Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin called for Israel to commemorate the memory of Roma, commonly known as gypsies, who were persecuted in World War II.

The move came in response to letters from Jewish Roma families.

“We respect the Roma a lot,” Rivlin said on Sunday. “They are a very special community, and we as Jews respect their demand for recognition of the tragedy they faced.”

The Knesset speaker pointed out in an interview with Israel Radio that there are differences between the Holocaust and the Roma genocide, but Jews still understand the Roma, who suffered under the Nazis and were murdered in World War II.

Last week, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) gave Rivlin a letter she received from “Amari Chargen,” the Union of Roma Israelis and their family members.

“With the mass immigration from the former Soviet Union, there are many mixed families of Jews and Roma,” Solodkin explained. “These families have the bitter memory of the Second World War, of the Holocaust and the Roma genocide by the Nazi regime.”

Solodkin added that her father was a Holocaust survivor, who told her that he saw Roma suffering from starvation diseases and torture by the Nazis, just like Jews, and asked Rivlin to please help the Roma-Israeli cause.

Historians estimate that the Nazis murdered 1.5 million Roma.

A letter from the Roma-Israeli association Amari Chargen pointed out that Roma were listed in the Nuremberg Laws as an ethnicity the Nazis sought to “purify,” and that “Jews and Roma faced death together in Babi Yar, Auschwitz and other concentration camps.”

“The Roma nation is an ancient one, much like the Jews, spread out for thousands of years and suffering from hatred by local populations,” the letter explained. “Just as Jews faced anti-Semitism, Roma faced anti-gypsy sentiment, but unlike the Jews, we do not have our own sovereign state, and few are aware of the horrors perpetrated to our people by the Nazis.”

The Amari Chargen wrote that they think that Yad Vashem is the most appropriate place to build a memorial to Roma victims of the Nazis, because of their shared past with the Jewish people.

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