Around 26,000 Sinti and Roma lived in Germany before the war. Most of them were German citizens. Pursuant to legal acts that began to be adopted, beginning with the Nuremberg Laws in 1935, the Nazi State announced that Sinti and Roma were “an alien non-European race” that should be prosecuted and exterminated. From 1935, Sinti and Roma were forbidded to marry a partner from the “Aryan majority”. In 1937, Gypsies were recognised as “antisocial” and unproductive, which resulted in the need for social rehabilitation in labour camps. The criteria which gave the authorities the tools to select individuals to be imprisoned were prepared in 1938 by the “Central Office for Combating Gypsy Threat in the Reich” (Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung des Zigeunerunwesens) and the Centre for Racial Hygiene Research (see also Robert Ritter, Eva Justin). As part of the so-called Himmler – Thirack Agreement of September 17, 1942, the Reichsführer and the German Minister of Justice at that time specified the acts (or desisting from acts) that were the reason (or excuse) for the deportation of the “unwanted element” from among Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Ukrainians, etc. On December 16, 1942, Himmler ordered the deportation of Roma and Sinti to the place of their extermination, KL Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Due to earlier legal regulations, a list of Gypsies was prepared in Wiesbaden as early as 1940. On March 8, 1943, a transport of approx. 116 Roma and Sinti to Auschwitz set off. Over half of them were murdered there.
The decision to build the memorial was made on May 21, 1992, and was surrounded by atmosphere of sharp conflicts. According to a survey of the national public opinion bureau, conducted in 1993, one out of every three Germans was of the opinion that Roma and Sinti should not be allowed to stay in Germany. In fact, the persecution of the Roma and Sinti did not end with the war, the criminal police still used some materials of Nazi origin – to catch gypsy criminals, as did some of the scientists who continued their hereditary biological research. The last issue that was the reason for a heated debate, remembered both by the Gypsies and Germans was a question of compensation for persecution and for forced work during the war. Although Jews and representatives of other nations were entitled to such compensations, Gypsies were excluded from being able to apply as they were treated as criminal prisoners only, not inmates detained due to racial reasons. It was only the actions of Roma leaders, strikes, media campaigns, and finally – the growing knowledge about the “forgotten Roma Genocide” which allowed them to gain the equal rights even in this regard (See also: KL Dachau, KL Bergen-Belsen, Rudko Kawczyński, Hermann Herzberg, Romani Rose).
Description of commemoration
The memorial consists of four blocks of pink sandstone. One of them, a sandstone cube cut at an angle for easier reading, was placed on the right, slightly behind the main part of the monument – parallel to the pavement. The other three blocks make up the main memorial which resembles a ramp, the sides of which are decorated with bas-reliefs, symbolising men, women and children, who set off from this location to the train station, from where they were sent to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. The left side is higher (2 metres high), whereas the part of the memorial on the right goes down to 80 cm, which is supposed to symbolise the fact that the number of European Roma and Sinti has decreased, and that the fate of their community was sealed – they were sentenced to death. The memorial (ramp) is 1.40 m wide and its length is 4 m.
The ramp also gives the onlooker the impression of a heavy stone slab which the Roma and Sinti presented in bas-reliefs on both sides of the monument are trying to lift. However, the slab turns out to be too heavy for them and begins to crush them.
The memorial site was designed and made by stonemasons Eugen and Joseph Reinhardt from Sinti Werkstatt Albersweiler – a stone workshop belonging to the Reinhardt family, Sinti stonemasons from Albersweiler.
Am 8. März 1943 wurden mehr als hundert Wiesbadener Sinti und Roma verhaftet und an dieser Stelle vorbei zum Bahnhof verbracht. Von dort wurden sie nach Auschwitz-Birkenau deportiert. Nur etwa die Hälfte von ihnen überlebte das Vernichtungslager und kehrte nach 1945 in die Heimatstadt zurück. Mehrere Hunderttausend europäische Sinti und Roma wurden Opfer des nationalsozialistischen Völkermordes.
On March 8, 1943, over a hundred Roma and Sinti from Wiesbaden were arrested and gathered there. From here they were taken to the train station and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only about half of them survived the camp and returned to their hometown after 1945. Several hundred thousand European Roma and Sinti became victims of National Socialism.
Date of the unveiling
December 5, 1992
Eugen Reinhardt, Joseph Reinhardt
The Department of Culture of the City of Wiesbaden and the Association of the German Sinti and Roma Landesverband Hessen e.V.
Bahnhofstraße (across the street from No. 63; at Geschwister-Stock-Platz), 65185 Wiesbaden, Germany
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Puvogel, Ulrike/Stankowski, Martin: Gedenkstätten für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus. Eine Dokumentation, 2., überarb. und erw. Auflg., Band I, Bonn 1995, S. 365.