Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Going to Poland!

Sorry I have been M.I.A. this past week, everyone. The Center has been preparing for its annual Gedenkreise ("remembrance trip") to Krakow and Auschwitz, and things have been a little hectic.

This evening we are finally departing for Poland! We are travelling by bus for several hours, so I'm certain my initial excitement will dissipate around hour four of sitting in the crowded vehicle... Haha. (But the anticipation is likely to come back in a rush when we pull into the hotel parking lot in Krakow.)

Our trip to Krakow is part of the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative conference, which occurs annually at the end of July and beginning of August. This time of year is very important for the Roma because it marks the anniversary of the liquidation of the "Gypsy camp" in Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 2nd and 3rd, 1944, an event that resulted in the murders of some three thousand Roma men, women, and children. (In total, the Nazis killed 21,000 of the estimated 23,000 Roma prisoners in Auschwitz.)

On August 2nd, I will be traveling from Krakow to Auschwitz to commerorate the liquiation of the Gypsy camp and the victims of National Socialism. The day's activities will include a tour of the camp's grounds, a reading of the victims' names, a series of speeches from Roma leaders and official state dignitaries, and finally a requiem at Krakow Philharmonic.

It will surely be an experience I will never forget.

In addition to the commemoration ceremony, the Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative conference will also host a series of workshops on Roma Holocaust history and contemporary rights' advocacy. Because I can speak English (the lingua franca of the conference), I will be helping with at least one of these workshops. I'm really looking forward to these small group discussions because they will give me an opportunity to chat with young Roma about the current situation of the Romani people in Europe. (Of course, it's nice to get a personal perspective on issues that textbooks and newspapers sometimes gloss over.)

I'll try my best to update everyone during my stay in Krakow. If I don't have access to the Internet in Poland, I'll be sure to post pictures when I return to Heidelberg on Monday.

Please take some time on Saturday to remember not only the Roma victims in Auschwitz but also all peoples who were persecuted by the Nazis in the Third Reich and Nazi-occupied areas.

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