A Durham Constabulary officer has taken part in a poignant remembrance ceremony to honour the hundreds of thousands of Roma Gypsies who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
In addition to the six million Jews killed in camps like Auschwitz, the Nazis killed other minorities during the Second World War, including between 500,000 and 1,500,000 Roma Gypsies.
To honour those who lost their lives, the European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day takes place every year on August 2, when the last Roma Gypsy victims of the Holocaust were killed in Auschwitz.
This year, on the 75th anniversary of the atrocity, Inspector Chris Knox, from Darlington Police, was invited by Darlington’s Billy Welch to attend a special ceremony at Auschwitz Birkenau, in Poland. The ceremony is called “Dikh He Na Bister” which is Roma for “Look and don’t forget”.
Together with Billy, who is a key figure in the UK Gypsy community, he laid a wreath on behalf of the force and paid his respects to those who were tragically killed during the Holocaust.
He is thought to be the first British police officer to be invited to attend the ceremony.
“It was a real honour to be invited and stand shoulder to shoulder with Billy at the ceremony to pay our respects to all those who lost their lives during the Holocaust,” said Insp Knox.
“It is testament to some of the close working relationships we have between the Gypsy community and Durham Constabulary.
“It was a very moving experience to be part of the event and an honour to represent Durham Constabulary and pay my respect to those who suffered.”
During the visit, they also heard from inspirational survivors of the Nazi German genocide, and from civil rights leader, Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Billy Welch said: “This was a very emotional time for me and my people – we were extremely proud that Inspector Chris Knox attended the ceremony to remember what happened and not forget that this was not that long ago.
“This atrocity is still in living memory and the only way to prevent this happening again is to continue to remember and never forget. I would like to thank Insp Knox and Durham Constabulary for their support – it was extremely important to me and my people and we were very grateful of his attendance and support.
“The Roma Gypsies feel that this was a great step forward in our relationship with Durham Constabulary and the police in general.”