Tattoo Z-1557

(courtesy of John Davis)

This is an excerpt of John Davis’s book “Rainy Street Stories”

It tells the story of a survivor he met at Flossenburg, who had survived Auschwitz, Ravensbruch, and finally Flosssenburg

“Z-1557
While vacationing many years ago my wife Jane and I decided to visit Flossenburg, West Germany. This charming little town is nestled in among rolling hills, fresh brooks, and quaint farmhouses. In the late 1930s, though, the Nazis chose Flossenburg as the site of a concentration camp. It was for that reason we drove along a particularly pleasant road in search of this place.

The German town is, from all outward appearances, wholesome, sturdy and solid. It was difficult to find the old camp. We finally asked a pedestrian where the former concentration camp was and he indicated it was up a hill on the way out of town. We drove there and parked in a shaded lot. A guided path led us along memorials to the thousands of Europeans murdered there. Indeed, the actual incinerator was still in place. The strange feelings that overcame us were difficult to get a handle on.

The symbolic crosses and memorial tablets were fitting. Fitting is the appropriate word. Not moving. Not horrifying. A few flowers, recently placed, were what moved us. They were, in this park-like setting, perhaps the only scene that associated the place with the dread and terror of those many years ago. Real people, just like us, were rounded up, beaten, whipped, hung, shot and hacked to death there. Yet there was no sense conveyed that any of that had happened. Except, of course, from the anonymous people who placed the flowers. They had lost someone, and still felt the loss.

One of the last stops at the concentration camp is a re-created barracks building. Inside is a museum. Scenes in black and white somehow make it all seem distant and unreal. We stopped at a marker dedicated to famous inmates killed there – Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer. And then we turned to go.
As we arrived at the parking lot, we were approached by two strangers. They’d been in the museum at the same time we were. He asked me what I thought of the memorial. He thought we were English, and were surprised to discover we were Americans. I told him I really had gotten no sense of the dread reality of events at this place.

“No,” he said in German. “It is like a park. We were recently in Auschwitz. I can tell you that as a retired engineer, with one company of engineering soldiers I could have Auschwitz fully operational in 30 days.”Yet at Flossenburg, I said, there didn’t seem to be any sense of what it had really been like.

“Nor for us,” he said. “My wife could not even recognize the place when we drove in. You see, she was an inmate here.”

It was then that I noticed the woman. She was dark, small, and very thin. She wore long sleeves on a hot August day. I asked how she came to be put there. “Racial hatred,” she said. “I was a Roma, a gypsy, living in Danzig. In 1941 my entire village was rounded up. We were put into cargo trains and brought to Auschwitz, where they kept us crammed like animals in barracks for five months.”

She pulled up her sleeve, revealing the tattoo – Z-1557. Z for zigeunerin, or Roma, a gypsy. “Then, one day, they had a formation to select women who could work,” she continued. “I was chosen and sent at 3 o’clock by train to Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp for women. I only learned this week, due to the remarkable records the Nazis kept, that my family together with all the other Romani then held in Auschwitz were massacred four hours later that very evening.”

My wife and I were stunned. We’d never met an actual inmate of such a place. We didn’t know what to say. She finished her story. “After being held in Ravensbrueck, I was sent to Buchenwald, and after that to this place.”

“Did you see the photographs inside?” her husband asked. “Did you see the one where the commandant and guards of Flossenburg were being tried?”

I recalled a photograph that showed about 50 German prisoners being tried by an American tribunal. “Did you see the look on the Germans’ faces?” He inquired. “They looked like bored opera viewers. Their faces said, ‘So what are you going to do to me?’ Only a dozen or so of those tried received the death penalty. Three times that number were free men within eight years. They really did escape from justice. I think that the whole lot of them should have been finished off,” he said.

“We’ve just visited all the places where my wife was once held. She could not bring herself to go into Auschwitz,” he said.

That camp, in Poland, and some others – Buchenwald, in what was East Germany, for another – seem more as they might have been when in use. Not Flossenburg. “This place is a park,” he continued. “Who can even tell that there was a camp here? I think that here in the West the memory of such a place will go away in another generation.”

The tears his wife cried that day were for the murdered who were still part of her life after all these years. Can we imagine ourselves there? Can we imagine our own families in such a place?

Such places as Flossenburg were huge operations during the war. They were immense and readily visible from afar. Whether those who were alive back then knew, is a question for the past. Whether those of us alive today remember and do all in our power to stop such things from ever happening again, anywhere, is a question that we must answer for.

It has been said that to do good and avoid evil is not enough. We have to do good and undo evil. Why did we meet these strangers in a parking lot in Flossenburg?
I think the sensation I had at Flossenburg was an awareness of evil. That evil was smug, and evil was present. It was smug because it was waiting. Waiting for us to forget in the park that is Flossenburg”

source

The Persecution of the Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands

The biggest group of Holocaust victims were the Jews, an estimated six million were murdered between 1933 and 1945.

The second biggest group were the Gipsies (Roma and Sinti).

