BUDAPEST, Hungary — Europe's top human right official drew attention to the abuses and discrimination faced by the Roma minority as Europe commemorated the tens of thousands of Gypsies killed during World War II.
The European Parliament has designated Aug. 2 as Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, remembering the approximately 220,000 Roma killed by Nazi Germany and its allies. About a quarter of the victims were Hungarian Roma.
Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that "knowledge of Roma history in Europe is crucial to understanding their current situation," listing forced sterilization of Roma women, ethnic profiling by police and the large number of Roma children in state care among the problems afflicting them across the continent.
In Hungary, Sunday's commemorations included art exhibits and a wreath-laying at a Roma Holocaust memorial in Budapest. The triangular column of black granite has been repeatedly damaged by vandals.
Djordje Jovanovic, research director at the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center, said that a poster campaign on social media about the Roma Holocaust detailing the community's persecution was meant to make the events better known.
"Few people in Europe know that the Roma Holocaust happened and there is little information in school history books," said Jovanovic, whose family lost several members of his grandparents' generation in the Roma Holocaust. "There is still a great amount of racism we are facing."
One poster shows Kurt Winterstein, a German soldier who was Adolf Hitler's personal driver but was expelled from the army and sterilized after it was discovered that his mother was Roma.
Another poster states that more than 20,000 Roma were sent to the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most were killed in the gas chambers.
On Aug. 2, 1944, nearly 2,900 Roma were killed there.