[We use here in English the Rromani official term Samudaripen (comprehensive manslaughter) to refer to the Nazi genocide on the Rromani people. It is worth reminding that at least two other decisions of genocide on the Rroms are recorded in history: one by Maximilian von Habsburg around 1500 and a second one by Wilhem-Friedrich I of Prussia in his Instruktionen of 1725.]
After so many years of war and fascism, which killed some 60 million people because of a sick dream that had found enough blind people to follow it, came the year 1945, which ended the acute phase of the disease. Alas, this disease, namely fascism, did not disappear then completely. The key event of the end of the war took place on April 16, when the Soviet army launched its attack on Berlin. The 20 of that month, under mighty Soviet pressure, Adolph Hitler, for the last time, celebrated his birthday. That very night, many officials of the SS began to sneak away and hide. On May 29, Hitler married his mistress, Eva Braun, and the next day both committed suicide in the Führerblockhaus : Hitler with a bullet and Braun with poison (cyanide). On May the first, Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda and his right arm, commits suicide. On May 7, General Helmut Weidling hands over to the Soviets the capitulation letter of Berlin. The final form of capitulation will be signed at Reims on May 7 and in Berlin on May 8, 1945.
One might think that for the Rroms, it was the end of a dreadful nightmare. Alas, history still reserved them new tragedies. Those among them who had survived have kept deep in their marrow all the inhuman sufferings they had been through as well in the concentration camps as outside the camps in what might be called "normal life". For years they kept these sufferings, gnawing inside them like an insect that can not die. The number tattooed on their arm is indeed painful but the pain is much crueler in their heart and soul. Many of them remained without family, without children – all killed, while others, who had been sterilized, could not have any descendants. The age-old brotherhood that had existed among Rroms had been severed due to the fact that many of them, who were the links that connected this vast network, had disappeared without a trace. There were in addition two countries where, after the Liberation, governments did not release the Rroms out of the camps until 1946: Poland and France, who kept them locked up with prostitutes and drunkards.
A) The Samudaripen – an underexplored subject in history, ethics and Law
The genocide of the Rroms is really a huge subject which until today is not fully explored. Some elements are known from various documents and testimonies of Rroms and gaʒe, but we can say that there are at least ninety percent for further research and possibly discovery. One is entitled to wonder why this continental tragedy remained silent for so long and why it is to date so scarcely present in public life. In most countries, there is not even a mention in school books of history. One may count the documentary movies devoted to it on the fingers of one hand, and most of them are of a very limited distribution. Why such an omission? Is it in fact oblivion? How to interpret this silence?
One may mention fifteen main reasons why we do not know better the genocide of the Rromani people:
1. Archives have not kept rich material about the Rroms because Nazi criminals did not regard them as real human beings and they killed them without qualms, not least because they had no identity papers. Here one must challenge the stereotype that Germans are methodical and orderly. In reality it is not so, especially in times of social stress such as under Nazism. This is even truer for other countries. In addition, one has to take on account that many thousands victims were not filed or not registered as Rroms, often just as "residues of liquidation" (Liquidierungsübrigen).
2. The genocide of Rroms was decentralized and separated between many hands of the Nazi apparatus: army, police, administration, voluntary or semi-voluntary civil groups, but also in the hands of Quisling States.
3. The Rroms' mass murders were often perpetrated in a 'wild' manner, spontaneously, on-site and at the very time they were arrested. This solution was preferred by the Nazis, because the Rroms were able to escape very easily in areas which they knew by heart very well and in addition, they used to fight for their lives, even when any hope was already lost. Furthermore the mass murder of Rroms in front of local peasantry was viewed by the Nazi as an act of promotion of the Reich's cleansing policy. They were often supported and helped by these populations. Because of that, in many cases, there has not remained any administrative documentation.
4. The Rroms had the intuitive insight (but they also observed around them), that most people among gaʒes, even after the war, were not really against the idea that all Rroms should have been slaughtered. Facing everyday and everywhere blatant discrimination against them, the Rroms feared to attract even more problems by mentioning all that they had undergone under the Nazis. As a whole, local populations considered that the Jews, and even more the Gypsies, deserved this treatment. It is substantiated by post-war interviews that many gaʒes were relieved that the Nazis had taken such an initiative, which they wouldn't have taken by their own, and were cleansing the region they were living in. One should bear in mind that racial inequality was a recognized common place all over Europe and that most of Nazis convictions were widely shared by the populations, even after the war.
