Representatives of the Sinti and Roma communities called for more effective measures from the European Union to protect minorities at a ceremony in the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.
Sinti and Roma often live in deplorable conditions across the European Union
The chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, said he was observing with "great concern" current developments following violent physical and arson attacks on the minority in Naples and other Italian communities.
Speaking at the camp in Poland on Aug. 2 -- the international day of commemoration for the Sinti and Roma victims of the Nazi Holocaust -- Rose accused sections of the Italian media and certain politicians of trying to "condemn and criminalise the minority across the board."
Instead of holding conferences and issuing statements, the EU should introduce effective measures to protect the Sinti and Roma, known pejoratively as gypsies, Rose said.
He demanded steps to do away with the "completely unacceptable" living conditions of the minority in much of the EU.
Half a million of Sinti and Roma perished in Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps during WWII
The leader of Poland's Roma, Roman Kwiatkowski, said that members of the minority community were still not EU citizens with full rights.
Kwiatkowski accused the Italian authorities of "actively" supporting discriminatory policies against the Roma.
He praised the planned installation of a memorial to the Sinti and Roma murdered in the Holocaust next to Reichstag in the German capital Berlin as "symbolic."
"We hope the memorial will come into being and that it can be inaugurated within the next year," PAP news agency quoted former Auschwitz prisoner Franz Rosenbach as saying.
Revisiting the past
Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren, in Poland since Thursday on an educational trip, took part in Saturday's ceremony.
The Nazis set up the "Gypsy Family Camp" at the Auschwitz-Birkenau site at the end of February 1943 and transported Sinti and Roma from 14 occupied countries there.
During the night of Aug. 2-3, 1944, the final 2,900 prisoners in the camp were killed upon the orders of SS head Heinrich Himmler.
It is estimated that some 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered by the Nazi regime.