Italian Jewish leaders criticize deputy PM for insulting Roma people

August 2 marks the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the genocide of half a million Roma people at the hands of the Nazis.

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August 4, 2019 14:39
2 minute read.
Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on during a news conference in Rome, Italy, on June 2

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini looks on during a news conference in Rome, Italy, on June 20, 2018. . (photo credit: STEFANO RELLANDINI/REUTERS)

Italian Jewish leaders criticized the Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini for his disparaging comments against Roma people on the eve of the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

"Do you think it's normal for a gypsy woman in Milan to say 'Salvini should be shot in the head'? Be good, wicked gypsy, be good that the bulldozers are coming soon," the far-right League leader wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

The woman made her statement in a video-reportage produced by the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale.

August 2 marks the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the genocide of half a million Roma people at the hands of the Nazis.

"In these hours we remember the Porrajmos, the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti people in the Nazi death camps," the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Noemi Di Segni said in a statement on Friday.

"We are compelled to remember those who were barbarically murdered and we still have much to learn from these events. This open and ever-lasting wound in the European conscience also speaks to our present," she added.

Di Segni highlighted how remembrance should also serve as a warning of the terrible consequences that words of hatred can lead to.

"We have the duty to be vigilant so that such events don't happen again, and to speak up against new dangerous signs that are emerging in the most alarming way also because of the irresponsibility of those who in the highest levels of our institutions keep on stoking the fires of horrendous prejudices," she added.

"This important chapter of our history should have taught us the importance of words and of the effects they produced," the President of the Jewish Community of Rome Ruth Dureghello also commented, as reported by the Italian Jewish paper Pagine Ebraiche.

Salvini's remarks drew widespread criticism (but also support) on social media. The center-left Partito Democratico announced that they would work to call for a vote of no-confidence against the minister in the Parliament in September.

However, Salvini defended his words.

"Crazy stuff. The problem is not a gypsy who threatens to kill the minister of the interior, living in an illegal Roma camp. The problem for some is the term 'bad gypsy. I'm going ahead until the goal is reached: zero Roma camps in Italy," he wrote in a tweet.


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