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T

TH M E CI OV VIL EM RIGH EN TS

OF TH E

SI AN NT RO D I IN M GE A RM AN Y


T

EN

national minorities

M

E UV

O

M

ROMA

GERMANY

SINTI

racism

CIVIL RIGHTS


ROMA AND SINTI

Sinti and Roma minority in Europe Roma and Sinti, who make up the largest minority in Europe today with approx. 10 to 12 million members, share with the Jews the terrible experience of disfranchisement, persecution and systematic extermination in Nazi-occupied Europe. Half a million members of our minority fell victim to the Holocaust: an experience which is burned deep in the collective memory of the Roma and Sinti, but which is still barely acknowledged by the majority society in their respective countries of nationality. "The genocide of the Sinti and Roma was carried out from the same motive of racist mania, with the same deliberation, with the same intention of a planned and final extermination as the genocide of the Jews. They were systematically murdered in complete families from the very young to the very old over the entire sphere of influence of the National Socialists." Roman Herzog, former Federal President of Germany


We st

ern

Eu

rop

e

Cold War

discrimination

racially motivated violence

m i t n in

i S

ori ty

m s i c a r


ROMA AND SINTI

The terms "Roma" and "Sinti" are the authentic proper names of the minority – they mean "person" in the minority language. In this respect, the members of the minority living in Eastern Europe are called "Roma" and those of Central European origin – "Sinti". On the other hand, the foreign term "gypsy" is regarded by most members of the minority as discriminatory. Since the end of the Cold War and the opening-up of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in 1990, the living conditions of the minority have drastically deteriorated as a result of nascent racism. However, racially motivated violence and discrimination against Roma and Sinti have also significantly increased in a large number of countries in Western Europe.


Af s n ro

a i c iti

-Am

ol

can

regim

rea

ste

son

reo

typ

es

y

g olo

ide

n o i at

n

i m i r

c s i d

s

marginalization

al Soci n ali tio sts a N

clichĂŠs

dissemination

p

eri


ROMA AND SINTI

In a New York Times commentary it has been argued that the Sinti and Roma are nowadays subjected to marginalization and racism to an extent which corresponds to the situation of Afro-Americans in the United States up to the middle of the 1950s. An important reason for the continued marginalization and discrimination of Roma and Sinti are structures of prejudice and racist clichĂŠs, which have been substantially influenced by the misanthropic racial ideology of the National Socialists and the associated fascist regime. Politically responsible people still deny the existence of racism and discrimination against Roma and Sinti, especially in Central and Eastern Europe; the members of the minority are mostly described as a "social problem". Instead of effectively protecting the members of the Roma minorities from discriminations and racism, politicians from many countries contribute to the dissemination and propagation of stereotypes and antiziganist as well as anti-Semitic feelings in the society.


Holocaust

hate propaganda

dia

g e l

al

extremists

me

s t r o

T

rig

ht-

wi

ng

internationally

p e Vr


ROMA AND SINTI

In addition to this, the media plays an important role in the dissemination of racist stereotypes of the minority, especially through the discriminatory characterization of those accused of a crime as "Roma" or "Sinti" or other terms in press or TV reports. Moreover, the World Wide Web is increasingly developing into a platform, which is used by right-wing extremists for the dissemination of hate propaganda against Roma and Sinti and Jews, and against which there is no internationally effective legal provision. At the same time, the denial of the Holocaust is a central component of the neo-Nazi ideology.


il R

no

ts

Mo

ve

me

Sin

ti

a

m Ro

mm

rv u s

un

ity

industry

rs o iv

authorities

co

German

February 1982

ge

igh

nt

Central Council

e d i c

Civ

de

d e i n


ROMA AND SINTI

Civil Rights Movement in Germany and the Central Council As a prerequisite for readmission to the international community of states, the newly founded Federal Republic soon officially recognised the Jewish victims and offered them at least material "compensation" for the distress they had suffered. The genocide of our minority was denied for four decades, however: • Throughout that period the Nazi policy of extermination directed against our minority was largely ignored. • The survivors were cheated of their moral recognition as victims of the National Socialist "racial policy" and of their claims for compensation. • Many of the perpetrators responsible for the genocide of our minority were able to work their way up the ladder without hindrance at public authorities or in the private industrial sector. • The deportations of Roma and Sinti to the extermination camps were ostensibly justified as "criminal-preventive". • Even in the academic world and at the former places of persecution, the places of remembrance and memorial, the genocide of the Roma and Sinti minority remained a marginal issue which was worth a footnote at most. The hunger strike in the concentration camp memorial at Dachau at Easter 1980 in particular gained public attention to the concerns of our minority. And in February 1982, we founded the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma in Heidelberg, which includes 16 member associations and has represented the interests of the Sinti and Roma living in Germany at national and international level.


