Often reduced to a footnote, activists have fought to keep memories of the Roma and Sinti genocide alive. Now, with anti-Roma sentiment rising across Europe, could the untold stories of the archive finally be heard?by Sydnee Wagner / February 3, 2020 / Leave a comment
If you asked me what I learned in my public education about Roma and Sinti genocide during the Holocaust, it would be a lie to tell you I was taught nothing. I remember it vividly in my Texas high school World History textbook, the small footnote that included Roma and Sinti victims as an asterisk, a tacked-on fact that labelled us “gypsies” with a lower-cased G. There was no further explanation. Omitted from the main narrative, it would have been easy for anyone to miss. Nevertheless, as a Roma woman, it was the first time I saw any non-Roma media mention it. I would soon learn those small moments of inclusion are few and far between. That memory would become the status quo for how to feel on the historical silencing of Romani oppression: be happy with what you get; they could have not included you at all.
When many people think of the Holocaust, they often recall it as primarily a Jewish genocide, perhaps with some awareness of the oppression of other groups such as disabled people. The Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance, takes care to contextualise the systemic murder of the six million—but while it adds that “millions of others” were also killed, its consideration of Nazi racism is limited to anti-semitism. In reality, the racist ideology of the Nazis extended to Roma and Sinti people (known as Zigeuner in German or “Gypsies” in English) as well as the black European population. The total number of Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust remain unknown, with scholars and activists claiming anywhere from 200,000—a conservatively estimate, widely debunked given how many countries were occupied—to as high as 2 million.
We do know some statistics, however. We know for instance that in some countries, like former Czechoslovakia, 90 per cent of the Roma and Sinti population were murdered, wiping out whole cultural traditions and dialects. While Romani rights activists and Roma and Sinti survivors of the Holocaust have implored for more representation as well as reparations, their work has often been ignored by government officials and Holocaust museum boards. It’s almost like some would like the world to forget, even if Romani people cannot.
The usual omission of Romani narratives in Holocaust representations is…