czech and Slovak extremists, the skinheads enjoy a degree of public understanding, and as opinion polls reveal in both states, some 65 percent of respondents believe that the primary – and positive – goal of the skinheads is “to deal with the Romanies [Roma].”7 As also documented, the skinheads are used by extremist groups to serve as a spearhead on racist issues (see ASW 1993 to 2001). In Hungary, former member of parliament Izabella Kiraly attempted to legitimize their activities by calling the skinheads “national-spirited youngsters.” Her small organization, the Hungarian Interest Party, conducts a relentless campaign against the Roma in its publication Kottot Keve (Tied Sheaf).8
The extremist discourse in the area by parties whether within parliament or outside it ferments intolerance and racism which fuel acts of violence. Common to this discourse are several motifs allegedly characterizing the Roma:
a) Their inability, as a result of social, economic – and as often hinted, genetic – factors to act as useful members of society.
b) The Roma are an anti-social and parasitic people who do not contribute to the welfare of the nation, and live by crime, violence and begging.
c) Since the collapse of communism the depressed situation of the Roma – which the extremists acknowledge – is being exploited by “liberals” and Jews in order to conduct a smear campaign against national revival.
Thus the “Roma question” has become a political issue, dividing those who use the Roma’s condition to reinforce traditional stereotypes and foster intolerance, from others who wish not only to integrate them into society, but to conduct a full and open discussion of all aspects of their plight. The extremists oppose any steps toward integrating the Roma into society, focus on their criminal acts and describe in gloomy terms the fate of neighborhoods inhabited by Roma. The considerable anti-Roma prejudice already existing among the general population of the countries of the region undoubtedly contributes to public support of extremist movements.
Since the collapse of the communist regimes the “Roma question” has emerged as a major social issue in the transition to post-communism. Ignorance and taboos have gradually been transformed into open discussion, especially among intellectuals, as well as attempts to tackle the problem, which in the long run might change basic attitudes toward the Roma and lead to better communication between society and this community. Both the electronic and printed media offer a wide range of information and research on the topic, including sociological, anthropological and psychological studies, as well as demonstrations of Roma art and writing and interviews with Roma. In Hungary, periodicals such as Elet es Irodalom and Kritika, and in Romania, Beszelo, Dilema, Romania Literara, Revista 22 and others devote considerable space to discussions about the Roma. The political center, and especially the left, have incorporated recent Western perceptions on multi-culturalism into their approaches, considering them relevant to Central and Eastern Europe. Various public bodies and government agencies often organize cultural events and festivals – “Romfests” – at which cultural diversity and multiculturalism are celebrated. Events organized by government agencies tend to emphasize the need for mutual acceptance and tolerance, while those arranged by public associations stress multicultural aspects and the need for a resolute struggle against extremism.
The dialogue with the Roma often reflects their frustration over the difficulties and failures since the collapse of the communist regimes. At a conference held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in May 2001, Roma representatives from several major organizations – Hungary reportedly has some 250 Roma organizations and groups – stressed the following points9:
This last point indicates one of the major unresolved issues of the Roma question – that of identity. Many of the debates within the Roma community and outside it focus on the question of identity – “Who are we?” “What is our identity?” “How do we relate to Roma in other countries?” “What is our common language and heritage?” This issue has many practical implications. The declaration of Roma identity in states censuses may provide a clearer picture of their numbers. Local leaders and organizations are working toward this goal; for example, with regard to the 2001 census in Slovakia, Roma leaders warned that if Roma are described against their will as having anything other than Roma nationality, they would take the Slovak government to the European Court of Human Rights. In southern Slovakia, Roma traditionally declare their nationality as Hungarian, since many were Magyarized and regarded themselves as being closer to the ruling Hungarians than to the Slovaks (as was the case with the Jews during the Austro-Hungarian era). Some estimates place the number of Roma in Slovakia at between 458,000 and 520,00; yet, in the last census only 76,000 defined themselves as such. Roma leaders who launched a campaign for a “just census” were reported to be satisfied if some 300,000 proclaimed themselves to be Roma.10
The situation is similar in Hungary. In the 1990 census 142,683 citizens declared themselves of Roma nationality, while Hungarian estimates placed the number between 400,000 and 600,000 and Romani sources between 550,000 and 800,000 Roma.11
The Holocaust and Roma Historical Memory
The issue of Roma identity is closely linked to the perception of the Roma past and their fate in World War II, which in the last years has become a major issue, as well as a matter of historiographical dispute. The main focus has been on Nazi and local policies toward the Roma, and threlationship between the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish problem” and the fate of the Roma. Growing awareness among the Roma community in the former communist countries, as well as in Germany, to their fate during World War II has generated a wave of studies based on historical documents as well as testimonies of survivors. During the communist era references to the fate of Roma during the war were rare, selective and low key, as if intended to silence any questioning voices among the community.
