Education on the Roma Holocaust, Resistance and Remembrance
During 16-22 March 25 participants from 17 countries gathered at the Haus am Maiberg in Heppenheim, Germany, with aim to participate the training-course on Education on the Roma Holocaust, Resistance and Remembrance. Representatives of Terraforming took part in the training together with colleagues from Radio La Benevolancija HTF as a part of preparation for the project “The Porajmos/Samudaripen and the Roma Identity”, that we are preparing together with Radio Patrin and other partners.
It was a great, inspiring and diverse group of participants, consisting of people with different backgrounds, age and experience: historians, educators, activists, and others interested in the topic.
The program combined more theoretical presentations and lectures with following discussions, with visits to the places of commemoration and memorialization, museums, presentations of different educational methodologies and concepts, meetings with survivors and civil-rights activists, and lots of sharing of practical experiences, current projects, and discussions among the participants.
The training offered a great opportunity for meeting and exchange with old and new friends and colleagues
Remembrance and Education
The training course aimed to build the capacity of Roma and non-Roma educators and youth leaders, as well as their youth organizations in their work onremembrance, Holocaust and human rights education in order to challenge stereotypes, anti-Gypsyism and racism. Special attention was given to the theme of Romani Resistance during World War II, as well as the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust itself from a Roma perspectivethrough oral history and testimonies of survivors.
The Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative is an initiative of ternYpe International Roma Youth Network;
The conference in Heidelberg/Heppenheim was coordinated by ternYpe, Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, Tom Lantos Institute, Nevo Parudimos and Haus am Maiberg.
This initiative was supported by the Europe for Citizens program, The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, The German Ministry of Youth and Family affairs (BMFSFJ) within its program “Live Democracy – Active against right-wing extremism, violence and group-focused enmity”, The Stiftung Erinnerung Verantwortung Zukunft (EVZ).
The Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative 2014-2016
The training course took place in the wider context of the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative of ternYpe International Roma Youth Network in broad cooperation with civil society organisations. The Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative aims at building mutual trust, co-operation and solidarity among Roma and non-Roma youth, through analysis and interpretation of history as a tool, in order to evaluate and respond to contemporary societal challenges.
Roma and Resistance during the Holocaust and in its aftermath – Research, Education, Remembrance
Roma and Resistance during the Holocaust and in its aftermath – Research, Education, Remembrance is a two year project initiated by the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI) in partnership with ternYpe and La voix des Rroms which seeks to generate knowledge in order to contribute to a deeper and a more nuanced, in-depth understanding of the Roma genocide and the Roma resistance during the Holocaust; raise awareness on this topic, making it more visible in the public sphere; support Roma researchers and young Roma in collecting and analyzing testimonies; and advocate for the effective participation of Roma in official Holocaust commemorations throughout the public policy cycle.
The training was organized by:
Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma
With the support of the city of Heidelberg, the Centre was founded in the historic quarter of Heidelberg at the beginning of the 1990s. Together with the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, it forms the central institution of the minority in Germany. After several years of planning and engagement with relevant stakeholders a complex with the first permanent exhibition on the Holocaust of the Sinti and Roma in the world was ceremonially opened to the public on 16th March 1997. More info on their website.
Tom Lantos Institute
The Tom Lantos Institute (TLI) is an independent human and minority rights organization with a particular focus on Jewish, Roma and Hungarian communities and other ethnic or national, linguistic and religious minorities. It is a Budapest-based organization with a multi-party board, an International Executive Committee and Advisory Board. As a research and education platform, TLI aims to bridge the gaps between research and policy, norms and practice.
ternYpe International Roma Youth Network
ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network was founded in January 2010 and unites different Roma youth organizations from Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Slovakia, Spain and Poland. The mission of the network is to create space for young people to become active citizens through empowerment, mobilization, self-organization and participation. Believing in a common effort by creating trust, and mutual respect between Roma and non-Roma youth.
Aims and objectives of the international training course:
- Raise the awareness of Roma and non-Roma educators regarding the remembrance of the Roma Holocaust; Introduce the importance of remembrance and the role it can play in building a positive identity;
- Strengthen and develop the skills of the educators in remembrance, Holocaust and human rights education to apply non-formal educational tools and methods in their work with young people;
- Raise awareness on the Romani resistance during World War II and familiarizing young Roma with the concepts of resistance;
- Train Roma youth on analyzing existing testimonies – how to extract data about different forms of Roma resistance from already recorded interviews; Train Roma youth on conducting interviews with survivors, witnesses and their descendants; Engage them in collecting testimonies and analyzing existing ones in the next phase of the project “Roma and Resistance during the Holocaust and in its aftermath – Research, Education, Remembrance”; provide training on educational uses of oral history and testimonies of survivors;
- Develop educational initiatives for Roma youth groups to visit Auschwitz and other concentration camps and memorial sites;
- Exchange best practices, strategies and educational methods and tools for learning about the Holocaust and remembrance of the Roma genocide;
- Strengthen the partnership with and between organizations by developing educational activities in 2016-2017.
