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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Memorial to the Sinti and Roma: Unity vs. Oppression

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

A memorial pays tribute to the memory of the Sinti and Roma victims.

The Memorial to the Persecuted Sinti and Roma provides a serene and harmonious place of remembrance. The ensemble recalls the persecutions during the era of Hitler's Germany. Join me on a guided tour of the memorials in the city centre!

The Memorial Is Worth a Visit

In 2012, Germany continued to atone for the crimes of National Socialism, inaugurating a memorial complex near the Parliament building following the memorials for the victims of the Shoah and anti-gay persecution. This memorial is dedicated to the Sinti and Roma populations, who were also marginalized by Hitler's regime. Because of their origins, many Germans were deprived of their citizenship rights, interned, deported to the East, and killed. Some were subjected to dubious pseudo-medical practices in the name of racial anthropology. The survivors, if there were any, remained victims nonetheless.

To counter the unbearable competition of memories, each community, whether it acknowledges it or not, has the right to a space exclusively dedicated to it. Yet the Sinti and Roma communities did not wait for a national memorial to honour their own. Since the 1990s, they have been gathering on the site of the former internment camp, located in the eastern part of the capital in the Marzahn district, which is now a place of remembrance and information. The presence of a national memorial now helps to combat denial and ignorance.

An Aesthetic Success

The particularity of the Memorial lies in the fact that it contrasts with the various complexes that were previously erected. The visitor leaves the public space and enters a place of remembrance, thus leaving his or her interpretation aside. The ensemble boasts a chronological contribution in English and German and a remarkable aesthetic that creates a haven of peace and contemplation in the geographical centre.

The harmony is built around a huge circular pool, which is therefore harmonious, in the middle of which a black triangle with a freshly cut flower on it emerges from the water. Around the basin, a ground broken up and sheared into a multitude of more or less large slabs indicates the names of the places of deportation and extermination of the Sinti and Roma populations of Europe. Sometimes, the suspension of a musical note completes the visual, creating a palpable tension and solemnity.

An Ensemble That Complements Previous Achievements

The Roma and Sinti Memorial exudes an appealing sense of tranquillity. Departing from the public roadway, the visitor enters a space suitable for meditation. The fact that entry is free and unrestricted highlights a desire to democratize the national narrative by not obscuring any facet, no matter how dark it may be.

The ensemble is harmonious, but it is also quite conventional. The artistic forms are aesthetically successful, but in the end, they render the Memorial rather typical. This does not mean, of course, that it is poor or unnecessary. It simply indicates that this memorial might struggle to distinguish itself from existing memorial representations in the Western world. However, considering the memorials sponsored by the Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Jews, disabled individuals, homosexuals), it forms part of an overall dynamic and remains absolutely complementary.

Reasons to Visit

  • Remarkable aesthetics, conducive to reflection and meditation

  • Commendable attention to proximity and accessibility

Reasons to Skip

  • Chronological contribution poorly integrated for the English version

  • Rather conventional form


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