While German prosecutors decided that Oskar Groening, a former Nazi SS guard known as the ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’, now 96, is fit to serve out his sentence, President Higgins’ wife, Sabina, was guest of honour at a gathering of Roma to hear how 500,000 of that community were slaughtered in the gas chambers, and of their long struggle to be recognised as victims of the Holocaust.
Like any decent human being, Ms Higgins was moved to tears as she heard how 3,000 Roma were exterminated in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on a single day — August 2, 1944.
Groening was the accountant there, sorting and counting the money and valuables taken from those murdered or used as slave labour, and shipping it back to his superiors in Berlin.
The Roma have suffered centuries of discrimination and still do. There are now around 5,000 living in Ireland and one Roma woman, Gabi Muntean, described being verbally abused here and refused service in shops. She has urged the Government to do more to combat such racism but it is incumbent on all Irish citizens to do that. By acknowledging openly the past suffering of the Roma people and their present struggles here, we can ensure a fairer future for us all.