Biographical narration on discrimination and genocide of Roma and Sinti

By Constanze Jaiser

Giving memory a future

The website Giving Memory a Future: The Holocaust and the rights of Roma in contemporary Europe was produced in 2012 with support from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It was developed in English and Italian by the USC Shoah Foundation and the Centro di Ricerca sulle Relazioni Interculturali in Milan.

The multimedia platform has three headings on different subjects:

  • History and Memory

  • About the Sinti and Roma

  • Today …Ongoing Issues

What is outstanding throughout is the variety of multilingual interviews with members of this minority group. The sequences have English subtitles and can be shared and even downloaded via Facebook, Linkedln, Twitter and Wordpress. Biographical information on the interviewees can also be downloaded. This is all accompanied by chronological information, historical documents and an image gallery, as well as suggestions for further reading.

The unmistakable advantage of this website is the variety of European voices that can be heard. The disadvantage, one that has been hotly debated for years by scientists, is that the continuity of an interview, the choreography of a narration, is lost where the excerpts are very short.

Many key themes are addressed, among them Roma and Sinti life at the beginning of the 20th century, the antiziganistic measures of the National Socialists, deportation and mass shootings, life in the concentration camps and the culture of denial of the genocide by the majority society. The Roma and Sinti origins, their self-image, their culture, language and music are also dealt with. Finally, contemporary issues are addressed under the heading of "Today…Ongoing Issues." They include the human right to work, education and health, and European measures taken to promote social integration and protect minorities in Europe. In each case the situation in Italy is covered in greater depth.

The site is easy to navigate and one can imagine using it when working in tandems at international youth meetings.

The fate of European Roma und Sinti during the Holocaust

This portal is in English, German and French and provides historical information about the Roma and Sinti for teachers and students
The responsible author is Dr Gerhard Baumgartner, the renowned scientific director of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance (DCAR), who compiled this documentation with a team of international experts. It receives support from the Austrian Bundesministerium für Bildung und Frauen, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Paris and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

The material comprises five chapters, which are ready for use as worksheets and research tools for historical-political education work:

  • The situation of European Roma and Sinti at the beginning of the 20th century

  • The fundamental elements of the persecution and exclusion of Roma and Sinti          long before the National Socialists came to power

  • The radicalization and systematic persecution by the National Socialists

  • The most important examples of targeted genocide carried out by the National          Socialists and those fascist organizations associated with them

  • The situation of the survivors of the genocide, their fight for recognition and                financial compensation, and the culture of remembrance.

To supplement the eyewitness reports, details on background literature (catalogued by country) and glossary, information is given about the 35 locations where Roma and Sinti were murdered.
The teaching manual adds to the available educational material with suggestions for individual work (using the website, photos and biographies) and tips on working methods. A German discussion of the website, written by our colleague Birgit Marzinka, can be found in the Archive "Lernen aus der Geschichte."

Six biographies of Sinti and Roma

The exhibition, which has been online in English since 2012 with subtitles in German, Dutch, Czech or Polish, narrates the stories of six children: Zoni Weisz, Kristina Gil, Elina Machálkova, Settela Steinbach, Amalie Schaich Reinhardt and Karl Stojka. The choice of languages corresponds with the background of these Roma and Sinti children (Holland, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria).

The story is partly narrated, additional material such as photos and documents is available and a glossary provides explanations on the text.
The online exhibition was developed by various partner organizations working with the history of World War II. Once again, the sponsor was the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future."


The site is quite appealing. The black background and melancholy music are a matter of taste. But the flash programming could quickly become problematic for many browsers, and above all is not suited to all monitor formats. On the whole, the focus on just a few impressive stories works well – and with such elegant navigation and clear design, there is no rush to leave the site. The site can certainly be recommended as a good introduction to the subject, reaching the user at the emotional and cognitive levels.


Add comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.