Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the celebration on International Roma Day in Oslo.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
First of all congratulations on International Roma Day.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here to commemorate this day with you.
Today the culture and identity of the Roma are being celebrated all over the world.
In Norway too, we have every reason to be proud of Roma culture, and we must recognise that it is part of our common culture.
We must ensure that you have a proper place in Norwegian society.
I have had the pleasure of experiencing Roma hospitality myself, when I was Minister of Local Government.
And I want Norway to be a good home for Norwegian Roma people.
Sadly, this has not always been the case. And this part of our history is not one we can be proud of.
This February, the Government received a report entitled Å bli dem kvit, which directly translated means ‘getting rid of them’.
It was drawn up by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities. It is an important document. And it came about because some of you pointed out the need for it. I thank you for that. Some of you have also helped the Center to gather information.
The report describes how the Norwegian authorities pursued a racist policy that excluded Norwegian Roma, both before and after the Second World War, and the fatal consequences of this policy for Norwegian Roma during the Holocaust – or Porrajamos (in Romani).
Right from the beginning of the 20th century, the Norwegian state withdrew documents confirming Norwegian citizenship from Roma people, and sent many of them out of the country – hence the title of the report, ‘getting rid of them’.
The ‘gypsy paragraph’ – as it came to be known – of 1927 meant that Norwegian Roma were denied entry into Norway.
Similar policies were being pursued in other European countries at that time.
In 1934, 68 Norwegian Roma were denied re-entry into Norway.
The Norwegian authorities requested that they be stopped at the Danish–German border. They were abandoned in Europe, where the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous.
As a result of this policy, Norwegian Roma in German-occupied Europe were deported to concentration camps during the Second World War.
And thus fell into the hands of the Nazis.
Sixty-six Norwegian Roma were deported from occupied Belgium to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
There were many people in the group that was stopped at the Danish–German border in 1934. Only four survived the unspeakable cruelty of the concentration camps.
For many years after the War, the Norwegian authorities continued to turn Roma people away.
The ‘gypsy paragraph’ was not repealed until 1956.
And the Norwegian authorities did not recognise the citizenship of Norwegian Roma until the 1970s.
It is high time that we confront this dark chapter of our history.
The state must acknowledge its responsibility for the mistakes that were made and the injustices that Norwegian Roma have suffered.
On behalf of the Norwegian state, I apologise to the Norwegian Roma.
I apologise for the racist policy of exclusion that was pursued in the decades before and after the Second World War. I apologise also for the fatal consequences that this policy had for Norwegian Roma during the Holocaust.
The Government will also make some form of collective reparation to the Roma, as the Roma themselves have requested.
We therefore wish to enter into dialogue with representatives of the Norwegian Roma community to find out how this can be done.
This year, it is 70 years since the end of the Second World War. We must now acknowledge the sufferings of the Norwegian Roma during the War, just as we remember other Norwegian losses.
We must learn from the mistakes of the past.
And we must look ahead.
I hope that the relationship between the Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian Roma can now enter a new and better phase.
I hope that we can talk together – with confidence and trust. This will help to make Norway a good, secure home for all its citizens, including the Norwegian Roma.