Lectures and presentations by experts
During the course of the programme, we had opportunity to hear interesting lectures and presentations, and to discuss with several experts. Among others, there were:
- Romani Rose (Head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma)
The experiences of German Sinti and Roma during the Holocaust and the long struggle for recognition and the civil rights in the decades after the war;
- Thomas Altmeyer (German Resistance Research Centre)
The Concept of Resistance;
- Paweł Sawicki (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum)
Educational approach of the Auschwitz Museum;
- Emran Elmazi (The Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, Heidelberg)
Educational methods, approaches and the concept of the Permanent Exhibition at the Museum in Heidelberg;
- Timea Junghaus (Tom Lantos Institute, Budapest)
Research on Romani Resistance;
- Andrej Umansky (Yahad in Unum)
Collecting testimonies of Roma survivors (video conference);
- Benedikt Widmaier (Haus am Maiberg, Heppenheim)
Current practices in civic and political education in Germany;
Visits to the museum in Heilderberg, a memorial site in Neckarelz, and meeting with survivors
The Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma in Heilderberg
The Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma in Heilderberg has an, in their words “very old” exhibition, but in our opinion it still works very well. It focus on the National Socialist genocide against the Sinti and Roma in Germany and around Europe, debunking the National Socialist racial ideology, and showing the historical events before, during and after the war, while consistently presenting the perspectives of the victims and the perpetrators in two separate layers in a subtle but clear way. It is a comprehensive exposition that present most of the important elements of the genocide against the Sinti and Roma: racial ideology, discrimination, isolation, passive bystanders, Nazi terror, extermination camps, medical experiments, but in the same time always emphasizing personal stories of individuals and families, obtaining dignity of the victims, including the stories of resistance and surviving. We also learned about workshop methodologies used in work with young visitors.
Neckarelz Concentration Camp Memorial Museum
Neckarelz Concentration Camp Memorial Museum is a memorial site and a museum built at the place of the subcamp of Natzweiler Struthof concentration camp in Neckarelz, with the prisoners barracked in the local school. The Neckarelz Memorial is a result of a local civil society initiative and a hard work of local volunteers. We saw an interesting exhibition that focus on the forced labour and the German (military) industry. In our opinion, we find the exposition focusing less on the victims and perpetrators, and more on the perspective of the local population. Also, we visited nearby sites, a couple of kilometers away from the former camp, where the activists of the Museum sat up signs and short texts about these events. It was a very interesting and educating visit, and we are very grateful to the very kind Neckarelz Museum volunteers who guided us around the sites.
Meeting with survivors
The participants had a unique opportunity to meet survivors of the genocide against the Sinti and Roma. Divided in smaller groups, we could hear their life stories and ask questions about their thoughts around the role of the Holocaust education, Roma and Sinti civil-rights movement in Germany after the war, but also very personal things like how do they feel when telling their stories to young people today etc. It was one of the absolute highlights of the training!
Projects and initiatives presented by the participants
In addition, there were several presentations held by the training participants on current and past projects and initiatives. Among others we heard:
- Karolina Mirga (ternYpe) – International Roma Youth Network and The Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative;
- Anna Daróczi (Tom Lantos Institute, Budapest) – Work of the Tom Lantos Institute and the project “Roma and Resistance during the Holocaust and in its aftermath”;
- Mikhail Tyaglyy (Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies) – The activities and projects of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies;
- Anja Reuss (Historian) – Berlin-Минск – an amazing project about the destiny of the Berlin Jews’ deportation to the ghetto in Minsk;
- Misko Stanisic (Terraforming) and Adriana Costa Souza (Radio La Benevolencija HTF) – “The Porajmos/Samudaripen and the Roma Identity” project;
Meeting with Romani Rose at the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma
Paweł Sawicki, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Emran Elmazi presented educational methods, approaches and the concept of the Permanent Exhibition at the Museum in Heidelberg
Neckarelz Concentration Camp Memorial Museum
Meeting with Adolf Heilig a Sinti survivor (photo by Jonathan Mack)
Meeting and exchange
But as important as the programme itself, the training offered a great opportunity for meeting and exchange with old and new friends and colleagues, with lots of fruitful feedback, thoughts and ideas. Thanks to the warm and inviting facilities of the Haus am Maiberg, the participants could spend time after the official hours in relaxed atmosphere, bonding and getting to know each other better.
We even had a chance to enjoy the entertainment provided by one of the participants – Belgian circus artists and Roma-rights activist Hans Vanwynsberghe who performed acrobatic routines and prepared a very entertaining and educative Roma-history quiz game that we enjoyed tremendously! Enjoy more fantastic performances of his musical circus act on the “Company Balltazar” website.
No doubt, this event will be a starting point for several new initiatives, cooperation and projects.
We would like to express our gratitude to all the participants of the training for their enthusiasm, energy and support.
Special thanks to the organizers – we deeply appreciate your work and respect your enormous passion and dedication:
Karolina Mirga, Anna Daróczi, Jonathan Mack and Emran Elmazi – thank you!
Relaxing After a Hard Day’s Work (photo by Sherrie Smith)
Hans Vanwynsberghe performs his acrobatic routine