Today, Parliamentarians have written to the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi as part of mounting pressure to include the Roma genocide as a mandatory part of Holocaust teaching in schools.
The letter, written by the APPG for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma and APPG for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity with Officers from the Race Equality in Education APPG, follows the circulation of a clip in which Jimmy Carr claims the lack of awareness around Roma and Sinti suffering during the Holocaust is because, ‘no one wants to talk about the positives [of the Holocaust]’.
Writing to Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi, the letter states:
“Dear Mr Zahawi
We are writing to you as Co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, and Officers of the Race Equality in Education APPG, to urge the Department for Education to address the pressing need for a more inclusive teaching and learning environment for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children.
The case for including teachings about the Roma victims of the Holocaust and the need for schools to mark Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month has never been stronger.
Last week saw the exposure of an abhorrent Jimmy Carr sketch currently available on Netflix, where he celebrated the Roma Genocide. In the show he says:
“When people talk about the Holocaust, they talk about the tragedy and horror of 6 million Jewish lives being lost to the Nazi war machine. But they never mention the thousands of Gypsies that were killed by the Nazis. No one ever wants to talk about that, because no one ever wants to talk about the positives.”
An estimated 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were murdered, tortured, starved, and subjected to forced labour and medical experimentation under the Nazi regime – this is not the material of comedy. But beyond the comments in themselves, a deeper problem lies in that a lack of awareness of the harms of this rhetoric and about the Roma Holocaust, coupled with prejudicial views, which has enabled the show to be aired and applauded by audiences.
One of the keys to addressing these deep-seated prejudicial views is through education. Whilst the Holocaust is on the curriculum, inclusion of Roma as victims is not compulsory in those teachings. This must change, so that children and society as a whole can fully understand the dangers of ‘othering’ and racist views against Roma and Gypsy communities, which is very much alive in modern Britain. It is wholly inappropriate to leave it to the discretion of schools as to whether or not to include the annihilation of such a large proportion of Europe’s Roma and Sinti people – it must be recognised in teachings on the Holocaust.
The Council of Europe recognised the pressing need for this and called on member states to include the history of Roma and/or Travellers in school curricula and teaching materials. The recommendation of 2020 has yet to be adopted by the UK Government. We urge you to commit to address racial hatred against these marginalised groups and adopt the recommendation.
The saddening lack of awareness of the Roma victims in the Holocaust was shown in by research from YouGov which found that 55% of surveyed British adults did not know that an estimated 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
The high levels of prejudicial views against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities was highlighted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in their National Barometer of Prejudice and Discrimination. This found that people in the UK held the highest level of prejudice towards Gypsies and Travellers of any protected characteristic group. The fact remains that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities continue to experience hate and discrimination on a day-to-day basis in the UK. Greater understanding of cultural diversity and difference is the strongest approach to reducing prejudice – education is key to this.
There is a desperate need for positive narratives about Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to be taught and an important and achievable step would be for the Department for Education to support schools to celebrate Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month.
These measures would also contribute some desperately needed steps to help address the poor educational outcomes for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, who have the lowest educational attainment at GCSE of all ethnic groups in the UK. Contributing factors to this include the lack of understanding and visibility of the culture and history, as well as the high levels of racist bullying and prejudicial views held within educational institutions. This arguably contributes to the substantial drop-out of the many Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children who are the victims of such bullying, particularly from secondary school.
A number of Cabinet Minister have rightly condemned the ‘joke’ but Government must move to address this in a way that effects meaningful change. Whilst we are encouraged to see the funding package announced by Communities Minister in July 2021 to support the educational outcomes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children, wider work needs to be done address prejudice and to improve the outcomes nationally.
We call on you, as Secretary of State for Education to take action and implement the teaching of the Roma genocide as a mandatory part of Holocaust teaching in schools, and to support schools to mark Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month. This needs to be part of a wider package of measures to improve the educational outcomes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and to tackle deep-seated prejudice.
Martin Docherty Hughes MP and Baroness Janet Whitaker, Co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma
Lord Nick Bourne, Honorary President of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies, Travellers and Roma
Lord Simon Woolley, Vice Chair and Kim Johnson MP, Officer of the Race Equality in Education APPG
Fleur Anderson MP, Co-chair of the APPG for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity”
The full letter to the Secretary of State for Education can be seen here.
Another letter was also sent to the Secretary of State for Education yesterday with over 40 charities asking that Roma and Sinti experiences during the Holocaust be included in the national curriculum.
Previously, over 120 Parliamentarians wrote to Netflix to condemn Jimmy Carr and called for the removal of ‘His Dark Material’ from the platform.
During the Holocaust, estimates show that as much as 25-50% of Europe’s Roma and Sinti people were murdered by the Nazi regime. Many experienced imprisonment, forced labour, forced sterilisation and medical experimentation.
Every year, International Roma Genocide Remembrance Day takes place on the 2nd August to remember the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust.
Baroness Janet Whitaker, Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, had this to say:
“Racial hatred has no place in a civilised society. Now is the time for Government to take steps to ensure a more comprehensive education around the Holocaust, which takes account of the Roma and Sinti annihilation, and for schools to reinforce the message that all people are of equal worth and equally worthy of respect.”
Lord Nick Bourne, Honorary President of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, said:
“The despicable behaviour of Jimmy Carr reminds us all of the need for constructive positive action to face down hatred and to educate. This represents a real opportunity for the government to provide a valuable lead.”
Speaking on the need for inclusive education, Kim Johnson MP, Officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education said:
“The sinister and deeply distressing experiences of the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust must not be air-brushed out of teachings on this dark period. Racial hatred and discrimination against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is very much alive across Europe and in modern Britain and we have a duty not only to address and tackle racial prejudice, but to take steps to ensure that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children have an inclusive learning environment to help address the desperately poor educational outcomes they experience.”[END]
Notes to editors
- The All Party Parliamentary Group for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma provides a forum for parliamentarians concerned about issues facing Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities and seeks to address these issues and challenge inequalities. You can find out more at https://www.gypsy-traveller.org/our-flagship-projects/appg/and on Twitter @APPGGTR. The APPG is chaired by Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (SNP) and Baroness Janet Whitaker (Labour).
- The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity is a cross-party group that brings parliamentarians, academics, and civil society organisations together to ensure that the UK does all it can to prevent genocide. You can find out more at: https://www.aegistrust.org/what-we-do/activities/appg/ or on Twitter, @GenocideAPPG. The APPG is co-chaired by Fleur Anderson MP (Labour), and Mohammed Sheikh, the Lord Sheikh (Conservative). Its officers are Brendan O’Hara MP (SNP), Feryal Clark MP (Labour), Lord Nick Bourne (Conservative), Lord John Alderdice (Liberal Democrat), Rushanara Ali (Labour), and Florence Eshalomi (Labour).
- The All Party Parliamentary Group for Race Equality in Education aims to support children and students from ethnic minority backgrounds, to enhance educational environments, and to increase racial diversity in teaching across the UK. You can find out more at https://raceequalityineducationappg.org/ and on Twitter @appg_reie. The APPG is chaired by Diane Abbott MP (Labour), Lord Woolley (Crossbench), Adam Afriyie MP (Conservative) and Afzal Khan MP (Labour).