5. Another cause was the coldness of gaʒes working in the field of history and who were viewing Rroms through the old stereotype of marginalization, in other terms their blindness to understand that the Rroms were among the main victims of Nazism and that they were not just a handful of people killed by chance in the margins of history, as one may read in a number of documents where their genocide is qualified as 'untergeordneter' or 'nachrangiger', that is to say of a lower row or lower order, or a genocide of last plan.
6. The political coldness to recognize the Rroms as foreground victims of Nazism was also caused by the fear they could ask for compensation as a response to the crimes perpetrated against them.
7. Nazi ideology did not disappear after May 8, 1945, but continued to be in force mainly in Germany, covering with a mask the racist nature of the crimes committed against the Rroms.
8. The part of Nazi criminals, who found quietly employment after the war in the new German police, in administration and in the bodies of ideology dissemination, is also to be considered: the post-war Federal Crime Office (Bundeskriminalamt) in Bonn consisted of employees, who had all been former officers of the Security Service (SD - Sicherheitsdienst) and half of them had blood on their hands.
9. The position of the communist countries was also misleading, since they considered all the victims as communist heroes, whereas other victims were not taken into account, not even mentioned.
10. The trauma, fear and frustration resulting from the still vivid discrimination against the Rroms after the war, blocked during years the Rroms' activity in the field of history and scholarly research (not to mention that the few Rromani pre-war institutions had been annihilated together with their members), while Hitler's 'scholars in Zigeunerforschung continued to teach their theses of criminal biology and racial hygiene on the basis of Ritter's materials. One may say that in fact anti-Gypsyism remained the reference ideology in the new German state. Until today, it still exists in some universities, such as recently in Leipzig, now in Olmütz (the Czech Republic).
11. The Rromani society had been scattered after the war due to both wartime deportations and post-war migrations, which tore the traditional relations not only between Rromani families, companies and endaya, but also between Rroms and gaʒes, who had previously shared an often peaceful common life in a common living space.
12. The rupture in the transmission of culture and in the teaching tradition, which stemmed from the extremely high percentage of Rromani victims, especially among the old, contributed also to the non-transmission of the knowledge about Samudaripen.
13. A crucial element, though often overlooked, is the quite natural response of the Rroms who did not want to mention their Samudaripen, just like any other nation that has gone through such a trauma and makes all possible endeavours to repress the memory of the inhuman tragedy. For decades the Armenians did not want to mention their genocide in 1915, to the point that Hitler was able to declare with irony: "But who today still remembers the Armenian Genocide?" to his comrades, who had submitted the objection that perhaps, after the genocide of the Jews, his image might remain negative in history. Hitler knew very well what he was talking about since two of his top aides, his Home Minister, Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath, and his ambassador in Moscow, Friedrich Werner, had seen with their own eyes the Armenian genocide. In addition Rudolf Hoess, head of the Auschwitz camp, was captain of the German army in Turkey in 1916, as well as officer Hellmuth Felmy, a Nazi war criminal who operated in occupied Yugoslavia.
About the reluctance of a nation to remind genocide, one may refer to the excellent book by Norman Finkelstein "The Holocaust Industry", which devotes several pages to the Rromocide.
14. Alas, a brake role was also played by anger and jealousy of some Rroms who imagined that anyone carrying out research on the Samudaripen was a potential thief who wanted to appropriate the possible war reparations. The issue of war reparations stained considerably the image of the genocide until today, it made much evil and conflicts there, where there should be only of honour and respect. In addition, some political factions among the Jews were afraid to risk losing the "uniqueness" they attributed to the Jewish Holocaust (see about this the controversy about the difference between "Holocaust" and "Shoah").
15. Until today, the general silence in official history on the amnesty-amnesia of Nazi criminals and their comfortable life in post-war Germany constitute an implicit element of genocide denial and anti-Gypsyism.
B) Attempting a birds' eye view of the categories of victims.
It seems that the debates on the number of victims directly killed by the Nazis tend to disguise the rampant and lasting suffering of other Rroms. However, for the sake of justice, it is appropriate to highlight the various categories of victims:
- by beating and tortures
- by dogs
- by electric fences
- by shooting
- by starvation (as routine treatment or as punishment)
- by diseases actuated by insufficient food (quantity and quality: avitaminosis, scurvy, noma, oesophageal mycosis [fungi] etc.), lack of hygiene, infections and epidemics, parasites
- by lack of neonatal care or by drowning of newborns in water (especially in Lety and Hodonin)
- by the cold in winter
- by excess of work regarding the nutritional deprivation
- by chloroform or phenol injections into the heart (often for dissection and/or to remove eyes and make out of them museum Präparaten, especially in cases of iris heterochromy among Rromani twins – some were sent by Josef Mengele to Karin Magnussen for her collection, which consisted of 40 pairs of eyes at the end of the war).