The issue also has important practical implications – only in recent years has the matter of compensation been raised, parallel to Jewish claims for compensation, including for surviving slave laborers. Roma activists and organizations, often divided internally, have submitted material demands based on growing evidence that has come to light and been presented to public and official bodies. Roma representation at scientific conferences, public events and official forums has raised the level of awareness among non-Roma of the suffering of the community during the war. Unfortunately, the issue has also led to disagreement with the Jewish world, with the emergence of differences on the nature and extent of the extermination of the Roma. This, in spite of numerous forms of cooperation between Jews and Roma, such as Jewish participation in Roma memorial activities and vice versa. The following brief review of the conflicting viewpoints will serve to highlight current attitudes toward this issue.
The Patrin Web Journal, which has devoted several studies to O Porramjos (the Roma Holocaust), stated that “Roma were the only other population besides the Jews who were targeted for extermination on racial grounds in the ‘Final Solution’. Determining the percentage or number of Roma who died during the war is not easy. Much of the Nazi documentation still remains to be analyzed, and many murders were not recorded, since they took place in the fields and forests where Roma were apprehended.”12 Zoltan Barany attributes ignorance of the Romani extermination partly to the fact that “the world has paid the most attention to the persecution of the Jews,” while the extermination of the Roma “was far less meticulously documented by the Nazis and their collaborators.” Moreover, he claims that unlike the Jews and other victims, many of whom were highly educated, Romani survivors did not leave behind diaries, write memoirs, or subsequently research this subject.13 In explaining Nazi policies, Barany notes that the “Roma were considered an inferior race whose most fundamental attributes were habitual criminality and social deviance. This racial and behavioral categorization made the Roma subject to extermination.”14 Thus, the fate of the Roma became a focus not only of studies on the racist attitudes and policies of Nazi Germany and its allies, but also of the number of victims of this policy, since such data might indicate whether there was an overall attempt to exterminate the Gypsies as such, or would point to Nazi and others’ atrocities that were not aimed at the entire Gypsy population.
Barany drew up a comparative table of estimates on the number of victims, based on the works of several scholars – ranging from Yehuda Bauer’s figure of 200,000, through Isabela Fonseca’s of 500,000, to those of Ian Hancock, one of the most prolific activists and researchers of the Roma, who put their number at 600,000 in 1987, and between one million and 1.5 million in 1995.15 Barany supports the estimates of up to 500,000, while the higher ones “entirely lack supportive evidence.”16
One of the strongest critics of works allegedly underestimating the number of Roma victims and doubting the Nazi intention to exterminate all Roma (see below) is Ian Hancock, the sole Romani member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council and Romani representative on UN and major US committees on human rights. In his “The Roots of Antigypsism: To the Holocaust and After,” Hancock writes that “Holocaust scholars are rapidly adding to their knowledge the details of the fate of the Romani people in Hitler’s Germany, and it is now generally acknowledged that together with Jews, the Romani victims were the only ethnic/racial population selected for total annihilation.”17 Hancock described Nazi racial policies of extermination toward the Roma, and in discussing the various estimates of the number of victims, he concluded: “A guess as good as any is that there were perhaps three million Rroma [sic] throughout the German-controlled territories at the period of their maximum extent, between one and one and a half a million of whom were murdered, i.e., between a third and a half of the population.”18
Hancock criticized what he termed the “competitive” aspect of comparing genocides, and perceptions of the “uniqueness” of the Holocaust of the Jewish nation. He finds this feature “particularly explicit” in a study by Gilad Margalit, who states that “antigypsism and antisemitism are two very different phenomena of ethnic hatred, distinct in their content, dimension and appearance… antigypsism… is only a marginal preoccupation of the German extreme right, compared to the constant and latent and exposed preoccupation with Jews and Judaism.”19
Hancock, whose views are well respected in academic circles, also bitterly criticized one of the latest works on the fate of the Roma, Guenther Lewy’s The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, published in 2000. Lewy’s work was generally well received by reviewers, one of whom wrote,
Guenther Lewy has set a new standard for scholarship on Nazi policy toward the Gypsies. This meticulously and well written work challenges some traditional notions about the tragic history of this people and in doing so enhances our understanding of one of the less-studied aspects of the Third Reich. Lewy’s account constitutes a balanced contribution to a field of study that in the past has often been affected by personal agendas and emotionally charged discourses.20
