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Germany

Row Over Holocaust Memorial Inscription

Germany's central council of Sinti and Roma has appealed to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to resolve a row over the planned inscription of a memorial in tribute to the victims of Nazi persecution.

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Romani Rose is vehemently opposed to the word "gypsies"

Although the site and the design of the memorial have been agreed upon, construction cannot get underway until this latest obstacle has been overcome. The problem lies in the wording, which the culture minister would have pay tribute to the half million "gypsies" murdered by the Nazis. A suggestions which has been met with abject resistance.

"Our fate has always been a footnote to the extermination of the Jews, but we were exposed to the same systematic will to destroy us," council Chairman Romani Rose told the Reuters news agency.

Rose accused the German government of "systematic delaying tactics", but a spokesman for Culture Minister Christina Weiss rejected the accusations.

Sinti und Roma sammeln Unterschriften für das Holocaust-Mahnmal

Romani Rose at the site of the proposed memorial near the German parliament building, which can be seen in the background

"The memorial has been financed and planned, and we want it," the spokesman said, adding that the inscription should include all groups who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, not only the Roma and Sinti.

Citing the president

What the council is calling for is the use of a quote by former German president, Roman Herzog, in which the suffering of the Roma and Sinti is equated to that of the Jews. They want it made plain that their suffering was the result of the same racial hatred.

But the culture minister spokesman expressed some concerns over the former president's statement.

"Historians also see differences between the persecution of the Jews and that of the Sinti and Roma, making it problematic to present them as equal," he said.

But Romani Rose said they council would not accept the proposed wording, which he said also proved the culture ministry's lack of respect and ignorance about the Sinti and Roma Holocaust victims.

A survivor of the Holocaust, 81-year-old Reinhard Florian, also said he was opposed to the word "gypsies."

"I don't want to see this word on our monument, as soon as I hear it I think of the old times and of the SS," he told the Reuters news agency. Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, but other persecuted groups included homosexuals, conscientious objectors, communists and Jehovah's Witnesses.

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