- as a result of fake medical experimentation
Severely injured with life long impairments
- by malnutrition, starvation and incurable degradation of the body
- by diseases actuated by insufficient food (quantity and quality: avitaminosis, scurvy, noma, mycosis of oesophagus etc.), lack of hygiene, infections and epidemics, parasites
- by excess of hard physical work, disproportionate to the nutritional level
- by humiliations of all kinds, including scatic and sexual
- by stress due to privation of freedom and separation from their relatives and loved ones
- by privation of access to normal cultural, artistic and social life
- by situations compelling them to perpetrate acts, creating a deep long-lasting feeling of culpability – irrespectively of the anti-human circumstances of survival
Victims of fake experiments
- on surviving on drinking only sea-water
- on response to inoculation of various pathogenic agents
- on new methods of sterilization
- on ablation of thymus and/or ganglions
- on attempts of sewing together two twins (in unhygienic conditions, leading to their death in pus by septicaemia)
- on eye whitening by intraocular injections or use of various liquids
- on surviving to high pressure (not on Rroms)
- on surviving in frozen sea water (not on Rroms)
- on shortening muscles
Sterilised and childless as a result
Parents whose children have been killed or severely injured
Siblings whose siblings have been killed or severely injured
Relatives whose relatives have been killed or severely injured
Rroms who have lost:
- relationship with other Rroms
- relationship with gaʒe friends
- belongings, properties, estates etc.
- access to Rromani language and culture
Rromani institutions destroyed (theatres, associations, newspapers etc.).
Unfortunately, this list is far from being complete...
C) Developments after World War II
The new political division of Europe after the war played also an important role in the genesis of the new situation of the Rromani people and their awareness, both in the Soviet block and in Western Europe. The various governments have conducted vis-à-vis of the Rromani people the old standard policy of assimilation. Yet some Rromani groups have sought to keep alive their traditional culture while some others went to assimilation. Although the latter have had to sacrifice much of their tradition to become 'real gaʒes as all others', they failed to achieve true integration, due to the fact that the problem (and its solution) was not on their side, but on that of the dominant society and gaʒes did not change their view vis-à-vis to them.
On the communist side, the old design that, with the advent of communism, there would be no more 'Gypsies' because all of them would have become good gaʒés-communists, had survived the war and had even regained vitality with Nikita S. Khrushchev. However, since every cloud has a silver lining, one may emphasize that nowhere outside of the Eastern block, Rroms managed to reach school and university education as high as in the communist regimes. They also learned from history how to take actions to improve the social situation of their community members. These countries have also provided Rroms with both a normal level of economic equality and protection against racist attacks.
On the Western side, Rroms continued to face marginalization, contempt, rejection, lack of recognition of their heritage, rigid misunderstanding of the educational institution denying this heritage etc.
Meanwhile, across Europe, the dark fear that had remained in the blood of the Rroms after Nazism did not allow them to mention the tragedy they had gone through, not only in the concentration and detention camps, but also when hiding from village to village, from forest to forest, and running away from the Nazi killing machine.
Not only the Rroms were silent on this painful topic, but for more than 20 years the Jewish victims either did not want to talk about the tragedy, as half a century earlier the Armenians themselves about their 1015 genocide, the Saïfo. From November 1945 to October 1946, the famous Nuremberg Trials were held and there 24 principal dignitaries of the Reich were charged, tried and convicted. During the ten months of proceedings, not once was mentioned the genocide of the Rroms, simply because the dominant stereotype of the marginalized Rroms had left in the heads of gaʒes the idea that everything that is related to the Rroms should remain in the hazy periphery of history, and there is no need to mention them when trying to do serious work.
Many small people did not know that Hitler had killed the Rroms for their crime of being born Rroms and the first article which disclosed this crime to the world was released in 1946 under the Frédéric Max's pen, in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society "The Fate of Gypsies in Prisons and Concentration Camps of Nazi Germany" (Le sort des tsiganes dans les prisons et les camps de concentration de l'Allemagne hitlérienne). As a French officer Frédéric Max had been locked temporarily with them in a "transport", as trains of deportation were then called, and after that he did some research on the subject.
