German Chancellor Angela Merkel is unveiling a memorial in Berlin to Roma victims
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is unveiling a memorial in Berlin to Roma (Gypsy) Nazi Holocaust victims.
The memorial – a circular pool of water with a small plinth in the middle – is in the Tiergarten park, near the Reichstag, the German parliament building.
The unveiling comes after years of delays and disputes over the memorial’s design and its cost.
Experts say between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma were killed during World War II.
“It’s very important to me that we have a culture of remembrance,” Mrs Merkel said in an interview on her YouTube channel.
“Every generation must confront its own history afresh. And for that we must have suitable places that people can go to in the future, when the witnesses from the time are no longer alive.”
Mrs Merkel acknowledged that the building of the memorial had taken a long time and entailed “many discussions”, and recalled that the memorial to murdered Jews of Europe had also taken more than 15 years to complete.
President Joachim Gauck and some 100 elderly survivors joined Mrs Merkel at the opening ceremony on Wednesday.
The memorial has been designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan. A fresh flower will be laid on the plinth at the centre of the memorial every day.
A chronology of the Nazi extermination campaign stands next to the memorial.
In 1982, Germany officially recognised the genocide of the Roma and Sinti – a related people who live mostly in German-speaking areas of Central Europe.
The leader of the Central Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany, Romani Rose, was also at the ceremony.
He told Agence France-Presse earlier: “Opening the memorial sends an important message to society that anti-Roma sentiment is as unacceptable as anti-Semitism.”
However, Roma organisations and human rights groups say they are still discriminated against in many European countries.
German newspapers on Wednesday pointed out that Germany turns down asylum applications from Roma from Kosovo, and some accused Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich of unacceptable discrimination when he referred recently to “increasing abuse of asylum from countries in the Balkans”.
A front-page commentary by Klaus Hillenbrand in Die Tageszeitung said: “It is, of course, nevertheless right for the chancellor and the president to turn the inauguration of the modest memorial into an act of state… Better decades too late than never.”
However, in Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel, Gerrit Bartels says that, although the memorial “finally recognises the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Sinti and Roma… it certainly does not show future generations of Sinti and Roma a way out of the dilemma between exclusion, separation and assimilation”.