On International Roma Day, We Remember Roma and Sinti Victims Lost During the Holocaust

Sat, 04/08/2023 - 2:15pm

April 8 is International Roma Day, an opportunity to celebrate the Romani and Sinti culture and raise awareness about the challenges faced by Europe’s largest ethnic minority.

An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population was killed by the Nazis and their Axis partners during World War Two, a genocide with impacts that reverberate through the community today.

“The Holocaust really broke the back of Roma and Sinti culture, forcing those that survived to try and re-establish themselves under the most difficult of circumstances,” said Anabel Carballo-Mesa, a PhD student at the University of Barcelona who last year visited USC Shoah Foundation to conduct in-depth research with the 406 Roma and Sinti testimonies in the Visual History Archive. “Along with being a day of celebration, International Roma Day is a call for recognition of what happened and an attempt to reclaim the rights and liberties that were lost.”

The U.S. Senate last year passed a resolution expressing remembrance for the genocide of the Romani and Sinti people, the culmination of collaborative efforts to promote awareness by organizations including USC Shoah Foundation and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Carballo-Mesa said that while this and other progress has been made in recognizing the suffering of the Roma and Sinti during World War II, much more needs to be done to bring attention to the discrimination, poverty, and social exclusion many still face in Europe and beyond.

“The fact that the Roma and Sinti were persecuted in the Holocaust is something many people are simply not aware of,” Carballo-Mesa said. “It is imperative that the voices of survivors must be researched, collected and heard as a matter of urgency while they are still alive.”

The Roma and Sinti testimonies in the VHA describe families, traditions, Christian and Muslim religious observances, relations among different Roma and Sinti groups and their interactions with non-Roma communities.

In recognition of International Roma Day, we share these testimonies of genocide survivors and witnesses Władysław Guman, Anna Kwiatkowska and Marianna Koniak.