It is indeed hard to imagine that the judges at Nuremberg did not have information on the Rroms' genocide. They did not bring this crime into the debates of the trial, for the good reason that it did not fit with their mental categories to understand that a crime against the Zigeuner, big or small, could be of any significance, as demonstrated at the 7th and 9th Nuremberg trials, two years after the Great Trial. There, the Nazi Helmut Felmy appeared before the court and the verdict said his crime – he had shot captive Rroms in Yugoslavia, was of a "lower level" (untergeordnete Rang) although lawyers had provided a consistent documentation. Felmy was sentenced to three years in prison. We find a similar conclusion in the trial of Ernst August König, who had been Blockführer in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp of Rroms throughout the year 1943. In fact, he had initially been sentenced to life imprisonment but he committed suicide rather quickly; his verdict said among others: "as a rule, crimes against Zigeuner are only of secondary importance to be considered in a much broader complex of factors" (die Verbrechen an Roma in der Regel nur nachrangig in umfangreicheren Tatkomplexen). Another trial, in Frankenthal in Westphalia, acquitted 46 defendants because allegedly "they could not know what the purpose of Auschwitz-Dekret was" (weil die Angeklagten nach Meinung der Richter den Zweck des Auschwitz-Erlasses nicht gekannt).
In those years about 12,000 local trials on war crimes were held throughout Europe but only 120 had an item on crimes against Rroms. If accused gaʒes did not come to attend court, then the procedure of their accusation was simply closed. In 1959 a trial was opened in Frankfurt, called Auschwitz-Prozess I, where defendant Pery Broad was judged – he had been one of the main SS in the Gestapo-Lager (Abteilung 2[ In camps Gestapo, there were as a rule five sections. Section 2 was devoted to politics.]) of Auschwitz-Birkenau since April 1942 until January 1945. Among other crimes, he organized the massacre which led into the gas chambers the last 4,000 Rroms of the camp on August 2, 1944. In fact, he had already been present in the Greater Nuremberg Trials, but not as charged, just as an interpreter. As indicted this time in the Auschwitz-Prozess, 12 years later, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for the mass murder of these 4,000 Rroms.
Adolf Eichmann, the father of the "Final Solution" (Endlösung), also was led to trial in 1961 in Jerusalem, but there too he was not convicted for what he had done to the Rroms, but only for what he had done to the Jews.
Another one escaped even better: Heinrich Bergmann, who had shot 243 Rromani men, women and children in Estonia, found work in 1955 at the Federal Crime Office (BKA). Paul Werner also did a good police career until 1966. The psychiatrist Robert Ritter, the former head of the Racial Hygiene Research Institute and Population Biology, therefore a main scientific guarantee for the Rroms' deportation and sterilization[ He wrote in 1936: "from the eugenic point of view the Zigeuner have to be sterilised".], and accordingly for their massacre, became an official expert in psychology and died in 1951 without waiting for proceedings to be launched against him. His assistant also, Eva Justin, another "scientific" reference for the Rroms' genocide, worked as a child psychologist in Frankfort although she had no training and not the slightest degree for this specialty. Both made all possible endeavors to find Ritter's archive on planning the genocide of Rroms and burn it. The trial against her was held in 1958 and concluded that indeed many Rroms had been sent to death on the basis of racial hygiene diagnosis issued by Eva Justin, but the prosecutor Heinz Wolf deemed she could not know that this diagnosis would lead the Rroms to death. Forced sterilization, which had been perpetrated on the basis of her racial diagnosis, met prescription.
Adolf Würth, Ruth Kellerman, Josef Eichberger, Otto Maeda, Leon Karsten, Hans Maly and other criminals guilty of murders of Rroms have lived very well in Germany after the war, while the non-doctor and experimenter of Auschwitz Josef Mengele was able to escape and hide in Paraguay before he died quietly in 1979 on a beach near São Paulo. Another non-doctor and experimenter of Auschwitz, Hans Münch, maintained until his last breath in interviews (for example on France-Inter in 1998) that with the "Zigeuner [there is] no other possible method, only the gas chamber, total extermination". French Rromani organizations around Rromani Baxt have sued him but the Paris court closed the case on its own initiative in 2000. One of Mengele's closest friends, Karin Magnussen, allegedly "denazified", worked as a biology teacher in Bremen up to 1970 and published until 1964. She supported all her life the Nazi racial ideology, declaring for example in 1980 that the Nuremberg racial laws had not gone far enough. Although deeply mired by her cooperation with Mengele and their criminal use of "human material" from prisoners (she had a collection of some 40 pairs of eyes), she claimed to be unaware of what had happened in concentration camps and maintained that Mengele never killed anybody for his research. She died in 1997 in a nursing house.
