Monday, August 18, 2014

Photos from Auschwitz

At the commemoration ceremony on August the 2nd, everyone was given a rose to place inside the gypsy camp. I laid mine in the middle of a barrack at the back of the camp.

This is the entrance to the Zigeunerlager (gypsy camp). The Nazis destroyed the barracks when they abandoned the camp in early 1945; however, you can still see the foundations of the barracks as well as a few chimneys. 

The procession into the Zigeunerlager - Some people are holding the Romani flag which was adopted as the official flag of the Roma at the First World Romani Congress in 1971.

Not only did the commemoration attract Roma from all over Europe, but also foreign dignitaries, the media, and civil rights activists. The man at the podium read a letter from Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel. Also, at the ceremony some participants wore t-shirts with the phrase "Dik I Na Bistar" on the back. "Dik I Na Bistar" is Romani for "Look and don't forget."

Six survivors of the Roma Genocide joined the conference on the last day. Each had his or her own unique (and in many cases, harrowing) experience. Though, the woman sitting on the far left has the most unusual story in my opinion:

Else Baker (nee Schmidt) is only part-Roma. As a girl, she was adopted by an "Aryan" family in Hamburg. The Nazis attempted to deport her to Auschwitz twice between 1943 and '44. The first time, Else's adopted father intervened and prevented the deportation. The second time, the Nazis took her while she was at school. By the time her adoptive parents had realized what had happened, it was too late; Elsa was already in a train heading toward Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was eight years old. Because Else didn't have any guardian in the camp, she came under the care of an older Roma woman.

While Else suffered in the Auschwitz, her adoptive father was frantically trying to get her back. He began writing to top Nazi officials to persuade them to release her from the camp. He even wrote to Hitler (which was unthinkable at the time). But his tenacity paid off, and eventually Else received an authorization to return to Germany. 

One week after her return, Else was forced to re-enroll in school. She had to cover the tattoo she received in Auschwitz-Birkenau with a bandage for fear that fellow student might tease her.


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