“When I was in Birkenau, I thought about my grandma. I was sad and angry.”
“When I was in Birkenau, I thought about my grandma, I imagined her there. I was sad and angry. If we deny ourselves today, we are proving the Nazis right. Then we are betraying our grandparents who survived Auschwitz.” This is how one Sintezza describes her feelings and thoughts during a memorial trip to the Auschwitz memorial in Poland.
The joint memorial trip in early October 2023 was organized by ASF and the Sinti Association 1. Sinti-Verein Ostfriesland e.V. The seminar program was developed in cooperation with the Auschwitz Memorial and the International Youth Meeting Centre (IYMC). Most of the participants are descendants of Sinti who survived the Nazi genocide and settled around the town of Leer in Lower Saxony after the Second World War.
For five days, we dealt with the history of the place and the persecution of the Sinti and Romani. At the Auschwitz I memorial site, the group was particularly moved by the exhibition in Block 13, where many discovered the names of their ancestors on the exhibition walls. During the visit to the former extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, we dealt with the fate of around 22,000 children, women and men who were imprisoned in the so-called G**** family camp. Most of these people came from the “German Reich” and Austria; around 19,000 were murdered. We commemorated the victims with a wreath at the former crematorium and in words and silence.
During research together with the memorial and the Arolsen Archives, documents such as death certificates or transport certificates from other concentration camps were found for around 30 persecuted relatives. It was very important for the participants to see these sources about their relatives for the first time and to learn something new in some of them. One participant said:
“Our relatives who survived Auschwitz didn’t tell us much. There was a lot of shame and they wanted to protect us. But somehow we did hear one or two things. We knew about the persecution.”
On the last day, the participants got to know the town of Oświęcim on a tour of the town and visited the Jewish Center with synagogue and the Roma Center. There they encountered the history of European Roma and explored the situation of Polish Roma between persecution, forced resettlement and self-assertion. The participants discussed similarities and differences in their situation as a minority in the two countries.
One topic that was present in the discussions throughout the memorial site trip was the current antiziganism in the German majority society. All participants were able to report on everyday experiences of discrimination: “My grandfather was in Auschwitz, my father was born in 1946. The hatred towards Sinti has never stopped. Many of our people are afraid and experience great disadvantages in everyday life.”
We would like to thank the 1. Sinti-Verein Ostfriesland e.V. for their trust and excellent cooperation!
The commemorative excursion took place as part of a cooperation between the ASF field of work „Histories and Migration Society“ and various self-organizations of Romani and Sinti. In seminars, exhibitions and visits to memorial sites, the partners work on the history and present, persecution and self-assertion of Sinti and Romani in Germany and Europe.
The commemorative excursion took place as part of a cooperation between the ASF field of work „Historie(s) and Migration Society“ and various self-organizations of Romani and Sinti. In seminars, exhibitions and visits to memorial sites, the partners work on the history and present, persecution and self-assertion of Sinti and Romani in Germany and Europe.
This study trip was funded by CERV. The European Union’s “Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values” (CERV) program supports projects on the topics of equality, participation and violence prevention, among others.
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