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Research on the Fate of Austrian Sinti and Roma

Professor Rudolf Sarközi and Gerhard Baumgartner of the Cultural Association of Austrian Roma visited the International Tracing Service in mid-May and viewed documents on the fate of Austrian Sinti and Roma. “We wanted an overview of the specific information we could find here,” said both representatives.

The cultural association has been working on an ambitious project to create a complete database of victims´ names for a number of years. “There were approximately 12,000 Sinti and Roma, 9000 of whom were from the Burgenland. Barely 10 percent survived Nazi persecution,” reported Sarközi, who leads the association´s documentation and information center in Vienna. The center´s permanent collection documents the start of Roma migration to Europe and what is today Austria, and discrimination and persecution of the group focusing on the Nazi era until a new beginning after 1945.

The persecution of Sinti and Roma began immediately after the Austrian “Anschluss” (union) with Germany in March 1938. Thousands of Austrian Gypsies were deported to forced labor camps and concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Ravensbrück as “asocial” and/or “racially inferior”. The Osttransporte (Eastern Transport) began in late 1941/early 1942 and included a first large extermination action in the Polish Lodz Ghetto. “Roughly 5000 Austrian Sinti and Roma were murdered,” said the historian Baumgartner. A further 2000-3000 were killed at the concentration camp Auschwitz.

Both researchers pored over concentration camp documents at the ITS.  “We have only found unidentified death records from Natzweiler and documents on Lackenbach Gypsy Camp,” said Sarközi, who himself was born in Lackenbach in 1944. “It is important to us that the archive is now open for research.  It is definitely not a rough diamond but it rounds out our knowledge. We didn´t want to miss the opportunity to come here.