On January 27, 2016, Yahad-In Unum new exhibit, “Roma Memory”, premiered at the European Commission in Brussels. This exhibit and the inauguration that it accompanied, marked the first time the European Commission chose to center this day of commemoration around the recognition of the Roma genocide during World War II. Featuring excerpts from Yahad-In Unum’s interviews with Roma survivors of the genocide, this exhibit enables the viewer to better understand this little-known history by leading them step by step through the genocidal process. The final module reveals the obstacles Roma still face today, through recent statements that illuminate the danger of racism and hate.
The inauguration opened with speeches by Dimitris Avrampoulous, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, and Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Father Desbois also spoke, emphasizing the need to recognize and memorialize the mass graves of Roma in Eastern Europe, only two of which have memorials today. Following his speech, Yahad Coordinator of the Roma Genocide Research Project Costel Nastasie addressed the audience. Moreover, Yahad-In Unum arranged for Nicolae Calderar, a Roma survivor of the genocide, to travel from Romania to share his experience during the genocide. We were also honored to have Esma Redžepova in attendance, the acclaimed Roma singer, who delivered a stirring rendition of "Gelem Gelem", the Roma anthem, among other traditional Roma songs.
The exhibit's inauguration was followed by a training workshop for European Commission staff on January 28, organized by Yahad-In Unum, focusing on the history of the Roma genocide on the basis of Yahad-In Unum research results and the question of the lack of memorialization of Roma extermination sites. Twenty-five European Commission staff participated in the training, which was led by Father Desbois and Yahad Historical Advisor Andrej Umansky. Additionally, Roma survivor Nicolae Caldarar shared his testimony with the workshop participants. The exhibit was on display at the Berlaymont building of the European Commission until February 19, 2016. During its display period, the exhibit received thousands of visitors, including officials from European institutions and Roma organizations.
Several months later, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo opened the exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, France on May 10, 2016. We also welcomed S.E.M. Anguel Tcholakov, Bulgarian Ambassador to France, Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of the 3rd arrondissement of Paris, Dr. Richard Prasquier, President of Keren Hayessod France, and Catherine Vieu-Charier, Deputy to the Mayor on memory and global issues, to this special viewing. The exhibit opened to the public on May 11 and will be on display at Hôtel de Ville until July 2. To date, the exhibit has received several hundred visitors per day. Guided tours are offered regularly with a Yahad-In Unum team member in order to enable visitors to delve deeper into the exhibit’s content.
Fianlly, the exhibit premiered at Montpellier's City Hall in Montpellier, France on March 11, 2017. The premiere was accompanied by a guided visit and speech by Father Desbois as well as a speech by Philippe Saurel, Mayor of Montpellier. In his foreword to the exhibit, Mayor Saurel declared "This exhibition, rich in emotion, reveals a side of history, calls out to us, prods us. I particularly salute the work of Yahad-In Unum and Roma Dignity that led to this exhibition. It reminds us to what point transmitted memory is the guarantor of eternity."On March 23, a special training session was held for teachers and Roma students who toured the exhibit with Yahad staff members. Both the inauguration and the training sessions underscored the importance of transmitting this crucial history today.