"Forgotten Victims: The Nazi Genocide Against the Roma and Sinti" is at the Wiener Holocaust Library, London, 30 October to 11 March
Marked “secret” and signed by Heinrich Himmler, the bureaucratic language of document 664-PS dated 10 March 1944 masks the genocidal reality of its real meaning.
It reads that as far as Jews and Gypsies are concerned, “the accomplished evacuation and isolation of these groups by the chief of the security police and the SD [SS intelligence]”A copy of the translated document is now to go on public display, along with eyewitness accounts, many made public for the first time, testifying to the Nazi genocide against the Roma and Sinti in an exhibition focusing on “forgotten victims”.
In essence, the directive means that all Jews and Gypsies, at least according to Himmler, had at this point been removed from the Reich.
“They have been forced out, or killed. The whole of the Reich has been cleansed in this murderous way,” said Dr Barbara Warnock, curator of the exhibition at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London
“The language is bureaucratic and administrative, but in fact it is talking about genocide. It’s just so chilling to read. It is also very striking at this stage, quite late on, his lumping together of Jews and Gypsies”. Warnock hopes the free exhibition Forgotten Victims will highlight the nature and extent of the persecution and genocide carried out against them across Europe through the stories and photographs of those who experienced it.
“They are still the forgotten victims. Many people are not really aware of the extent to which Roma and Sinti were targeted,” said Warnock. “Across Europe, Roma and Sinti face such high levels of discrimination, and frequently poverty, it continues to make it harder for these events to be remembered.”
Up to an estimated 500,000 Roma, of eastern and south-east Europe, and Sinti, of western and central Europe, were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. In Romani it is known as The Porajmos, or The Devouring. They are the “forgotten victims”.
Their fight for official recognition of this genocide, and for restitution, lasted decades. They were not the focus of the Nuremberg war trials. Germany initially refused to recognise it as genocide, claiming Roma and Sinti were imprisoned and murdered in camps such as Auschwitz for asocial and criminal behaviour, not for racial reasons. The evidence to the contrary is in the testimonies, forming part of the exhibition, of survivors subjected to horrific treatment and, often, enforced medical experiments.