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our minority

o

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rac e de

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ion

jud

tim

s Helmut Schmidt

Court of Justice

ou

Helmut Kohl

d

e nis

s

ge

ed

me

o

is gn

nt

o

ci ffi

all

ec yr


ROMA AND SINTI

A critical turning point in the civil rights work was the 17 March 1982, when Helmut Schmidt, the former Federal Chancellor, received a delegation of the Central Council and officially recognised under international law the National Socialist crimes committed against our minority as racially motivated Holocaust. This was reaffirmed by his successor in office, Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, in the course of a debate in the Bundestag in November 1985. The Central Council has been able to bring about a fundamental change in the previous discriminatory compensation practice of the German Federal Court of Justice on behalf of our surviving concentration camp victims and has forced the competent authorities to revise decisions in favour of the people concerned in several thousand individual cases. In addition to that, in 2016 the Federal Court formally apologised and disassociated itself from the discriminatory judgement in question. In the "Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities" of the Council of Europe signed in Strasbourg on 11th May 1995, the Sinti and Roma, who have been domiciled in Germany for centuries, and the Danes, Friesians and Sorbs living there are expressly awarded the status of a national minority. German Romany was also recognized as a minority language pursuant to the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". So far. However, most German states have not implemented the Charter. The constant reproduction of clichĂŠs about our ethnic minority in the media is mainly responsible for the fact that Sinti and Roma are still not regarded as a part of society by many people, but are stigmatised as imaginary "outsiders".


Documentation and Cultural Centre

g i r

de

pri

va

tio

n

documents the cultural contributions

s t h


ROMA AND SINTI

Exhibitions of the Documentation Centre The history of the persecution of our people in the so-called "Third Reich" is extensively documented over an area of almost 700 square metres at the Documentation and Cultural Centre: from the step-by-step deprivation of rights and exclusion from virtually all areas of public life through to state-organized genocide in the whole of Nazi-occupied Europe. Also documented are the cultural contributions of the Sinti and Roma minority in the fields of literature, the plastic arts and music, to name a few. We also thought it important not to represent the Extermination process in isolation, but rather to embed it in the internal and external political development of the National Socialist regime. The intention was to create a memorial to our persecuted and murdered people that went beyond the portrayal of historical facts and circumstances.


ex h

Heidelberg Centre

r

United Nations in New York

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

pe n a m t en

ibi tio

do

n

n

c

e m u

n

io t a t


ROMA AND SINTI

The Documentation Centre cooperates closely with national and international memorial sites and other national Roma and Sinti organisations. One of the most important results of this cooperation was the Heidelberg Centre’s realisation of the permanent exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Since August 2001 the dimension of the Roma and Sinti genocide is documented in Block 13 of the former "Stammlager". After decades of suppression the Centre campaigns for other concentration camp memorial sites to analyse, in depth, the crimes perpetrated against the Roma and Sinti. In 2007, a temporary exhibition of the Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma was opened at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. This exhibition focused on "The Holocaust against the Roma and Sinti and present day racism in Europe" and educated about the historical facts of the racial and extermination policy perpetrated against the Roma and Sinti in the National Socialist state, including its ideological and social assumptions.


srecog n ni io

t u ib

r t n

rig

p

European Civil Rights

hts

soc

n

e z ri

ceremony

co

tio

iet

y


ROMA AND SINTI

Goals for the future EU member states are responsible for enabling Sinti and Roma to participate in society fully and for protecting their rights not just in name only. This includes, on one hand, supporting infrastructure and education programmes, e.g. offering scholarships and grants. On the other hand, it is of great importance to improve the often degrading and catastrophic living conditions of Roma settlements. The Central Council has more than once demanded the estalishment of a Roma-Housing-Fond, which would operate locally and work directly with Roma communities. In addition to that, cultural projects would highlight the manifold cultural and historic contributions of the minority in thei respective countries of nationality. Antiziganism research has to be conducted in universities in order to uncover the roots of centuries-old European Antiziganism and to lead to a better understanding of mechanisms behind discrimination and exclusion.


Result in action

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co

jou

rne

respected and protected

y t i n

y


ROMA AND SINTI

It is important to note that Sinti and Roma are not a single, homogenous community. There is no formula for success; rather every approach has to take historical, social and cultural conditions of the particular country into consideration. It will be a long and difficult journey, before the human rights of the Sinti and Roma minority are respected and protected in all their respective countries of nationality. For many Roma in Eastern and South Eastern Europe, the word “equality” is nothing but a utopian concept, one that does not impact their lives. As Erich Kästner said: “Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es.” – “Nothing is any good unless it results in action.” The Second World War ended more than 70 years ago, as did the tyranny of National Socialists. It is about time that something gets done for the minority. But that will be impossible without political intent and support.


ROMA AND SINTI

Editor Dokumentations - und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma Bremeneckgasse 2 69117 Heidelberg info@sintiundroma.de www.facebook.com/sintiundroma Follow us on Twitter: sintiundromaDE Editorial Staff Gheorghe Petru, Kerstin M端ller, Thomas Baumann, Ludmilla Suris Design: Luminita Radu Printing: CITY DRUCK Heidelberg Copyrights www.sintiundroma.de


The Civil Rights Movement of Sinti and Roma in Germany  

Roma and Sinti, who make up the largest minority in Europe today with approx. 10 to 12 million members, share with the Jews the terrible exp...

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