In a review entitled “Downplaying the Porrajmos: The Trend to Minimize the Romani Holocaust,”21 Hancock asserts that “this is a book which seeks not only to exclude the Nazis’ Romani victims from the Holocaust – which is not anything new – but goes a step forward to say that they were not even the targets of attempted genocide.” Hancock summarizes Lewy’s arguments as follows:
… that there was no racially motivated general plan for the Final Solution of the Gypsy Question… that the estimated number of half a million Romanies is a gross exaggeration, and that “perhaps the majority” of them in Germany actually survived, and weren’t even transported to the East, and because there was no intent to kill all Romanies, and because policies against them were not motivated by Nazi race theory, their treatment cannot be compared with that of the Jews and therefore they do not qualify for inclusion in the Holocaust. In sum, because their treatment did not constitute a genocide and it was not motivated by a policy based on Nazi race theory.
Describing Lewy’s The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies as “a dangerous book,” Hancock stressed that the author “can feel no empathy for a people who remain complete strangers to him.” He voiced his concern over a “disturbing trend which seems to be emerging in Holocaust studies, most recently expressed on an Australian-based Holocaust website which ‘proclaims that just mentioning Gypsies in the same breath as the Jewish victims is an insult to their memory’.”22
Yehuda Bauer’s Rethinking the Holocaust23 offers an updated review of recent scholarship, based on his own research and that of other scholars, and outlines various approaches to understanding the Holocaust. The chapter “Comparison with Other Genocides” deals with the fate of the Roma, based on the most updated data available and their interpretation by various scholars. Bauer believes that the “whole Gypsy problem was of marginal importance to the Nazi regime. Hitler himself appears to have mentioned the Gypsies only twice.”24 Bauer recounted the mass murders of Roma by Nazis and their allies, emphasizing that “there is no gradation of suffering and… thnumber of victims does not determine the cruelty of the onslaught.”25 As to Nazi aims, Bauer is of the opinion that “clearly the Nazis wanted to eliminate the Roma as an identifiable group of people, the bearer of a culture. They carried out this policy by mass murder, humiliation and the outmost brutality and sadism.” In summing up, Bauer writes: “What we have here is a genocide, not a Holocaust, that is, not an intent, not its implementation… to murder every single individual of the targeted population on a global scale. The Nazis did not intend to murder all Roma.”26 While sympathizing with the Roma, Bauer claims his main aim was to uncover the “dialectic relationship between the particularism and the universalism of the horror.”27
While academic debates certainly have an impact on the way in which the media present the issues, the Roma community in general believes there was a “Roma Holocaust.” The growing number of commemorative events indicate the imprint of historical memory and the formulation of a commemorative tradition which is officially supported by the regimes concerned. Thus, in July 2001 a “Roma Holocaust memorial” ceremony, attended by high-ranking officials, was held in the town of Nagykanizsa in Hungary, and a message was read from the president of Hungary.
The memory of the past also has current significance in that it helps shape the agenda of world and local bodies in dealing with xenophobia and racism. This connection between past and present was evident in the disappointment voiced by Ian Hancock, who bitterly criticized the January 2000 Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust: “Sinti and Roma were not only Holocaust victims, but they are also the main targets of skinhead violence today – yet not even one session on Romanies was included in the entire Stockholm forum.”28
The Internationalization of the Roma Issue
The “orphans of transition” – the Roma in the post-communist countries – are no longer an internal, sensitive issue enveloped in taboos and ignorance; they have become an international issue, monitored by factors outside the involved states. As Hungary’s Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi wrote in the preface of an official publication: “Increasing international attention is focused on the situation of the Roma. Foreign and international decision-making organizations are continually engaged in analyzing the living conditions of the Roma in general, and the Roma living in Hungary in particular.”29
Several factors serve to explain the “internationalization” of the Roma problem. First, it is an organic part of the process of transition to post-communism; in fact, the fate of the Roma has become a “test case” for the success of the transition to a post-communist society. The issue involves all aspects of human and minority rights to which the world community, especially the European bodies of integration, became sensitive during the 1990s. Second, the level of violent extremism against Roma has prompted various agencies and organizations to monitor xenophobic activities. Further, many Roma have attempted to move to the West, some asking for political asylum, others plainly seeking a better life, a trend which has caused friction between their countries of origin and the target countries of emigration. Last, but not least, the Roma have become the scapegoats and latest victims of the Balkan conflicts, within Kosovo and other parts of the region, which has led to an increase of international activity on their behalf.
