Distinction of the Special Prize of the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma for Piotr M. A. Cywiński
Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, was honoured with the Special Prize of the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma. The award ceremony took place on August 1st in Cracow during a special concert organized at the eve of the Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day.
Director Cywiński was awarded with the distinction for “tireless efforts to preserve the memory of the genocide of Sinti and Roma at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial”.
While saying the words of thanks for this honour, director Cywiński stated that he perceives this distinction also from the perspective of the wave of false attacks and hate that Memorial staff and he himself have had to face for some time. “It is so moving that this expression of solidarity in difficult moments comes from the minority which is constantly the subject of various forms of harassment, humiliation and abasement”, Director Cywiński said.
“Memory is the key to understand the present, to construct the future”, Cywiński added while being awarded with the prize.
Catharina Seegelken, Director of Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation emphasized that the possibility to hand in the prize to the Director of the Auschwitz Museum constitutes for her great honour. “Little is still known about the Holocaust of 500 thousand of Sinti and Roma in Europe. Dr. Piotr Cywiński plays a crucial role in commemorating the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma in Europe. He performs extraordinary work in forwarding the heritage of Auschwitz victims as well as in spreading the conscience of genocide that national socialist performed”, she added.
“Director Cywiński himself had to face public attacks and hate by right-wing environment in Poland in recent years”, Seegelken said. “In his work, he is concentrated not only on remembering the past, but he perceives his work also as a duty towards the present. Today’s award is a signal for the society, the media and politicians”, she summarized.
Musicians from the Sinti and Roma Philharmonic Orchestra performed during the concert in Cracow, conducted by Riccardo M. Sahiti. The mission of the band is to preserve musical heritage of the Roma.
European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma is awarded to notable personages speaking for the discriminated Roma and Sinti community in Europe. In November 2007, the distinction was established by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Documentation Center of Sinti and Roma as well as Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation. Romani Rose is the Head of the Prize Jury.
Every two years, the distinction is awarded to those who care for the respect of civil rights of Roma minorities, combatting stereotypes and prejudice as well as opposing different forms of exclusion of the Roma from social life. Special Distinction is also awarded by the Jury.