Roma appeal against discrimination on Holocaust Day

Zoni Weisz addresses the Bundestag, 27 January Zoni Weisz addressed the Bundestag

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The first Roma guest of honour at Germany's official Holocaust remembrance day ceremony has said his people face new threats.

Zoni Weisz told German MPs that Roma in western Europe again faced discrimination and were living "in inhumane conditions in ghettos".

The Dutch-born speaker is the sole survivor of a family killed in 1944.

He was speaking on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops in 1945.

Start Quote

Zoni Weisz addresses the Bundestag, 27 January

A people... oppressed for centuries is... still shut out and robbed of any honest chance of a better future”

End Quote Zoni Weisz Roma Holocaust survivor

The majority of Holocaust victims were Jewish but historians estimate between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma also died.

West Germany did not formally acknowledge this different genocide until 1982, the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

'Still shut out'

Addressing the German parliament, the Bundestag, Mr Weisz singled out France and Italy as countries where Roma faced new "discrimination and exclusion".

"We are Europeans, let me remind you, and must have the same rights as any other resident, with the same opportunities available to every European," he said.

"It is unacceptable that a people that has been discriminated against and oppressed for centuries is today, in the 21st Century, still shut out and robbed of any honest chance of a better future."

During the ceremony at the Bundestag, Hungarian musician Ferenc Snetberger performed mournful, classical guitar.

Ferenc Snetberger plays before the Bundestag, 27 January Ferenc Snetberger is inspired by Roma themes in his music

Mr Weisz, 73, survived because a policeman took pity on him as a boy and let him escape while his family were being arrested in a raid.

Our correspondent notes that Germany is moving to commemorate the Roma in various ways.

A Berlin street is to be named after a book published in 1931 which depicted a romance between a non-Roma German boy and a Roma girl.

The story, Ede and Unku, was banned when the Nazis came to power.

In real life, the girl on whom the story was based was murdered in Auschwitz.

And a school is to be named in Berlin after the boxer Johann Trollmann, who was known as "Gypsy" Trollmann.

He fought for Germany's light-heavyweight title in 1933. Though he won on points, the Nazis denied him the title because they deemed his fighting style "un-German".

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