Speaking out for the Roma

Speaking out for the Roma

The New York Times today recounts the grisly story of “deadly attacks on Hungary’s Gypsys,” with a cover photograph of the funeral of a Roma (the preferred name of this persecuted people) father and his 4-year-old son. “They were buried together in one coffin,” according to the account, “the little boy laid to rest on his father’s chest.”

We Jews have so recently been mourning the six million – indeed, in a sense, we never stop mourning them. The Roma suffered similar devastation, and at the same bloody hands.

They, as well as we, were deemed by the Nazis (and even the non-Nazis) to be racially inferior. They, as well as we, were rounded up and gassed.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “It is not known precisely how many Roma were killed in the Holocaust. While exact figures or percentages cannot be ascertained, historians estimate that the Germans and their allies killed around 25 percent of all European Roma. Of slightly less than one million Roma believed to have been living in Europe before the war, the Germans and their Axis partners killed up to 220,000.” (For the entire account, go to http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?ModuleId=10005219.)

There’s a marvelous, quirky, funny, and tragic book called “Children of the Rainbow,” by Moris Farhi, a Jew born in Turkey. It’s a fantasy about the persecution of the Roma, the writing of a Roma Bible, and a Roma “Moses” who leads his people to a promised land. We have reached ours (and mean to keep it), in Israel. We have reached acceptance and reaped success in the United States. But the Roma are still despised in Europe, and defenseless.

We would hope that the Jewish community, which has rallied against genocide all over the world, would speak out for the Roma.