German memorial for Gypsy victims of Nazis – building finally starts

by Michael Smith

BERLIN, Germany, December 2008 – Germany has finally begun the building a memorial to in honor of the approximately one to one-and-a-half million Gypsies persecuted by the Nazis.

Construction on the square well in Berlin's central Tiergarten Park follows 16 years of debate among leading groups representing Germany's Gypsies, or Sinti and Roma. It is due to be completed in 2009.

Romani Rose, leader of Germany's Central Council for Sinti and Roma, spoke at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony. Rose praised the government for "recognizing its historical responsibility for those Gypsies who were persecuted under the Nazis."

The German government, someone should tell Mr. Rose, had recognized the historical responsibility for those Gypsies who were persecuted under the Nazis already a number of years ago but it was Mr Rose's bickering as to the terms that caused the delay. While the majority of Romani in Germany had no qualms with the terminology of “als Zigeuner verfolgten” or the simple word “Zigeuner” (that is to say “Gypsy”) it was Rose and the Central Council for Sinti and Roma that fought tooth and nail against the term “Zigeuner”, insisting it had to be Sinti and Roma. In that same breath they also denied the fact that the Jenisch, another groups of Gypsies in Germany who may or may not be related to the Romani, the Sinti in this case, though at times are intermarried with the Sinti. Then again it is not surprising that the Central Council excluded the Sinti seeing that this very organization that is supposed to be representing the Gypsies of Germany is always trying to exclude the Jenisch from everything.

Depending on the estimates and calculations and the numbers game, and depending who one can and should believe, remembering the hidden agendas to diminish the suffering of the Gypsy People in the Holocaust, between 250,000 to 1.5 million – the high number comes from the Frankfurter Fachhochschule in Germany itself – Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust. Berlin already has memorials to Jews and gay victims killed by the Nazis, which shows, yet again, that Gypsies are only considered as “also ran” despite the very fact that it was Gypsies who were targeted for extermination well before Jews and others and that it was 250 Gypsy children on which Zyclon B gas was trialled.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008