Tuesday was our bus tour of Berlin. After viewing the Reichstag, we entered a memorial for the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust. The space consisted of a wall of written history, a fountain surrounded by shards of stone bearing the names of extermination camps, and a black triangle with a flower atop in the center of the fountain. Single notes of music could be heard around the fountain, but the notes together didn’t match and were uncomfortable to listen to. We stood, hushed for the first time. In those moments, in a self centered way, I couldn’t help but reflect that I didn’t know who the Sinti were, and exactly how these two groups were impacted by the events of the Holocaust.
According to facinghistory.org, The Sinti and Roma are two ethnic groups that have resided in Germany as far as 700 to 600 years ago, and were traditionally nomadic and are also sometimes referred to as “Gypsies”. The term Sinti refers to group(s) who live in Germany or in neighboring areas, and the word Roma from folks originating from the south and east of Europe. At first, the Nazis paid little attention to these groups, but new racial laws allowed local governments to persecute them. Like other victim groups, members were subject to deportation and ultimately extermination. While the true number will never be known, approximately half a million Sinti and Roma people were murdered or otherwise perished during the Holocaust. According to dw.com, while there are still community struggles today, many Sinti people have strong family structures and are renowned for their musical talent.
Visiting this memorial was an important reminder for me to consider all the groups that were impacted by the actions of Nazis beyond Jews. It is easy, on a trip with Jews, about primarily Jews, to just focus on our own individual group. Yet we must consider other victim groups as well. And just like it sometimes bothers me when I hear generalizations about the plight of Jews, I hope I can learn more about the vibrancy and spirit of resistance within other victimized groups and not just their predicament under Nazi rule.
I will most remember the discordant sounds at this memorial, how each note sounded like the start of a song that would never end. My interpretation is that they represent the unfinished lives and stories of all of those Sinti and Roma who were killed. I hope I can hear more of their lives and stories to honor their memory for the future, as well as elevating communities today.