Since November of 2010, Yahad-In Unum has worked on documenting the Roma genocide. The organization works on collecting testimonies on the massacres that took place on the territories of the Former Soviet Union (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia) by Nazi mobile units as well as the deportations to Transnistria from Romania and Moldova. It also works on the identification of mass execution sites.

Village after village, family after family, by cross-referencing survivor testimonies with Romanian, German and Soviet archives, Yahad has identified 51 execution sites of Roma in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia and interviewed 30 witnesses to the massacres of the Roma in these countries. Five research trips in Romania and one trip in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has enabled us to collect more than 150 testimonies on Roma survivors.

To this day, Yahad has collected more than 180 testimonies on the persecutions of Roma in Eastern Europe, including Romania, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, in collaboration with our partner, Roma Dignity. These testimonies have clarified the fate of the Roma as both survivors and victims. The witnesses described shootings, deportations, starvation, sicknesses, and forced labor that the Roma were subjected to by the Nazis and their allies. Yahad-In Unum works with young Roma investigators on the ground in Eastern Europe to gather testimonies from survivors. Our teams in the field and witness portraits are pictured below.


Persecuted by the Nazis and local officials, deported or interned, shot or left to starve to death, the Roma suffered a wide range of mass violence and persecution, depending on the country. Three different realities, three types of persecutions: Romania, the Former USSR, and the Czech Republic.

The deportations of nomadic Roma by the Romanian authorities started on June 1, 1941 and those that were sedentary in September 1942. They were deported to Transnistria, a region in southern Ukraine, between the Dniester and Bug rivers, given by Germany to their Romanian allies. The Roma were left to die from starvation in the fields. For three years, they lived in ditches, stables or collective farms. The Ukrainian villagers were temporarily expelled from their houses and kolkhozes in order to make space for the deported Roma. The latter group were forced to enter the houses on the same day the residents were expelled. The organized distribution of food rapidly came to a halt. Death from starvation, sickness or poverty began in the first months of the deportation and multiplied rapidly.
After the Jews, the Gypsies represented the only population group in the occupied Soviet Union whose systematic eradication began during the first year of the German-Soviet war, that is to say, at the time during which the German occupants still counted on a successful campaign. The principal motivation in the case of the Gypsies was the racial ideology of the Nationalist-Socialists. As previously mentioned, on the basis of the empirical research conducted, the differentiation in certain monographs between sedentary Gypsies and “itinerant” Gypsies only existed on paper and had no influence whatsoever on the “politics of Gypsies” (“Ziguenerpolitik”) on site. Their “way of life” did not play a role for the persecutors; the Gypsies were even more so – the enormity of the extermination measures established by the CES leaves no doubt on the subject – together as a people in the line of fire of the Einsatzgruppen and the Wehrmacht. Starting from the spring of 1942, the Gypsies were “treated” like Jews in the territories behind army lines in the North, Middle and South. Starting at this time, the extermination of Soviet Gypsies in all of the studied military territories assumes a systematic character, without many variations. In terms of the Gypsy communes, the German persecutors applied the same methods that were shown to work for the executions of Jews, that is to say, execution by bullets.
Before the war, there was a Roma and Sinti population of 100,000 in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and the Russian Carpathian region. A regulation from the Ministry of the Interior on November 30, 1939 prohibited nomads beginning in January 1940. Those who did not want to obey would be placed in forced labor camps. Rapidly, several hundred people considered as “asocial” were deported to Auschwitz. The General Director of the police estimated that at the end of 1940, approximately 70 – 80% of Roma were settled. On June 24, 1942, the Minister of the Interior of the Protectorate, Richard Bienert, ordered the collection of statistics on the “Gypsies, the Gitans and other people with an itinerant way of life.” About 6,500 people were registered as part of it, on the basis of old files and often depending on the color of their skin. On July 10, 1942, General Horst Böhme, head of police security, ordered the concentration of Roma in two camps: Lety for those from Bohemia, Hodonín for those from Moravia. Out of the 1,300 Roma imprisoned in Lety, 300 survived. In the two camps, 521 people died from sickness or hunger. The large majority were sent to Auschwitz between 1942-1944.

 


 

Roma Memory Openings

European Commission Welcomes Yahad-In Unum’s New “Roma Memory” Exhibit

Paying Tribute to the Victims of the Roma Genocide on International Holocaust Memorial Day.

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Paris City Hall welcomes “Roma Memory” exhibition to record turnout

“In giving back the Roma their history, this exhibit gives them back dignity.” –
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo

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City of Valencia Hosts “Roma Memory” Exhibition, created by Yahad-In Unum, at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia.

The exhibit’s was preceded by a training session for 12 teachers from CEFIRE.

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Montpellier City Hall Premieres “Roma Memory” Exhibit

The premiere was accompanied by a guided visit and speech by Father Desbois as well as a speech by Philippe Saurel, Mayor of Montpellier.

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Roma Dignity

Founded in 2011 by Costel Nastasie, Roma Dignity is an organization dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Porajmos — the genocide of the Roma — in Eastern Europe. The mission of Roma Dignity is to fight discrimination against Roma and to help them build a better future. Roma Dignity members actively participate in Yahad-In Unum’s research trips on the ground in Eastern Europe as investigators and translators. They also collect and translate testimonies of Roma survivors from Romani to French.

Exhibition

Yahad-In Unum has developed an exhibit on “Roma Memory.” The exhibit presents 8 encounters with Roma survivors. It was conceived in order to teach European people about the Roma genocide and to fight against the persistent discrimination the Roma still face today. To date, it has been exhibited at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium for International Holocaust Remembrance Day as well as at the City Hall of Paris. Take a look at the exhibition in the short video clip below:


 

Our thanks to the generous support of the following organizations: