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Romani resistance day: protest, courage, unity, power of life

Romani resistance day celebrated on May 16 in Europe is a significant and at the same time little-studied event in the history of Romani people. Legal Space explored the theme: gathered basic data about the events of those times, the views of historians, as well as important facts that were not published in Ukrainian.

Romani resistance is only one aspect of Romani Holocaust*, the most tragic pages in the history of the Roma – their mass destruction on a national basis. The views of experts on Roma resistance as a historical episode is not unique, however, it is obvious that studying it should be as a component of the Nazi genocide of Sinti and Roma during the Second World War, as an example of the power of life participants of those historical events showed*".

Prisoners of Gypsy Camp rebelled against death

Romani resistance is the historical name of the event that occurred on 16 may 1944 in Auschwitz. One of its sectors - the B-IIe was called by the Nazis as "Gypsy Camp" (Zigeuner Lager). Roma children, men and women were kept together there.


The entrance to Birkenau (Auschwitz II), after the war. Photo: yadvashem.org

Romani prisoners were forced into slave labor, subjected to medical tests, were tortured. The SS physician Josef Mengele nicknamed "the Angel of Death" selected Roma, mostly children to do terrible things with them.


Roma children, prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo: scrapbookpages.com

According to the plans of the Nazis in the night from 2 to 3 August 1944 all the inmates of the Gypsy Camp were killed in the gas chambers. It is known that August 2 was the official International Day of Commemoration of the Romani victims of Holocaust - that night 2897 Roma were destroyed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz*.

However, the events developed in another scenario: on May 15 the participants of the underground movement warned Roma about the plans of the Nazis.


The barrack of Gypsy Camp. Photo: romasintigenocide.eu

On the morning of 16 may 1944 the prisoners of Gypsy Camp did not come to a traditional roll, but barricaded themselves in their barracks. Armed with hammers, pickaxes and shovels, taking apart the wooden sections of the bunks. The children collected rocks. When the SS guards entered the camp in the late afternoon to take the Roma to the gas chambers, they began to fight for their lives.

Roma fought to the death. Children, men and women all worked together. Auschwitz had never felt anything like it... there were casualties on both sides. The SS were shocked - they didn't expect such resistance. “That day no Roma died in the gas chamber," wrote the researcher Miroslav Brož on Romano voďi..

“An SS guard told me how much more difficult this special action had been than anything else which had ever been carried out in Auschwitz… The gypsies, who knew what was in store for them, screamed: fights broke out, shots went off and people were wounded. SS reinforcements arrived when the trucks were only half full. The gypsies even used loaves of bread as missiles. But the SS were too strong, too experienced, too numerous.” (Dazlo Tilany talking about the “liquidation” of the “gypsy camp”)

Subsequently, however, the Nazis took revenge on the rebels harshly. First they put all the BII-e prisoners on starvation rations. 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 them all to death in gas chamber V, although the Roma fought back on that dark night as well.

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The publication of "Romani resistance". Photo: ilsole24ore.com

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Tobias Portschy, Nazi politician, Gauleiter of the first Austrian Burgenland


Deported Roma in the concentration camp. 1938. Photo: romasintigenocide.eu

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German police officer Paul Kroeber saved a large family of Sinti.


A plaque in honor of Paul Creber in the headquarters of the police in Wuppertal. Photo: denkmal-wuppertal.de


Group of imprisoned Roma near the gas chambers of Belzec (Poland). Photo: scrapbookpages.com

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Roma, prisoners of the Nazi concentration camp Jasenovac (Croatia). Photo: wikiwand.com

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The employee of Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies Mychailo Tiagly. Photo: otkrmir.ru


Mychailo Tiagly among the participants of the seminar in Heidelberg. Photo: terraforming.org

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Natalia Zinevych. Photo: idealist.media



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