Roma migration was the main topic at the world congress of the International Romani Union, held in Prague in July 2000.30 To quote a report discussed at the conference: “The Roma, the world’s greatest travelers, are once again on the move.” The new patterns of Roma migration reflect not only – as some analysts have suggested – their nomadic way of life – but a yearning for a new life in the wake of further dislocations caused by the downfall of the communist regimes. The stream of Roma arriving from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania since the early 1990s has raised sensitive issues in countries such as Great Britain, Canada, Belgium and France concerning the nature of the Roma plight, and the question as to whether they are political or economic refugees. Some Roma activists in Eastern Europe feel that many Roma are abusing international asylum protection, and thus making it more difficult for those who are genuinely fleeing from violence or persecution.31 Successful integration into the educational system and the job market in comparison to other immigrant groups, which has been the case of 1,500 Roma accepted by Canada, places the issue of discrimination at the doorstep of the countries of origin.
The issue of Roma migration to the West has helped focus attention on the situation of the Roma in their countries of origin, serving to increase Western monitoring of extremist violence and of the legal status of the Roma. In turn, closer monitoring influences the prospects of the states concerned to integrate into the West. Thus, a vicious circle has emerged in the past few years – Roma seeking asylum in the West have to prove that they suffered discrimination in their home countries; when their case is credible the image of the home country is damaged. The next, almost logical, development is that extremist factors would claim that the Roma were driven by powerful forces – including Jews – who try to manipulate the community into harming the interests of their home states. Such is the case of the Zamoly Roma from Hungary. A group of 39 Roma from Zamoly, western Hungary, arrived in Strasbourg in 2000 and asked for asylum. They filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament claiming they were persecuted in their home countries.32 In March 2001, initially three, then the majority of the group, were granted refugee status in France, a step which prompted debates in Hungary as to whether the French decision implied criticism of the country and whether it would affect Hungary’s prospects of joining the EU.
The Zamoly Roma issue has generated discussion in Hungary, ranging from character assassination of the leaders of the group to lively debates in the media on the situation of the Roma. The right-wing press latched onto supposed Jewish/Israeli involvement when it was reported that an Israeli academic, Katalin Katz, donated $4,000 to the Roma efforts in Strasbourg out of sympathy with their fate during the war.33 The “Israeli angle” emerged following allegations that the Mossad was involved in “attempts to destabilize” Hungary – a common theme of Istvan Csurka’s Magyar Forum and the weekly Demokrata. Further, the Hungarian right-wing alleged that the Russian secret service had encouraged the Roma to leave in order to damage Hungary’s human rights record and its prospects of joining the European Union (EU), an item first published in Britain by Jane’s Defence Digest and reprinted in the Hungarian media.34
Similar conspiracy theories, minus the Jewish or Russian angle, were proposed in Slovakia, following new waves of asylum seekers in 1999 in Belgium. Allegations by Slovak nationalists that “extremist leftist” organizations in the West were contributing to the attempts to portray Slovakia as a “racist and nationalist state,” also appeared in the Belgian media.35 As a result, some segments of the Slovak public and the media believe that Roma emigration is coordinated from abroad, and that the Roma, who play an anti-social role at home, are carrying this activity beyond the borders in order to damage the interests of their countries of origin.
