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Germany

Work Begins on Berlin Memorial for Sinti and Roma

After years of delay, a groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for a memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti who perished during the Holocaust.

Berlin's Minister of Cultural Affairs, Bernd Neumann, and Berlin's Mayor Klaus Wowereit attend a ceremony for the official beginning of the building of the Holocaust Memorial for Sinti and Roma

German ministers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial in Berlin

Leaders of the two ethnic communities as well as politicians attended the ceremony in Berlin's Tiergarten park close to the federal parliament building, the Reichstag.

The circular memorial in the shape of a fountain was designed by Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan, and will have a poem by Italian writer Santino Spinelli on its base.

Historical obligations

The German government and leaders of the Sinti and Roma communities agreed in May 2006 to build the memorial, but a dispute over its inscription and design issues put the project on ice.

Differences were finally overcome early this year, enabling the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, to approve the monument commemorating the murder of at least 500,000 members of the two ethnic minorities in Nazi extermination camps.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the minister in charge of culture said Germany lived up to its historical obligations to those persecuted as "Gypsies" under the Nazis.

Bernd Neumann said the groundbreaking ceremony took place on the 66th anniversary of the Nazi decree under which Sinti and Roma were deported to the extermination camp of Auschwitz.

"The memorial will show the important position these crimes hold in Germany's memory," Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said at a ceremony including groups representing the victims. "The guilt cannot die away," he said.

Among those present at the ceremony were the chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Romani Rose, designer Karavan and the governing mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit.

Germany is contributing 2 million euros ($2.8 million) to build the memorial, work on which is expected to be completed in 2009.

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