During the Second World War, at least 21,000 Roma and Sinti people were murdered by the Germans in the so-called "Gypsy family camp" (Zigeunerlager) at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is estimated that during the war at least 500,000 Roma people were murdered by Germans.

There will be commemorations in many places in Europe. Spokesperson for the Roma Association, in Poland, Wladyslaw Kwiatkowski announced that there will be tributes from former Auschwitz inmates, Else Baker from Germany and Eva Fahidi-Pusztai from Hungary. US politician and clergyman the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Roma leaders will also give tributes.

Reverend Jesse Jackson will say: “It is critically important we are here today for the Roma Genocide Remembrance Day.  This day underscores the importance of educating people about the Roma holocaust during World War II, not just to look back but to surge forward with a renewed urgency to combat the discrimination the Roma community continues to face.”

The National Education Union (NEU) and the Holocaust Educational Trust has produced more information on victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma.

In the UK, as highlighted by the Department for Education, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils have the poorest educational outcomes of all ethnic groups.  

A report by the Traveller Movement, published in 2019, found:  

  • racist bullying is rarely addressed appropriately, and most schools do not realise that Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities are ethnic groups
  • exclusions are often a first rather than a last resort, and are frequently given to children with special educational needs
  • a lack of funding for school uniforms causes many families distress and financial hardship.  

The March/April 2019 issue of Educate featured an article about the work of NEU Northern Region member Peter Sagar with the Roma community in Gateshead. 

The union is working with Peter to develop an NEU policy to support union members who teach and work with children from an Eastern European Roma background.  The NEU would like to hear from teachers and union reps with a view on what kind of support they would need. For example, is there a need to:

  • help union members be more aware of the background of Eastern European children?
  • help union members to understand the linguistic and cultural barriers facing Roma families and their children and so devise ways of overcoming them?
  • facilitate more attempts to find ways of inviting parents from the Roma community into school?

For more information about the Roma community, please see 'Roma - A living tradition' and for other responses with views, ideas or experiences email equality@neu.org.uk