Memorial for Sinti and Roma in Berlin

Sinti and Roma – Germany’s once persecuted minority gets a late recognition
Auschwitz. More than 19,300 Sinti and Roma were murdered by the Nazis at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp alone. Around 5,600 of them were sent to the gas chambers. Over 13,600 died as a result of the inhuman living conditions, hunger, disease with many also falling victim to the infamous experiments conducted at the camp, in particular Josef Mengele’s notorious experimentation with twins.

371 children starve to death

Death by starvation was the method requiring the least effort by the perpetrators. It occurred without them having to do anything. They simply denied food. Not one of the 371 children who were born between February 1943 and August 1944 in Section B IIe, also known as the ‘Gipsy Camp Auschwitz’, survived. Adults who survived the camp did so as slave laborers.

Neither mentioned nor acknowledged

The suffering of Sinti and Roma at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust was neither mentioned nor acknowledged for a long time. It took a shameful four decades following the war for the German government to agree to erect a monument honoring the six million murdered Jews of Europe. It took a further decade to agree on the design and the location before the monument was finally built. Just a stone’s throw away, the memorial to the murdered and persecuted homosexuals was unveiled three years later.

Sinti and Roma groups had to fight for a long time for recognition as victims of Nazi racist ideology and persecution. Finally, in October 2012, the memorial agreed upon some 20 years before was unveiled in the direct vicinity of the German Parliament beside the Reichstag by President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The memorial for Sinti and Roma in Berlin

Places of commemoration

Unfortunately, there are still many locations where Sinti and Roma were persecuted and murdered which are not places of commemoration. The former Lety Concentration Camp in the present-day Czech Republic is a striking case in point. There is nothing there to commemorate the suffering of the victims. A farm now stands on the site where the camp once was. Appeals for a dignified memorial and a relocation of the farm, including a resolution brought before the European Parliament, have fallen on deaf ears.

Looking to the future

The ‘Remembrance, Responsibility and Future’ (EVZ, Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft) foundation aims to fund the remembrance landscape of the Sinti and Roma persecuted under the Nazis. It is doing this with a wide range of funding activities in partner countries and in Germany. The EVZ foundation’s exhibition which opened in Berlin in October this year ‘Harassed existence – Roma surviving National Socialist Terror in Ukraine’, is one example of their activity. Details of current EVZ projects supporting Roma were displayed as part of the exhibition with survivors and their life histories also featuring.

In October 2012, the memorial agreed upon some 20 years before was unveiled in the direct vicinity of the German Parliament beside the Reichstag by President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel

The EVZ foundation is also committed to the post-war generations by providing scholarships to Roma in Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine. In Germany, the foundation provided extensive supports and funding for a significant study on education opportunities in Roma communities which revealed some alarming results.

Looking beyond Germany’s centralized memorial, the next tasks are to conserve the victims’ graves, to preserve the many places of commemoration, and to make the persecution suffered visible at a regional level. Resolute action is required at both the municipal and federal level.

It is important that the survivors and their families are provided with an opportunity and a location for mourning and remembrance in Stuttgart, Erfurt and Bremen too. This is just as significant as the central memorial in Berlin and the memorial at that camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Dr. Martin Salm is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the EVZ Foundation

The Website of the EVZ-foundation

Photo Credit: dpa

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