Gypsies 'at risk' from politicians and persecution

POLITICIANS and the media are putting gypsies and travellers at risk by inflaming people's prejudices, say delegates at a national conference.

Organisers said Tuesday's event, at the National Holocaust Centre, Newark, Nottinghamshire, highlighted 60 years of persecution against the nomadic communities.

But a Cottenham residents' campaigner has called on travellers' groups to get to grips with the rogue element in their midst.

Dr James Smith, Holocaust centre chief executive, said gypsies and travellers had been "a greatly misunderstood and misrepresented minority" for decades.

The academic said nearly half a million gypsies were killed in the Holocaust.

He said: "We understand there are legal issues and there are local community tensions, but we wanted to highlight what has happened to the communities since the Holocaust, when nearly half a million were killed.

"People are getting hurt because of inflammatory press reports.

"My message to the politicians is they have to be very careful with how they use populist situations because when they open their mouths one day, the next day people can get hurt.

"They build on fears and prejudices. To build on that and inflame the situation further is asking for people to get hurt. "Politicians must bear a responsibility."

Rick Bristow, from the Cottenham Residents' Association, said travellers were demonised, but there was an anti-social element in the community and they needed to come to terms with that.

He said: "There are elements of the media which do tend to go a bit overboard when it comes to demonising travellers and the Government and local authorities have let the travelling community down very badly.

"But I think the travelling community should acknowledge the fact that they do have a rogue element that doesn't respect the settled community or the travelling community.
"We all abhor the anti-social behaviour which still persists from a minority of visiting travellers to the Fen."

Smithy Fen traveller Roger Slattery, a member of the Gypsy Council, said that travellers across Europe were living the same lives as they were during the time of the Second World War.

He said: "Racism exists all over the country, it isn't just gypsies, but other minorities have got rights that we haven't got. We don't have a place to live and vote so the politicians don't have any thing to gain from us.

"There is good and bad in every community and there are always youngsters who will break the law, but if you want to stop something like this then you have to get them interested in talking and sorting something out."

Original Internet Source

A small editorial comment is called for as well, I think. It regards the number of Gypsies killed in the Holocaust. While some academics may say as may as 500,000 there are other that say at least one million while others even go as far as to say 1.5 million and maybe even more. The fact is, whatever the actual number, the Romani People lost three quarters of our population in Germany and occupied countries compared to the one third of the Jews.