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Rudolf Sarközi: Child from Lackenbach

Picture shows: Rudolf Sarközi at his visit to the ITS in 2009.
Rudolf Sarközi at his visit to the ITS in 2009.

On the death of the co-founder of the Association of Austrian Roma

“I am one of the few Lackenbach children, who are still alive”, wrote Prof. Rudolf Sarközi in his preface for the first volume of the publication series “Findings 1 – Voices of survivors from the Lackenbach »Gypsy Camp«” of the International Tracing Service (ITS). As Chairman of the “Cultural Association of the Austrian Roma” and Head of the “Ethnic Group Council for Roma” he had been untiring in his work of representing the interests of these groups, which had long been ostracized. He died in mid-March at the age of 71.

Rudolf Sarközi was born on 11 November 1944 in the Lackenbach “gypsy camp”. The camp was under the control of the Criminal Police Force in Vienna and was the largest assembly camp for Roma and Sinti in Austria between 1940 and 1945. It wasn’t until 43 years after the war had ended that the Lackenbach “gypsy camp”, where hundreds of Roma and Sinti had suffered and died from abuse, forced labor, hunger, and illness, was officially equated with a concentration camp.

When the Red Army liberated the camp in April 1945, there were 300 to 400 people still living in the camp, among them Sarközi and his parents. He described what happened then: “After the liberation it took weeks of walking to return to our home communities. The few ‘home-comers’, who escaped death, made it home only to find their apartments and houses were gone. Slowly, hesitantly, we started to rebuild our existence under extremely difficult living conditions. We Lackenbach prisoners had to wait a long time for compensation payments.”

In May 2009 Rudolf Sarközi had paid a visit to the ITS in Bad Arolsen with his colleague Gerhard Baumgartner: “It is important for us that this archive has now been opened to research. Naturally the Archive is not a “diamond in the rough”, but it rounds out our knowledge. We didn’t want to miss the chance to have been here.” From 2003 until 2009, the Cultural Association was committed to the large-scale project of preparing, as much as possible, a comprehensive data bank of the names of victims.

The ITS has tremendous respect for the life’s work of Rudolf Sarközi.