30 July, 2014

2 August – Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative

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Category: European Action Day, Roma Genocide
Ruxandra Pandea
10 am

cover dik i na bistar

This post was written by Dragan Radosavljevic, president of NGO “Minority voice”, Serbia.

This year on the 2nd August is the 70th anniversary of the mass extermination of Roma in the Auschwitz – Birkenau. On this occasion, International Roma Youth Network Ternype organizes few-day gathering of young Roma from across Europe. Partner organization from Serbia will be the NGO “Minority Voice”, whose founder and president I am and we intend to take 40 young Roma from Serbia to this event.

On gathering in Krakow and Auschwitz, young people will have the opportunity to learn about the plight of Roma people inthe Second World War, to find out about all hardships and torture that Roma people passed through and to make the parallel between Nazi camps and improvised camps and similar areas where Roma people are still forced to live in some European countries.A series of educational workshops, training sessions and other lectures will take place that will be more than useful for all participants, but what I think is the most important is that every participant understands what the Auschwitz is for him/her and how he/she perceives the misfortunes of Roma people in this death camp.

It’s exactly that:  the way I perceive the Auschwitz and what it means to me is something that I want to share with you.

In the Second World War, the Nazis throughout Europe made the genocide against the civilian population without special choosing methods or victims of their terror. The most vulnerable were Jews and Roma people. Although there are accurate data on Jewish victims, information where they were tortured and killed, by whom and how they were abused by the Nazis, how many of them were expelled, evicted or in forced labor, tortured and executed, the Roma victims and sufferings are still not clarified and we do not have even the approximate number of these victims. Roma people, although one of the people who are living on the territory of Europe from 13th century, for Nazis in the World War II were nothing more than a primitive race, a bit more advanced than animals but far below the Nazis, and as such it was permitted, and I in some areas even recommended to torture, abuse and murder them.

In these circumstances of the general torture, the Roma people, even though peaceful and perhaps the only people who did not start nor conduct any of the wars, were just collateral damage in the Nazi war against the rest of the civilized society which was aimed at creating a great nation and the Nazi extermination of all those who were not them. Roma people became involved in this Great War simply against their will, totally unprepared and unable to defend themselves.

Led by the ideology that Roma are not people, nation, the Nazis maltreated Roma in all possible ways. They had beaten them wherever and whenever they wanted, depriving them from all rights and freedoms, seizing and burning their property, killing them for no reason, forcing them to move out and taking them to forced labor in Nazi concentration camps where they were simply exposed to terrible conditions.

In the Nazi death camps, every Roma individual that was taken there unlawfully and forcible had come to his/her end. By almost an unwritten rule, in these camps the Roma people passed an unprecedented torture, much higher than other inmates. Roma people were starved, they were often without water, over them were performed various experiments and the Nazis were simply using them for testing of all their torture methods that were later applied against individual detainees. Roma people was in such bad position, underestimated and tortured, the Nazis often did not keep any account of the number of Roma who were taken to the camp, tortured and killed. For this reason, the exact number of Roma victims is still unknown.

Although the Roma people were killed in almost all Nazi concentration camps in Europe, the largest suffering happened in Auschwitz. During only one night in this death camp were brutally killed for no reason 2 897 Roma men, women and children. During only one night in Auschwitz all detainees of Roma nationality were killed and their number were practically razed to zero.

Roma suffering in Auschwitz is specific in many ways. Although the Nazis kept the strict discipline and all camp inmates were separated from their families, all Roma people in Auschwitz were together. Whole families had stayed together until the last moment. Some argue that this is because the Roma people refused to be separated from their families, even at the cost of being killed on the spot, others that the Nazis deliberately kept Roma people together fearing that the men separated from their loving ones could start an open showdown with guards and began a rebellion that would have been a serious problem for the Nazi guards.

For Nazis, Roma people were to be destroyed, they did not deserve life, and as such had no rights and freedoms and should be simply destroyed. So, the Auschwitz was not the concentration camp like others. Auschwitz for Roma people and me is place where we were supposed to be destroyed. Place of our death and cease of existence. In Auschwitz, there is a grave of Roma people, the place where the entire nation was killed cruelly.

One nation was extinct; Roma people were erased from the face of the earth. There were killed all men capable of working, both in order not to defend themselves and build their communities and families once when the Nazis would be defeated. There were killed all the old and infirm, in order not to talk about the existence of the Roma people, about their struggle, suffering and defeat. There were killed all women, all Roma mothers, in order not to give birth to Roma and extend the life of our Roma people. There were killed all our children, hungry and unaware of life and death, just because they would know that they were Roma when they grew up. There were killed all our families; there was destroyed our culture, traditions, customs, all that we created through the centuries, in one night only, with one simple goal – to destroy and wipe off the face of the Earth Roma people and to erase any trace of their existence so that no one could remember them or talk about them. Anything that was linked with Roma, which associated to the Roma people, which was the evidence of their existence and greatness, was destroyed in one night only by the Nazis.

So as you can see, for Roma people and me, the Auschwitz is not only one of Nazi concentration camps, one of dozens Europe-wide during the World War II, in which another group of inmates suffered during the war. No, the Auschwitz is mass grave of Roma Nation; the Auschwitz is death and end of the existence of the Roma nation. For this reason, every time someone mentions Auschwitz, my voice trembles, my hands start to shake; I feel fear and panic, because of the stories about it, this terrible death camp, this place of destruction of Roma and all that was Romani. When someone mentions Auschwitz, the blood in my veins becomes frozen and in the hearts of all Roma it causes sadness, silence and darkness. For us, Roma people, Auschwitz is pure, primordial evil!

But this is where the paradox of Auschwitz begins. That Auschwitz, the mass grave of collective death of Roma people, today is the symbol of our victory and their defeat. Today, in Auschwitz, instead of Nazi machine guns you can hear laughter of young Roma children. Today, instead of Nazi officers walking around the Auschwitz, young Roma are walking freely through the camp. Today, 70 years after, the Auschwitz is symbol of our just struggle for freedom and synonym of our non-violent resistance we used to won the victory over Nazi criminals. Auschwitz today represents the victory of Roma people over several times more powerful and more numerous enemies. Today, the Auschwitz is the place where we proudly remember of all our victims, all those who suffered innocent just because they were different. Today, with tears in the eye, we remember of all these who did not have a chance to live till the next morning just because they were Roma.

Nowadays, with sadness and pain in heart, but with the head up, we pace proudly as a nation – Roma nation that resisted to greatest evil and continued its journey through history.

And here I am today, while I am writing this to you, I am packing – I go to Auschwitz. No one is forcing me to it, I go willingly. I am going to visit Auschwitz, perhaps the greatest monument of Roma Nation where on August 2 the entire civilized world would come to pay tribute to the past.

I am leaving consciously to the place of the greatest suffering of my people and I am not sad or scared, I do not cry. I am laughing and I am pleased that I would go to Auschwitz. Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, synonymous for Roma suffering and death, where on bestial way, brutally and without provocation, were killed all Roma men, women and children. Auschwitz, the synonymous of pride and defiance, where one small and tormented, but proud and dignified Romani people had defeated superior enemy.

Auschwitz, the largest tomb of Roma people, the synonymous of suffering and death of Roma.

Auschwitz, the greatest victory we had won with our lives, the synonymous of Roma victory and the existence of Roma Nation.

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