Germany to pay compensation to remaining victims of Roma Holocaust

Photo: Museum of Holocaust USA, public domain

Germany is to pay compensation to remaining elderly victims of the Roma Holocaust who suffered during WWII in concentration camps such as Lety or the death camp Auschwitz. Each will receive a one-off payment of around 2,560 euros in the coming months. The agreement was reached with the help of the Czech Foreign Ministry and former special envoy on Holocaust issues, Jiří Šitler (now the Czech ambassador to Stockholm).

Photo: Museum of Holocaust USA,  public domain
He told Radio Prague on a line from Sweden how the process had come to fruition.

“At the beginning of last year the Czech Foreign Ministry was contacted by the Committee for the Compensation of Victims of the Roma Holocaust and they asked the ministry to assist them in talks with the German side about possible compensation. The Roma wanted to open the talks as they felt that they had been unevenly treated compared to Jewish victims, that they were not receiving the same level of compensation as the Jewish victims although they too had suffered. They also specifically wanted some acknowledgement from the German side that they were victims of Nazism.”

 Jiří Šitler,  foto: archivo del Ministerio de RR.EE. de la RCh
They asked for your help; from what you told Czech Radio any difficulties had more to do with legal questions, not with any opposition to the idea.

“Yes, we had to find a way to compensate them within the existing German legislative framework, so no laws would have to be changed. Those compensated will receive a one-off payment of more than 2,500 euros for Roma who survived camps like Lety or Auschwitz but also those who had to go into hiding during the war. So far some 15 survivors have been registered, but I am sure there more who will be found. Even so, I do not think that the number will be higher than several dozen.”

One question is why it took so long for Roma to be compensated in general; is it fair to say that compared to 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, the Roma Holocaust is now better understood and acknowledged?

“Yes, I think that is the case. The problem is not that they were treated differently from any other survivors – the problem is in fact that they weren’t treated differently. With Jewish victims and the Roma it was a different case in the sense that they were targeted by the Nazis as a people. And they wanted that to be acknowledged.

“I’d like to mention that important in that respect, in terms of communication with the German side, was work done by the lawyer Martin Thiel and Czech historian Viola Jakschová, who prepared an excellent study which played a role; the talks were then finalized by my successor Antonín Hradílek.”