In general, Western attitudes toward the fate of Roma in the former communist states remain critical, due to the slow improvement of their situation. The EU ambassador to Hungary stated that while rights for other minorities in the countries queuing to join the EU had improved, this was not the case for the Roma.36 EU pressure was felt by the Czech government when in the town of Usti nad Labem, the site of numerous clashes between Roma and the local population, a wall was builto separate feuding neighborhoods. This step was branded by Roma and human rights organizations as “racial segregation.” Following the statement by the Finnish foreign minister (whose country held the EU presidency at the time) that the “wall was not acceptable in today’s Europe,” and other EU criticism, the Czech government removed the wall.37
The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) is a major watchdog of the Roma situation. The reports of the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities are very critical of the situation of the Roma. In April 2001 US Congressman Christopher H. Smith, co-chairman of the US Mission to the OSCE, quoting the high commissioner’s report, stated that “relatively little progress has been made by government authorities in addressing the problems,” and listed numerous acts of violence and discrimination against Roma. Congressman Smith also asserted that “too often courts are part of the problem, not the solution.”38 A noteworthy aspect of Congressman Smith’s statement was mention of the plans in the Romanian town of Bacau to build a statue to Romania’s war time dictator Ion Antonescu, “who deported 25,000 Roma to Transnistria, of whom 19,000 perished. Romanian officials who have pledged to the OSCE community to fight intolerance, should begin at home by ridding their country of every Antonescu statue built on public land.”
An additional aspect of the internationalization of the Roma question in the former communist states, as well as in other countries, was the signing of a “memorandum of understanding and cooperation between the International Romani Union (IRU) and the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs” in May 2001, the first such agreement between the IRU with a government. Among several clauses dealing with forms of cooperation and steps to improve the situation of the Roma, the document clearly linked the international and domestic aspects of the issue, including European integration: “The MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) appreciates the IRU vision reflecting both the negative historical experience and the opportunities offered by the European integration process and are not tying the recognition of a nation to the establishment of a nation state.”39
The Balkan wars have also involved the Roma, an aspect that has been somewhat overlooked in the bloody conflicts of the area. Following the 1999 NATO campaign against Yugoslavia, the Roma in Kosovo were caught “between the hammer and the anvil”: the Albanians accused them of collaborating with the Serbs in rape and murder, while the Serbs repelled Roma who were attempting to flee from Albanian revenge.40
In Yugoslavia itself, where unofficial estimates place the number of Roma as high as 800,000, anti-Roma and antisemitic graffiti with fascist symbols appeared in 2000/1 in Belgrade, where an exhibition was held on the Roma. President Kostunica apologized, but various incidents have highlighted the fate of the Roma, who as one Belgrade paper wrote, “live on the margins of society.”41 Yugoslav experts emphasize that the Roma “are caught in a vicious circle of poverty.” The international community has taken emergency steps to deal with the situation of the Roma in the Balkans, on the understanding that peace and stability in the area is partly contingent upon the fate of the Roma. Thus, the Stability Pact of the Council of Europe, which is the most significant long-range project of the European states in the Balkans, aside from the military presence in the area, has a special division on the Roma, which monitors, reports on and promotes Roma welfare.42
From a Central and East European perspective, all factors involved understand that the situation of the Roma is a test case for acceptance by the West. Further negative developments on the issue, including an increase in extremist activity and the failure of the judicial system to deal with the legal aspects of the problem would harm the post-communist states’ image abroad and their attempts to integrate into the West. Thus, the respective governments realize that it is in their own interests to promote the integration of the Roma into society.
In conclusion, the Roma in post-communist societies remain one of the most urgent and acute social problems in the region, with implications for the political, social and economic life of the various states, as well as for their international standing. The “orphans of transition” have raised their voice; the public and the governments concerned are aware of the magnitude of the issue; the international community is involved – yet prospects for closer integration of the Roma into society still seem remote. In regard to Roma-Jewish relations, it remains to be seen to what extent the divisive viewpoints and interpretations will remain a bone of contention or will contribute to mutual understanding based on the tragic experience of both nations.
ROMANI POPULATION IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE (1997)
Source: Transition, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1997
Figures are the lowest and highest population estimates derived from: Zoltan Barany, “Grim Realities in Eastern Europe,” Transition, 29 March 1995; Janusz Bugajski, Ethnic Politics in Eastern Europe, M.E. Sharp, 1994; No Record of the Case: Roma in Albania, European Rome Rights Center, 1997; J.P. Liegeois, Roma Gypsies, Travellers, Council of Europe, 1994; Minorities at Risk Project, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland, 1995; Evaluation of the Gypsy Population and Their Movement in Central and Eastern Europe and in Some OECD Countries, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1993.
