German lawyer Mehmet Daimagüler has long examined the historical legacies of racism and discrimination in Germany and their influence on present state institutions. In May, Daimagüler became Germany's first commissioner on antiziganism, or discrimination against Sinti and Roma.
"What was suppressed was that the perpetrators were not just Nazis," Daimagüler said. "They were also Germans. Our grandparents had their grandparents murdered — or murdered them themselves. That's why, even after 1945, everything was done so that the perpetrators from that time remained clean. That's why the dead were criminalized. And that narrative, about the inherent criminality of Sinti and Roma people, is an echo from back then."
The stereotype still influences the work of police, prosecutors and judges, Daimagüler said.
Sinti and Roma who have had negative experiences with the police are often less likely to report crimes committed against them. "Many of them have little trust in the police or the public prosecutor — and justifiably so," Daimagüler said. "And it's exactly these invisible cases that politics should, and must, pay more attention to."
He said sensationalist media attempted to increase their readership through so-called investigative articles intended to stoke fear and outrage.
"They take frightening crimes committed by individuals and use them to draw conclusions about the behavior of an entire community," Daimagüler said. The reports "like to claim that the cause of such criminal behavior must be cultural and an alleged inability to accept rules." Such articles demonstrate "a fundamental lack of respect for the craft of journalism" and "irresponsible sensationalism just for the sake of ratings," Daimagüler said.
He added that Roma who arrive to Germany as refugees are frequently treated with even more suspicion.
"...At the moment, Roma people who are fleeing Ukraine are being selected at train stations — I am using that word deliberately — and being treated worse than other people."