Holocaust Memorial Day - 27th January 2021: ‘Be the light in darkness’
Light a candle and place it in your window at 8pm on the 27 January 2021
Dikh He Na Bister/We Will Remember
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Be the light in darkness’.
It reminds us that in the worst of times, light cannot be extinguished and that we all have a responsibility to keep the light alive.
The idea of collective responsibility also sits within the current theme of World Social Work Week, ‘Ubuntu – I am because you are’ which is part of the Zulu phrase "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is a person through other people. This speaks to the concept of a common humanity and oneness which must guard against the ‘othering’ needed to perpetrate the atrocities of the Porrajmos and other genocides.
The Porrajmos or Porajmos which translates to ‘the Devouring’ is the term used to describe the Nazi Genocide of Europe’s Roma and Sinti populations. Those who were not murdered were used as forced labour, sterilised or experimented on. Most accounts do not accurately reflect the true numbers of Roma and Sinti murdered in the Porrajmos and it has been placed as high as one million, with the location of many of the Gypsy mass graves unknown with no-one left to bear witness. Grieving loss that is only beginning to become understood by the wider world, is a painful and sensitive topic.
In preparation for Hitler’s proposed invasion of Britain, lists of the names of Gypsy families were created. Jackie Bolton and Allison Hulmes, founder members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Social Work Association have both been told that their family name was placed on that list.
It is often repeated that anti-Gypsyism is ‘the last acceptable form of racism’ and this helps stoke the fires of discrimination and prejudice that has always existed towards Gypsy, Traveller and more recently Roma communities in the UK.
The Governments current police and crime bill seeks to make ‘intentional’ trespass with ‘vehicles involved’ a criminal offence - powers the police don’t support. This impacts most directly on Gypsy and Traveller families and can be viewed as a state-sanctioned mechanism for denying identity, denying different ways of living and ‘othering’.
Othering is a phenomenon in which some individuals or groups are defined and labelled as not fitting in within the norms of a social group – by saying "they are not like me" or "they are not one of us" and is an incremental and pernicious process. This ‘othering' of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people is perpetuated in the media and through television programmes such as ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’.
Watch: Romany poet Raine Geoghegan performs ‘The Gypsy Camp at Auschwitz’
Raine Geoghegan, M.A. is a poet and prose writer of Romany, Welsh and Irish descent. Nominated for the Forward Prize, Best of the Net & The Pushcart Prize. Follow Raine at twitter.com/RaineGeoghegan5
On Holocaust Memorial Day we ask social workers, social work leaders and social work educators to ask themselves this question (integrating the theme of Ubuntu) ‘What can I do to be the light in the darkness?’
Here are some simple solutions:
- Education, Education, Education
- Learn about the rich and diverse history of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities in the UK, including the Porrajmos
- European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 2nd August each year https://2august.eu/
- Ensure that anti-Gypsyism is embedded into all anti-racist and anti-oppressive social work education and workplace equality, diversity and inclusion strategy
- Ensure equal representation of Gypsy Roma and Traveller people within the social work structures that are designed to promote fairness, equality and social justice
- Be visible and vocal in challenging anti-Gypsyism, add your support to campaigns that seek to achieve equality, justice and fairness for Gypsy Traveller and Roma people
For further information on the GRTSW Association, including membership please email: Wales@basw.co.uk
National Director BASW Cymru