1. Zoltan Barany, “Orphans of Transition: Gypsies in Eastern Europe,” Journal of Democracy 3 (1998), pp. 142–56.
2. Ibid., p. 142.
3. Zoltan Barany, “Memory and Experience: Anti-Roma Prejudice in Eastern Europe,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, East European Studies, Occasional Paper 50 (July 1998).
4. “The State of World Refugees,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Box 6.2: The Roma of Central and Eastern Europe, 1999,www.unhcr.ch/refworld/pub/state.
5. For a study on the post-communist period, see for example, Zoltan Barany, “Living on the Edge: The East European Roma in Post-Communist Politics and Society,” Slavic Review 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 321–44.
6. “The State of World Refugees.”
7. Frank Cibulka, “The Radical Right in Slovakia,” in Sabrina P. Ramet (ed.), The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe since 1989 (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), p. 117.
8. See, for example, Kottot Keve 3 (2001).
9. Nepszabadsag, 29 May 2001.
10. CTK – Czech News Agency, 1 May 2001.
11. “Measures Taken by the State to Promote the Social Integration of the Roma Living in Hungary,” Office for National and Ethnic Minorities, Budapest, 2000, p. 20.
12. Patria Web Journal, www.geocities.com/Paris/5121/links.htm.
13. Barany, “Memory and Experience,” p. 4.
14. Ibid., p. 3.
15. Yehuda Bauer, entry on “Gypsies,” Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, ed. Israel Gutman (New York: Macmillan, 1989); Isabela Fonseca, Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey (New York: Knopf, 1995); Ian Hancock, The Pariah Syndrome: An Account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution (Ann Arbor, Mi: Karoma, 1987), p. 81; “Gypsy History in Germany Neighboring Lands: A Chronology Leading to the Holocaust and Beyond,” in The Gypsies of Eastern Europe, ed. David M. Crowe and John Kolsti (Amonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1991), p. 20; quoted in Judith Ingram, “Letter from a Gypsy Ball: A Shared Tragic Legacy,” Forward, 17 Feb. 1995.
16. Barany, “Memory and Experience,” p. 13.
17. Ian Hancock, “The Roots of Antigypsism: To the Holocaust and After,” modified version of paper presented at the conference on “Gypsies in the Holocaust: The Nazi Assault on Roma and Sinti,” Nov. 1995; see also Ian Hancock, “The Consequences of Anti-Gypsy Racism in Europe,” Other Voices 1 (Feb. 2000).
18. Hancock, “The Roots of Antigypsism.”
19. Gilad Margalit, “Antigypsism in the Political Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany: A Parallel with Antisemitism,” Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism 9, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1996, p. 3.
20. Guenther Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (New York/Oxford, 2000); Pontus Hiort’s review in H-German, June 2001, www. h-net.msu.edu.
21. Ian Hancock, “Downplaying the Porrajmos: The Trend to Minimize the Romani Holocaust,” The Patrin Web Journal.
22. Reference is to L. David,http://member.telpacific.com.au/david1/The–Holocaust.htm, 14 June 2000.
23. Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2001).
24. Ibid., p. 62.
25. Ibid., p. 66.
27. Ibid., p. 67.
28. Hancock, Downplaying the Porrajmos,” p. 6. A multi-volume project Roads of the Roma, published by the University of Hertfordshire Press, promises to make a considerable contribution to the study of the Roma in the Holocaust and afterwards.
29. “Measures Taken by the State,” p. 6.
30. “Roma Migration Reflects Eastern Europe’s Social Ills,” RFE/RL, 26 July 2000.
32. For Western reports on the case, see, for example, BBC News online, 9 March 2001.
33. See, for example, Demokrata 22 (2001).
34. BBC News online, 9 March 2001.
35. Amaro Drom (Hungary), press release Oct. 1999,www.amarodrom.hu.
36. BBC News, 3 March 2000.
37. BBC News, 18 Oct. 1999.
38. Congressional Record Statement on Roma, submitted to the Congressional Record on 5 April 2001, Public Interest Law Network,www.pili.org/lists.
39.www.romnews.com, 10 May 2001.
40. See BBC News, 5 July 1999.
41. AIM (Belgrade), 29 Feb. 2001, reprinted inwww.romnews.com.
42. See for example, Newsletter on activities of the Council of Europe under the project, “Roma under the Stability Pact,” June 2001, Migration andRoma/Gypsies Division – DGIII.