One night in August, 1944 - "Zigeunernacht"

*Oh, there is starvation in Auschwitz,
We have nothing at all to eat,
Mother, not even a piece of bread,
Those starving us are bad karma.

Oh, if I only had a pitchfork
I would kill the tormentors
If I only had a pitchfork.
I would kill the people starving us.*

Oshwitsate - Ruzena Danielova

There used to be a Romani camp at Auschwitz. At one point it held up to 16,000 people but epidemics, starvation and the Nazi’s brutal treatment got that number down.

For various reasons the Nazis decided the camp and its inhabitants should be destroyed. In May, 1944 this plan swung into action and the SS moved in. But, as the SS surrounded the camp, they were met by brave and desperate resistance from Roma and Sinti who had armed themselves with whatever came to hand.

The SS retreated, the destruction was postponed.

Over the course of the next few months, those Roma and Sinti who were fit enough for work were moved to other camps.

The night of August 2nd-3rd, 1944 was Zigeunernacht - “Gypsy night” - and the remaining Roma and Sinti inhabitants of the camp were rounded up and sent to the gas chambers. Dr Josef Mengele himself helped supervise arrangements for the transportation, he hunted for any children who were hiding and even took a group of them to the chambers in his own car.

There was - once again - brave resistance though, as one Polish survivor says;

About 3,000 men, women and children were sent to the gas chambers and cremated in a single night.

The Romani camp was gone and nothing was left of the inhabitants but ashes.
Travel well, my friends - my brothers and my sisters.

I can’t believe you put this in MPSIMS. I guess GD is no good, because really, what is there to debate? The Pit, maybe?

In all seriousness, this stuff always blows my mind. It’s another reason why I get pissed that my home state of Illinois, which has a Holocaust Remembrance Month in the public schools with all sorts of special classroom prgramming (and my school usually brought in a survivor or two to talk about their experiences), basically just mentions the non-Jews who were murdered in passing. “Oh yeah, those guys. Well, that sucked, too.”

**Kal, ** have you ever thought of working with your local school system to get this stuff included in the curriculum?

My feelings about the whole attitude of “oh yeah, those guys” would be more suited for the Pit and I am very unwilling to go there at the moment.

But this is what happens when the “those guys” sentiments gain control.

I guess it says a lot that I’ve taken an entire class on the Holocaust and never heard Zigeunernacht mentioned in a classroom.

When I was younger, studying in Austria for a bit, I visited Matthausen KZ-- it was a generally horrifying and thought-provoking experience, but one thing that stood out was a chart in one of the pedagogical rooms, showing all the different “badges”–many, many of them-- with numbers of deaths and such (which was where I actually learned the German word Zigeuner-- it stuck in my mind). Eye opening.
If only “nie wieder” in the world could actually. . . be true.

The New York Times has a review for a documentary about the Porrajmos, which will be shown tomorrow night on Channel Thirteen - WNET @ 10pm. If what I’ve read is correct, that channel airs in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

I don’t know if other PBS channels around the US are airing it as well.

Thanks, Kal.

May the Rom recount that night to a hundred generations of their children.

Never Forget.

I think more Dopers should get a chance to read this thread before it sinks.

Always remember.

I’d never heard of Zigeunernacht before. Thanks for posting this, Kal. The world should remember these atrocities.

We visited the Holocaust Museum in DC several years ago. At least there was some mention of the Roma (as well as other groups) in addition to the main focus on the Jews.

Is it fair to say that the Roma are even more marginalized than the Jews? Have there been countries where Roma are welcomed and given special privileges?

The movies I can recall where “gypsies” get special treatment, or where the story line addresses more than just casual levels of the society, have all been oddities. Much the same as the Irish Travelers.

IIRC, the first significant role Eric Roberts got was in King Of The Gypsies which had Sterling Hayden as the don of the tribe. That one treatment seemed to have some interest in delving into the lifestyle of the Gypsy. Are there others with some sense of dignity to them? Or did I miss the point to KOTG?

I second the notion that this thread should be “kept alive” long enough for more Dopers to have a chance to see it.

Kal has one of the most moving posts I’ve seen in the just-over-a-month that I’ve been posting here.

Speaking as another member of a forgotten group, I have to say I know where Kal is coming from. These stories have got to be told and remembered. Sadly, so many of the stories died with their tellers, in the camps, and in the silence afterward.

That’s the difference right there.

Some of the Jews survived. I know several survivors through one Synagogue or another. The tell the story.

But if it’s a sweep what happens then?

Definetly neither Mundane or Pointless. Thank you for educating yet another one of the many that were uninformed.

Last Sunday was the 60th anniversary of the event described in that quote. A ceremony was held at the German foreign ministry in Berlin, attended by the German President, Johannes Rau; the German Foreign Minister and Auschwitz survivors.

From a Deutsche Welle story about the ceremony - link:

This horror took place 60 years ago tonight.

Today, the largest ever remembrance ceremony for the Holocaust’s Romani victims took place in Auschwitz - BBC story with video.

I was going to write more, but I can’t. I put my beautiful daughter to bed about 2 hours ago and seeing her sleeping in her cot, knowing that in another time, another place, she’d be murdered as a Zigeunermischlinge is just unbearably saddening.

Thanks for helping us to remember, Kal.

Forgetting the extermination is part of the extermination itself.

  • Jean Baudrillard.
    US Senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell recently mentioned Zigeunernacht and the Porrajmos. The full text of his speech is in the Congressional Record and can be read here:

Part of the song used at the start of this post, taken from this BBC radio programme and sung in its original Romani, can be heard here.

Posted at the entrance to Auschwitz:

We do. But we won’t. Not ever.


An article in today’s Chicago Tribune

I don’t know the status of the Romani, officially or realistically, in Germany today. I would hope that the last quote is more than just lip service; it’s all well and good to talk about “historic and political responsibility” but if you don’t act on it your words are meaningless.