Special prize of the Civil Rights Prize

The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, is honored for his outstanding achievements with the special prize of the “European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma in memory of Oskar and Vincent Rose”. The award ceremony by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation takes place on the occasion of the commemoration events for the 75th anniversary of 2 August, the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

Award of the 2019 Special Prize to Dr. Piotr Cywiński (Photo: Jarek Praszkiewicz)

Dr. Cywiński preserves with outstanding efforts the legacy of the victims of Auschwitz and strengthens the public awareness about the National Socialist genocide against the Sinti and Roma. The support of the annual commemoration in the former extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on the occasion of the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2nd August, the establishment of the permanent exhibition on the genocide of Sinti and Roma in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the recent educational programs for museum guides at the Heidelberg based Documentation Centre are just some of the milestones that exemplify the intensive cooperation between the Central Council, the Documentation Centre and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Dr. Cywiński has been subjected in recent years to heavy public attacks and hate campaigns by extreme-right and nationalist movements in Poland. The director and museum play a crucial role in the remembrance and commemoration of the Holocaust of Europe’s Sinti and Roma. The approach to remembrance of Dr. Cywiński does not focus exclusively on the necessary processing of the past, but is framed as a responsibility for the present.

Against the background of the extremely worrying human rights situation in many European countries, the European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma should contribute to the preservation and enforcement of the civil rights of the members of the Sinti and Roma minorities in their respective home countries. At the same time, the prize establishes a clear signal to politicians, to the media and social groups in Europe, to work against deeply rooted clichés and prejudices in order to gradually overcome the everyday exclusion of the minority. Since 2019, the prize has been awarded in memory of the Holocaust survivors Oskar and Vinzenz Rose, two outstanding representatives of the civil rights movement of Sinti and Roma in Germany. Vincent Rose survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. Previous winners are Wladyslaw Bartoszewski (†), Auschwitz survivor and twice Foreign Minister of Poland (2008), Simone Veil (†), first President of the European Parliament (2010), Thomas Hammarberg, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (2012), Tilman Zülch, Co-founder and President of the Society for Threatened Peoples (2014), the human rights organization Amnesty International (2016) and Andrej Kiska, President of the Slovak Republic (2019).