16 May, Romani Day of Resistance.
Romani are usually excluded whenever the topic of the Holocaust/WW2 comes up, so it’s not all too surprising that the Romani Day of Resistance is very unknown to the majority. But it should be celebrated and embraced since it represents a change in the way Romani culture and identity appear in public space - where a history of resistance replaces a history of oppression:
- On 15 May 1944, the underground resistance movement in the Auschwitz, Birkenau concentration camp
warned the Roma that the SS guards were planning to round up the nearly 6,000 Roma and Sinti prisoners and send them to the gas chambers.
- On the morning of 16 May, the Romani prisoners did not show up for the usual morning roll call and ceased cooperating with the SS guards.
- The Roma barricaded themselves into their shanties. They had broken into an equipment warehouse and armed themselves with hammers, pickaxes and shovels, taking apart the wooden sections of the bunks they slept on to make wooden stakes.
- When the SS guards approached the area, they were met with armed resistance from the inmates.
- The prisoners forced the guards into retreat, and though some prisoners were shot that night, the act of resistance allowed the Roma and Sinti prisoners to put off execution for several more months.
- The SS were in shock because they had completely failed to anticipate this resistance. Concerned they might lose more men and that the uprising might spread to other parts of Auschwitz, they retreated from camp BIIe.
- No Roma died in the gas chambers that day. The Nazis subsequently put the prisoners of BIIe on a starvation diet.
- Later, on 23 May 1944 the Nazis moved 1,500 of the strongest Romani prisoners to Auschwitz I, many of whom were then sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.
- On 25 May 1944, 82 Romani men were transported to the Flossenburg concentration camp and 144 young Romani women were sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
- Less than 3,000 Romani prisoners remained in the family camp at BIIe, most of them children.
- On 2 August 1944, the Nazis gassed all the remaining Romani prisoners to death in gas chamber V, although the Roma fought back on that dark night as well.
In Hungary the 2nd of August was designated in 2005 by the Parliament as “Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day”, yet most European countries make no or insufficient mention of the Roma victims in their official position regarding the Holocaust.
Roma are still misrepresented by stereotypes that overshadow our culture and real identity and it should be needless to say that Europe should put some effort on making the Roma genocide widely known and recognized, to serve as a counterforce to the increasingly violent rhetoric and action against the Roma because and through them. Yet it does not seem like anything like that will happen any time soon.
& Yes, please reblog this to make at least some of our history known.