In Germany, Hermann Arnold, Eva Justin's friend in Nazi times, followed postwar career in the footsteps of Ritter, using his archives (which had not been burned) on criminal biology and worked as an expert on Rroms in Bonn at the ministerial level. He also taught his ideology on "nomadic, thieves, Zigeuner, asocial people and half-blood" until 2005. Until today, many theses belonging to him are still taught academically, they simply changed their name from Zigeunerforschung into Tsiganologie. We should not forget that while these criminals lived well and followed an enviable career, Rroms, who had survived deportation, remained deprived of their German citizenship and were de facto stateless in their own German motherland until 1980. All this shows that we are still far from a true recognition of the Samudaripen or Rromocide.
D) The slow and arduous discovery of the truth
The first person who tried to publicize the Samudaripen – besides of course Frédéric Max in 1946, was the Moldovan Rrom Ionel Rotaru, known among Rroms as Vaida Voievod III and who founded in 1959 the "World Gypsy Community" (Communauté mondiale gitane) - dissolved in 1965 by the French Government. Nevertheless, it gave birth, six years later, to the international Rromani Union. Ionel Rotaru collected a lot of documentation and testimony from Rroms who survived deportation from Antonescu's Romania to Transdnistria and from different parts of Europe in the death camps. He, but after him Vanko Rouda with a gadjo lawyer, Ferenc Feher, attempted to make recognize the genocide of the Rroms, the Samudaripen, in Germany, at the international level and a few years later in France when it was evidenced that this country also was guilty for the deportation and death of many Rroms. During his lifetime, Vaida was constantly the target of attacks by many inflamed people, unfortunately mostly other Rroms, accusing him simply of trying to steal possible compensations. Until today these charges have found no basis but Vaida died in unclear circumstances, and the French police did not attempt to clarify this issue.
For years it was not any more talked over this issue among the Roma, this until the end of the 60s, when the first studies on the genocide of the Jews, the Holocaust, came out of the narrow halls of universities of history and began circulating among the public. Some time later, two gaʒes Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon, were interested in the plight of the Rroms during the Nazi era and they collected in turn some documentation from most parts of Europe. Their idea was that the Rroms should be entitled to receive war reparations, just as the Jews. They published in 1972 the book "Destiny of Europe's Gypsies", containing materials they had gathered. Yet all their efforts were not really successful in achieving the recognition of the Samudaripen, mainly because their methods were very amateur and they did not follow the appropriate legal, political and diplomatic channels. They did not have money either to pay competent lawyers and their work was in fact very isolated from Rroms. A few years later, a Rromni from Bulgaria, Fikrija Fazlieva, translated the book into Rromani language and Presencia Gitana publishing house in Madrid issued it under the title "Bibaxtale Berśa" (Unfortunate Years) in 1996 but the book was never circulated – distribution had not been scheduled in the project because the publication was supported by European funds. A new edition, supplemented, was published in 2015 under the title "E Rromenqo Samudaripen an-o 2-to Sasundalutno Maripen" at Rrom Produkcija publisher (Obrenovac - Serbia).
Others had in turn made various contributions, including the journalist Christian Bernadac with its "L'Holocaust oublié" – widely taken from Frédéric Max's research. There were also some hyperbolistes that exaggerated the number of victims, believing they make this way the Samudaripen more atrocious – while the number of victims is not relevant to the concept of genocide. However, more numerous authors try to minimize the figures, as among others Denis Peschanski, Michel and Annette Viewiorka – otherwise reliable researchers in other fields, or Guenter Lewy who wrote "The Gypsies’ plight does not constitute genocide within the meaning of the genocide convention" or "The misbehavior of a minority among nomadic Gypsies contributed also to hostility and prejudices (of the Nazis)" – one knows this author's positions, which try to justify the Vietnam war and the genocide of Native Americans.
