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Tuesday, 21. May 2024.

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Last weekend (September 27th through 29th) with conference School of Remembrance - learning about the genocide of Roma and how to fight anti-gypsyism, started a two-year project of partner organizations: Forum for Applied History (Belgrade), Roma Center (Göttingen) and Women Space (Niš). The conference was intended for teachers, activists of civil society and political parties, and the media, with the aim of acquiring new and sharing of already existing information on the suffering of Roma in Serbia during World War II, but also the fact of suffering continuity and discrimination after the war.

History of Roma suffering in Serbia before, during, and after the Second World War is still unexplored and unknown. Learning about the suffering would contribute to informing the public about the genocide against the Roma, its causes and mechanisms , but also indicate the systemic discrimination, and anti-gypsyism, which are present today - with the aim to identify and prevent this phenomenon. 

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Conference School of Remembrance gathered fifty participants, however the interest to participate in the conference was much higher. School offered an opportunity to discuss and acquire new knowledge about the suffering and actual situation of Roma in Europe and Serbia in the past and today, as well as to expose centuries-long continuity of discrimination against Roma women and men, both in the region and Europe. On several occasions the audience was deeply moved by the personal stories, particularly during the screening of two films: Compensation – the Wrong Word and This Life was Gifted to Me, both dealing with testimonies of the Roma women and men Holocaust survivors. In addition, documented systematic genocide against Roma during WWII both in Europe and the region was presented which reminded the participants to think about the mechanisms current authorities utilize in their relation to Roma women and men and that are deeply rooted in the stereotypes and prejudices against Roma people. This greatly contributed to better understanding of the past and present connections and similarities.

Participants were guided by historians Igor Mitić and Milovan Pisarri Ph.D. and Prof. Đokica Jovanovic Ph.D, cultural sociologist, who gave a historical overview providing the historical facts about the suffering of Roma. Moreover, historians and Holocaust teaching manual authors, Vesna Lučić and Sanja Ristić presented their work and Ivan Radenković, theorist and activist, and Kenan Emini, international Roma rights activist  spoke about the contemporary prosecution and discrimination.

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As a final conference event, a visit to the Concentration Camp Museum – Red Cross was organized for all participants, lecturers and organizers, with joint planning for continuous cooperation on this project that preceded the field trip to the Museum. The plans include contribution to education about the genocide in school, public education on research and knowledge about the Holocaust through the media, as well as possible potentials regarding youth education and information dissemination to the adults.

The conclusions of the working groups are related to the needs for and the planning of future activities on the reform of school plans, such as the introduction of Roma authors into the textbooks in Serbian language, creation of experimental classes in the field of Roma people prosecution and exploration of local histories, then pointing to the need to strengthen the accountability of the media and the role of political parties in spreading important educational information, pointing to systemic discrimination, and considering methods for networking and creating partnerships between public sector, the media and civil society organizations.

This three-day reflection, socializing and work have led to a common conclusion that there is a great necessity of the existence for such an initiative, and the need for continued joint work on this topic as the only options for possible changes of the social reality in which we currently live.

Photos from this event can be viewed here.

After the conference, there were several media reports of this event and the Radio  Paraćin report broadcast within the program Roma in Pomoravlje District can be heard here.

Roma Holocaust and School of Remembrance was discussed within the special edition of the Radio Television Serbia show Romano Them which was broadcast on December 16th 2013 on occasion of the International day of Roma Holocaust remembrance. The radio program was entitled Forgotten Holocaust and can be heard in its entirety here.

 

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