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Uprooted in their own country

They had lost their families and all their possessions, yet they still felt as Germans, even after 1945: The new volume of “Findings” a series of publications from the International Tracing Service (ITS), documents the futile efforts of German Sinti and Roma to find recognition as victims of Nazi persecution.

“The very fact that the survivors returned to Germany testifies to their close attachment to the country where they had been living for generations.” With this background in mind the rejection was so difficult to bear for the survivors of the concentration camps, explained Dr. Silvio Peritore, Deputy Head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma on the occasion of the book launch presentation “Entwurzelt im eigenen Land: Deutsche Sinti und Roma nach 1945“ (Uprooted in Their Own Country: German Sinti und Roma after 1945) that took place on June 30th 2015 at the Documentation and Culture Centre of German Sinti und Roma in Heidelberg. With the second booklet from the series “Findings”, the ITS draws attention to the fact that, in many ways, the prejudices and use of pejorative terms by the National Socialists for Sinti und Roma were simply continued by authorities and institutions. For decades they were denied recognition and compensation, as well as any public interest in their fate. The book resumes the subject of the first booklet about survivors of the »Zigeunerlagers« (gypsy camp) in Lackenbach that the ITS published in 2014. The series “Findings” aims to draw attention both to lesser-known documents in the archives of the ITS in Bad Arolsen as well as to important research topics.

Critical towards its own history

Dr. Susanne Urban, co- editor of the “Findings” and Head of the Research and Education Branch, pointed out at the book presentation that it’s not seldom that documents in the ITS Archives show the prejudiced structures of its own institution: “Gypsy cases have always caused us great difficulties”, it says in a letter from the ITS to the Entschädigungskammer des Landgericht München 1 (Reparations Chamber of the Regional Court Munich 1) from September 1968. In the same letter, because of difficulties arising from different spellings, the following suggestion was made: “For your security we recommend demanding a notary certification of the prisoner No. Z-10 551 tattooed on the left forearm of the petitioner.”

The co-publisher and author Dr. Markus Roth from the post of Holocaust Literature at Justus Liebig University Gießen, addressed in his article the questions of identity and nationality. “The gaping chasm between being certain of one’s own identity and being rejected and denied by the authorities and mainstream society drove many of the survivors to sheer despair.” Sinti and Roma from East Prussia were especially affected by this, as they had no possibilities at all after the liberation from the concentration camps to obtain documents on their past life from the Soviet and/or Polish administrations.

The goal of the second book in the “Findings” series is to increase public awareness about the marginalized victim group of the Sinti and Roma. “Prejudices impact not only those people directly affected, but they also always erode the values and humanism of a country,” Dr. Susanne Urban emphasized. This aspect is also important to Dr. Silvio Pertitore: “By providing the crucial impulses in the 1980’s for an historical reappraisal of the genocide on the Sinti and Roma, the Sinti and Roma activists made a vital public contribution to the inner liberation of the Federal Republic of Germany from the inherited burden of National Socialism and towards strengthening its civilian foundations.”

The book is now available:

Fundstücke: Entwurzelt im eigenen Land: Deutsche Sinti und Roma nach 1945“
Edited by Susanne Urban, Silvio Peritore, Frank Reuter, Sascha Feuchert and Markus Roth
Series: Findings (Ed. by Susanne Urban, commissioned by the International Tracing Service, Bad Arolsen); Vol. 2
ISBN: 978-3-8353-1656-0 (2015)
€ 9.90 incl. sales tax plus shipping
Book orders via Wallstein Publishers, Göttingen