Gypsy Leader Billy Welch and Gypsy community supporter Bill Lloyd deliver a talk about Gypsy history at Anti Racist Cumbria Summit 2021

Gypsy Leader invites Jimmy Carr to Auschwitz death camp memorial

Author: Mike Glover

COMEDIAN Jimmy Carr is to be invited to Auschwitz death camp memorial to join the annual commemoration of the slaughter of gypsies by the Nazis.

“Then he might appreciate the hurt and fear he has stirred up,” said Billy Welch, spokesman for the UK’s Roma population.

Mr Carr sparked a storm of protest with a joke on streamed TV channel Netflix which described the murder of Roma and Sinti gypsies in Nazi Germany as a positive of the holocaust.

Jews commemorate the holocaust on January 27, but Gypsy representatives hold their marking of the holocaust at the German death camp on August 2, the date the Nazis killed 4,254 Roma and Sinti on a single day in 1944.

This year they will be joined by TV crews making a programme about the gypsies’ plight.

The Nazis claimed they were the last gypsies after a decade of slaughter to wipe them out.

Grandfather Mr Welch, known as an organiser of Appleby Horse Fair, in Cumbria, said estimates of the number of gypsies murdered were generally underestimated. Usually, 200,000 to 500,000 were cited.

But they were just the ones in the death camps, he said. Most were wiped out in their own encampments.

“It was a military operation. The gypsies were surrounded. The Nazis then killed them all, even children playing and women washing their hair.

“They raped women and young girls. They would take anything of value, including gold from their teeth.

“The Nazis stopped counting but the total murdered was somewhere between 1,500,000 and 2 million.

He said: “Carr should hear and see the scale of the slaughter for himself, then apologise when he understands the hurt and fear he has caused.”

“His so-called joke was so offensive because there are many still living who witnessed the brutality of what happened, and many more who lost their families in barbarous and sadistic murders. Making a joke of it is too painful.”

Drawing of the „gypsy camp“ in Lety u Písku, 1943. (Ill.: Museum of Roma Culture, original: State Central Archive in Prague)

Mr Welch, from Darlington, County Durham, said he was also consulting lawyers to see if Mr Carr could be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred.

He said the timing of the outburst could not have come at a worse time, with the Conservative Government pursuing a Crime and Police Bill, which would enable police to move travellers’ camps if anyone complained regardless of whether there had been any crime committed.

A similar law was passed by the Nazis in Germany in the early 1930s. Mr Welch, who is Shera Rom, of Head Gypsy of the Roma, who have been in the UK for around 600 years, last week gave evidence to the House of Lords as part of his campaign against the Bill.

Mr Carr has argued that that in the context of a comedy show “everything is fair game” and “nothing is beyond the pale.”

But Mr Welch told a radio audience: “That statement is as false as Jimmy Carr’s laugh.”

Mr Welch was also chilled by the initial audience reaction to Mr Carr’s “joke.”

“When I heard the crowd laughing, it struck fear into my heart.”

He found it horrifying “to think we live in a society – 21st century Britain – where this can be made a joke out of.”

He said that racism against Gypsy and Traveller people is still rife in the country and thus such a joke, along with the response from the audience reinforces such views.

“I’m as disgusted in the audience as I am in Jimmy Carr”.

The show, called His Dark Material, was released on Christmas Day but received widespread attention on Friday after a clip was posted and shared online. It opened with a “trigger warning” to the audience and Netflix described it as containing “career enders”.

Mr Welch said it was wrong to say the Nazis also murdered travellers, as they were separate races. Although over recent years, they had interbred in the UK, back in 1930s Germany that hadn’t happened.

But travellers have joined the protest against Mr Carr’s remarks.

The Traveller Movement charity has launched a petition calling for the “removal of the segments of His Dark Material which celebrates the Romani genocide”, which has been signed by more than 3,000 people.

Other anti-hate groups including the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Auschwitz Memorial and Hope Not Hate have condemned Mr Carr for his comments.

In the programme, Mr Carr said: “When people talk about the Holocaust, they talk about the tragedy and horror of 6 million Jewish lives being lost to the Nazi war machine. But they never mention the thousands of Gypsies that were killed by the Nazis.

“No one ever wants to talk about that, because no one ever wants to talk about the positives.”

In the special, Carr, known for his standup and roles on shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats, went on to explain why he thought it was a good joke, saying that it was “fucking funny”, “edgy as hell” and had an educational value.

“It’s a joke about the worst thing that’s ever happened in human history, and people say ‘never forget’, well this is how I remember,” he said.

“There is an educational quality. Like everyone in the room knows 6 million Jewish people lost their lives to the Nazis during the second world war. But a lot of people don’t know, because it’s not really taught in our schools, that the Nazis also killed, in their thousands, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Labour MP Nadia Whittome has written to Netflix urging the company to remove the material from its platform. She said she had also requested an update from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on progress to bring streaming platforms under Ofcom regulation.