Romani Resistance in the Holocaust

2nd of August, a symbolic date ,the day Gypsy Roma Traveller communities from all over the world come to Auschwitz-Birkenue, a site of unimaginable suffering and dying, to remember, and to honour Sinti and Roma who's lives were taken when the nazis liquidated a Roma family camp, called Zigeunerlager. 

 

On the night of the 2nd August 1944, 2897 children, woman, and men were killed in the gas chambers of Birkenua.

 

Understanding the Holocaust and why it happened just isn’t possible.  The lack of logic, sense, or even basic human-ness makes a place like Auschwitz impossible to fully grasp, especially when you are there, staring the reality and the proof in the face. The ideology behind it can never be understood, to even try to understand it is to somehow begin to humanise the person behind it, and an insult to the millions of people murdered. 

 

Our trip began on the 1st August 2016 We arrived at Krakow airport just before lunchtime. After meeting and greeting up to four hundred Roma from all over the world we headed to bed for an early night.

Early morning on the 2nd August we were bussed to the town of Oświęcim (renamed Auschwitz under Nazi occupation)  Standing at the entrance I had absolutely no idea what to expect 

The first thing that shocked me was how close to civilisation it was. I expected it to be in the middle of nowhere, tucked away in secrecy but top floor Windows of  the surrounding houses  had a birds eye view over the vast site. 

 

During the tour we were we were  led into the last surviving gas chamber in Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was an experience that I can’t really explain to stand in the spot where up to 1.5 million people were killed, seeing scratch marks across the walls, no text book could prepare me for the reality of what I was about to see. 

 

 

We were  shown the brutal conditions that Jews, Soviet POWs, Roma Gypsies and political prisoners amongst others endured while at Auschwitz and the deadly methods of torture they were subjected too. 

 

An overwhelming feeling struck me on reaching  The Room of Hair. The Room of Abandoned Luggage. The Room of Children’s Shoes, recovered by the liberating Soviet forces in 1945, which humanised the ‘6 million’ statistic. I made a hurried exit gasping for air,  sill not understanding the numbness or the  extreme and irrational fear of the confined place.

 

Before the trip, I was expecting to be upset at various times  during the day, i found that the things being said and shown to me were so hard hitting that I was  numb.

People had told me that visiting such a devastatingly dark place makes you feel numb. But I didn’t believe it until I experienced it for myself

 

Visiting a place like Auschwitz is not a pleasant experience

but I also feel that visiting places like this,facing the reality of them, will help us understand how important it is to never let something like this happen again. 

Meeting the Survivors, of the nazi regime, listening to their testimony , hearing their message to the future generation was humbling and inspiring.

 

Raymond Gureme 91 years old 

had this to say, 

 

Don't leave your future to the hands of bloody fools. You must resist the racism, violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe.

We the old ones have lit the flame , now it is up to young people to feed it , make it grow,so that we become stronger.young people , Stand up! stay standing, and never fall to your knees!

 

A statement from one of the Roma youth in our group workshop summed it up perfectly for me. 

 

"Each time you mow the grass down, it will grow back up stronger" 

 

Many thanks to the funders and supporters who made our visit to Poland possible.

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