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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Memorial to the Sinti and Roma: Unity in the face of oppression

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

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

The Memorial to the Persecuted Sinti and Roma offers a restful and harmonious place of remembrance. The ensemble evokes the persecutions during the time of Hitler's Germany. Join me on a guided tour of the memorials in the city centre!

The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma deserves your attention.

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

To combat the unspeakable competition of memories, each community, whether it claims 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 gathered on the site of the former internment camp, located in the east of the capital in the district of Marzahn, which is now a place of memory and information. However, the presence of a national memorial now helps to fight against 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 gives a delightful impression of tranquillity. Leaving the public highway, the visitor enters a place suitable for meditation. The fact that entry is free and without constraint underlines a desire to democratise the national narrative by not obscuring any facet, however obscure it may be.

The whole is harmonious, but it is also very conventional. The artistic forms are aesthetically very successful, but in the end they make the Memorial rather conventional. This does not mean, of course, that it is bad or that it was not needed. It is just that this memorial perhaps struggles to stand out from existing memorial representations in the Western world. On the other hand, in view of the memorials sponsored by the Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Jews, handicapped people, homosexuals), it is part of an overall dynamic and remains absolutely complementary.

Reasons to go

  • A remarkable aesthetic, conducive to reflection and meditation

  • A commendable concern for proximity and accessibility

Reasons to avoid

  • A chronological contribution poorly integrated for the part in English

  • A rather conventional form

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