E) Institutional denial and Rromani response
In Germany as early as in the 1950s, the government raised the issue of possible war reparations for Zigeuner and the answer was immediately negative: the Federal Ministry of Finance said that the manslaughter of Rroms had no racial basis. Three major sectors of the German police, namely in the cities of Stuttgart, Karlsruhe and Munich, appointed to do investigations and said some preliminary proposals the Nazi Paul Werner, already mentioned above, Josef Eichberger and Leon Karsten, three criminals who were themselves involved in the Samudaripen. So those people who had Rromani blood on their hands, were asked to study the issue and prepare preliminary proposals to see if it made sense or not to pay compensations to Rroms. On the same year, the Federal Court confirmed, after several other local courts, that their investigations had led to the conclusion that Zigeuner and half-castes of Zigeuner have been arrested and imprisoned "due to their asocial nature [and not] on a racial basis" (asozialen Eigenschaften der Zigeuner [nicht aber] rassenideologisch). Also in 1961, the Munich Supreme Court stated that "the Auschwitz-Dekret was not racially motivated but simply prompted by the fact that Rroms were traveling without aim or plan. They had no identity papers and therefore arrested as spies" (weil sie ziel- und planlos umherzogen, sich über ihre Person nicht ausweisen konnten oder für Spione gehalten wurden). We find also statements of this kind in Schlesswig-Holstein. The first decision that raised at the very least very timidly a little bit of the black cloth of negation, came from the Supreme Court which recognized in 1963 that racism might have been a partial cause of the deportation and execution of the Rroms following the Auschwitz-Dekret (rassistische Motive "mitursächlich" gewesen sein könnten).
In 1979 two events took place: first two brothers, Auschwitz survivors, Oscar and Vinzenz Rose, founded in Heidelberg the Movement for the Rroms' civil rights (Bürgerrechtsbewegung), somehow after the model of Black Americans and they organized a remembrance ceremony in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, while from another side in December, the Bundestag declared that Germany would give old Rroms, two years later, a maximum of 5,000 DM each. In 1980, the Movement organized a hunger strike in the Dachau concentration camp. In fact 3,200 Rroms received this paltry, not to say insulting, amount of money, only once. In 1982, Oscar's son, Romani Rose, changed the structure of the Movement and set up the Central Council (Zentralrat) in Heidelberg. Among the main goals of the Central Council, one may mention the recognition of the Samudaripen and legal demand for reparations for victims and their families. For years, these Rroms linked up demonstrations and petitions but Germany remained deaf and blind vis-à-vis to them, while in the same time, Bonn continued to pay a monthly pension of 300 DM to local gaʒes of the Baltic countries, those very accomplices of the Nazis during the execution of their war crimes. After this dirty compromise of the Soviets to receive fresh money into the pockets of former accomplices of the Reich, but also in the coffers of the USSR, there was another compromise, perhaps even more loathsome: the memory of the war was turned into a caricature according to which there would have been on the one side only wild aggressors and on the other side only good proletarians, who were fighting to liberate their communist homeland. In this despicable farce there was no place for the plight of marginalized Rroms and during 50 years, their agony was never publicized in communist countries – except Yugoslavia.
The first statesman who made a step forward was Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who admitted on March 17, 1982 to a delegation of the Central Council "the racial motivation" (rassistische Motivation) [of the Samudaripen]. In December of the same year, the Federal Government said: "The crimes (against the Rroms) should be considered as a Völkermord (genocide - Verbrechen [an der Roma-Minderheit im Nationalsozialismus] sind als Völkermord anzusehen)" with a clear reference to the United Nations Convention of 1948. But all these fine words have failed to move ahead in the issue of war reparations.
As a member of the International Rromani Union and President of the Central Council, Romani Rose worked tirelessly at the United Nations for the recognition of the Samudaripen, which was one of the major tasks that the Union had already imposed to itself at its first Congress in 1971 in London. This Congress was particularly significant because it set up an institutional framework for the recognition initiative by dedicating a specific commission of the IRU to this crucial question. Romani Rose and the Central Council gathered very rich archives, documents, letters, photographs, interviews etc. which are kept in Heidelberg. His lawyers also fought hard for recognition. Yet their efforts have not been crowned with success.
Helmut Schmidt confirmed again on 7 November 1985 to the Bundestag what he had said three years earlier on the racist nature of the deportation of Rroms and years after him President Roman Herzog repeated the same thing on 16 March 1997, while inaugurating the new House of Documentation in Berlin. Gradually, the idea was gaining ground.
Cinema also was concerned about this subject and Alexander Ramati produced in 1988 the remarkable feature film "And the fiddles stopped playing[ In German: Und dann schwieg die Geige; in Polish: I skrzypce przestały grać; in Rromani: Thaj o violìne aćhile te baśaven.]" on the tragedy of a Rromani family in Poland and Hungary. Many gaʒes began circulating among Rroms to collect survivors' interviews about their life in deportation.
The fall of the Iron Curtain allowed Rroms to leave for good the monopoly of War and Deportation that communists had assumed since 1991 and lectures on the history of Samudaripen began to be held at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Since 1993 (the fiftieth anniversary of the first "transport" of Rroms), various memorial ceremonies are celebrated in various high places of the Rromani genocide, such as for example Szczurowo near Tarnów in Galicia (Poland), where farmers have seen with their own eyes the summary execution of 93 Rromani men, women and children at the heart of the village, in Jasenovac (Croatia) or in Montreuil-Bellay (France) etc. One sees more and more commemorative plates and monuments. In Auschwitz-Birkenau there is a bronze plaque with the following inscription in Rromani language: "May remain forever for all people a place of tears, suffering and terror this land where the hands of the Hitlerites killed one a half million men, women and children among whom the majority were Jews of European countries". Despite the language used in this inscription, there is unfortunately no mention of the numberless Rromani victims, who lost their life, their family and/or part of their humanity in this camp.
There are also similar plates in Germany and Austria. Chancellor Angela Merkel, unveiled in 2012 in Berlin the monument to Rroms who were killed by National Socialism. Recently a new movie by Iovanca Gaspar was circulated under the title "Duj Rroma" – intertwining some records of an oratorio based on an interview between the composer and a Sinto, a former victim of Josef Mengele, views of their visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and a rich additional documentation, making of this film an excellent educational tool for the youth.
F) A few words on the reparation issue
Until today yet, when virtually all Rromani survivors of the camps are deceased, the issue of reparations remains unresolved. Germany has given globally money to different countries and some of that money has arrived in France to the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and was shared among the Rroms, perhaps thanks to Vaida. When many years after (in 1990), the International Rromani Union requested the payment of compensations to constitute a fund aimed at granting scholarships to young Rroms, the German answer was negative and categorical: "Only to survivors personally" but up to date the rare distributions were marred by major irregularities. Switzerland, which had closed its borders to Rroms and other persons persecuted by Nazism and who tried to seek asylum there, found incidentally an impressive escheated fund, which was to be shared among Rromani survivors. Unfortunately sharing was done with severe errors and only the first 900 Rroms, out of some 13,000 applicants, got some compensation, if truth be told very modest: 4,000 Swiss francs.
After that, instead of posting on line all relevant documents in order to avoid any suspicion about financial dealings, the Swiss Fund published a book with beautiful photographs demonstrating that everything had been carried out in an entirely proper way. However many mistakes could be pointed out about the various installments: due to the trade and economic embargo on Yugoslavia, important sums had to be carried in hand luggage and some were stolen at Ferihegy Budapest airport. In other times, checks were sent to beneficiaries by non registered mail and some post office employees delivered them against payment to swindlers who managed to realize them with corrupted bank clerks in Southern Serbia – to mention but a few cases related to former Yugoslavia. Similar errors occurred also in other countries. Comprehensive investigations would be useful in order to clear up what really happened but the main question is: what would such a difficult research bring, since almost all beneficiaries have deceased by now. Be it as it may, people are not satisfied and rumors and suspicions keep circulating all over Europe, as well as hopes for new payments.
The debts of Germany and accomplices countries – Hungary, France, Croatia etc., representing the profit that the Nazis and other fascists have extracted from Roma (stolen gold, slave labor, especially at Krupp and Siemens, unclaimed bank accounts, food stolen by the torturers – because they too were hungry during the war), all this remained in oblivion.
Until today the recognition of Samudaripen stagnates at the level of elegant rhetoric and it is hardly mentioned in the school curriculum of history in two or three countries. The European Parliament and its president, M. Jerzy Buzek, held on February 2, 2011 a commemoration for Rromani victims in Brussels but without recognizing by an official document the reality of the Samudaripen.
No possible conclusion
The novelty is that the Samudaripen has become an integral part of the political language of the Rroms, indeed rather in its Euro-modern style that in its Rromani pattern – but this style is also necessary in our world, and it operates as strengthening a European wide solidarity of the Rromani nation.