When I started learning about the Holocaust, I assumed that solidarity existed amongst all prisoners. Hadn’t they all been in the same boat? But as I studied survivor testimony, and personally listened to their talks, I realized that my initial reaction was not correct. Concentration camp prisoners came from dozens of different countries and represented a diverse range of backgrounds. Age, culture, language, politics, religion, education, money — all played a part in camp relationships. Conflicts that existed outside the camps existed inside, as well. Even Jewish child survivors expressed to me that they sometimes choose to remain silent in the presence of camp survivors because camp life was far worse than being hidden in a barn or under floorboards. Some of these conflicts still exist today or are linked to current issues.
In 1993, a group of Roma (gypsies) went on hunger strike to draw attention to their history of persecution. Approximately 400 Roma, many from Balkan countries, took refuge in the memorial site for a second time (the first time was 1983) to demonstrate for the right to free movement and the reconsideration of rejected applications for asylum. They stayed 53 days.
The sign says:
To remember the Roma who were murdered in Dachau. From their descendants who sought refuge here. May 1993.
Eleven million people were killed in the concentration camps from 1933-45. Six million Jews and five million non-Jews, including these groups: Roma, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, mentally and physically disabled, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and “anti-socials”.
- USHMM articles: Mosaic of Victims and Genocide of European Roma;
- Classification system document from Dachau; dated 1938-1942;
- Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma in Heidelberg;
- Open Society Foundations Roma Initiatives Office
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