During World War II, it is estimated that more than 500,000 Sinti and Roma from all over Europe were murdered by the Nazis in what has come to be known as the Porajmos. Before the Second World War, approximately 4,500 Sinti and Roma lived in the Netherlands. From July 1943 Sinti and Roma were no longer allowed to travel in the Netherlands. On 16 May 1944, raids took place: 578 Sinti, Roma and were arrested by mainly Dutch police officers and taken to Camp Westerbork.

Three days later, on 19 May 1944, 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most had yet to turn 18. Only 31 of them would survive the war.

But as with the Jewish population, the persecution of the Roma and Sinti was gradual.

In addition to the compulsory registration of Jews in 1941, all Roma and Sinti were required to be registered. On 29 March 1943, the situation for the Roma and Sinti changes completely. The head of the SS and German police in the Netherlands, Hans Alvin Reuter, wanted to put an end to ‘nomadic life’ in the Netherlands. About 335 Roma and Sinti horses are confiscated during roundups. The horses come into the ownership of the Wehrmacht or are sold by the Nazis to farmers.

Sinti and Roma had to live in assembly camps outside cities from 22 June 1943, such as near The Hague or Eindhoven. Ordered by the Nazis, the caravans were pulled together here and the Sinti and Roma concentrated. From that moment on, the Sinti and Roma were forced to live in the assembly camps or in a house.

The travel ban for Sinti and Roma, or the towing ban, was introduced on 1 July 1943. The wheels of the caravans were confiscated or had to be removed.

On 14 May, a telegram arrived at the police presidents in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Arnhem and Groningen. According to the report, “all persons residing in the Netherlands, who possess the characteristic of gipsies, must be immediately be transferred to Camp Westerbork by personnel of the Dutch police”.

The national raid took place on 16 May 1944, carried out by members of the Marechaussee, land guards and the Dutch state police.

From all over the Netherlands, Roma, Sinti and caravan dwellers come by train to the Judendurchgangslager Westerbork. Registration takes place until well into the evening. Of the 578 arrested men, women and children, some are lucky. About 200 Roma and Sinti turn out not to meet the characteristics of a gipsy and are released. Also, 50 Roma and Sinti are allowed to leave the camp, because they are in possession of a neutral passport from Switzerland, Italy or Guatemala.

All property, money, and jewellery were taken under the guise that everything will be returned. Then follows the ‘medical examination,’ ‘delousing,’ and their hair shaved off. About 245 Roma and Sinti, including at least 123 children, were locked up in secluded barracks, destitute, bald and dismayed.

On Friday 19 May 1944 the 96th train transport with overcrowded wagons leaves Westerbork. This outgoing transport, which also includes the Roma and Sinti, was filmed by the Jewish filmmaker Rudolf Breslauer (1903-1945) on behalf of the camp commander Albert Gemmeker (1907-1982) and this recording is known as the ‘Westerbork film’. From this film comes the well-known photo of Settela Steinbach, the girl with the headscarf.

The long train consists of three parts. The front section with Jewish ‘prisoners’ has Bergen-Belsen as its destination, the rest of the train Auschwitz. In the rear carriages, the 245 Sinti and Roma are locked up with one bucket of water and another bucket to relieve themselves.

On 21 May 1944, the train transport arrives in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Dutch Roma and Sinti are registered, tattooed and brought to Lagerabschnitt B II, the Zigeunerlager. It is remarkable that the families in the Zigeunerlager are allowed to stay together. People quickly become aware of the mass murders, because the Zigeunerlager is located next to the crematorium. In the gipsy camp, unimaginable unsanitary conditions prevail and many people died of typhoid fever, diarrhoea or of starvation. Selections take place in the gipsy camp between the end of May and the beginning of July 1944 and many men and women were transferred to other concentration camps.

In connection with the expected arrival of large numbers of Hungarian Jews, all Roma and Sinti who remained behind with their children were taken from the Zigeunerlager on the nights of 2-3 August 1944 and driven into the gas chambers. It is chaotic. The people, including children, understand what awaits them and yell, “murderers” and “traitors” at their German guards. Their dead bodies are burned in the open because the furnaces are out of order.

sources

https://www.brabantserfgoed.nl/page/11339/de-vervolging-van-brabantse-roma-en-sinti-tijdens-de-tweede

http://www.meeroverdeholocaust.nl/woordenlijst/sinti-en-roma

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Porajmos-The Roma Holocaust.

On 15 November 1943, Himmler ordered that Romani and “part-Romanies” were to be put “on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps”.

Between 1933 and 1945, Roma and Sinti in Europe were targets of Nazi persecution. Building on long-held prejudices, the Nazi regime viewed Roma as “a-socials” (outside “normal” society) and as racial “inferiors.” During World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators killed hundreds of thousands of Roma men, women, and children across German-occupied Europe.

Mass killings of Roma reached their pinnacle on July 31–August 2, 1944, when the Germans began the liquidation of the Zigeunerlager (“Gypsy camp”) at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Almost 3,000 Roma were put to death in this single operation.

Under the rule of Nazi Germany, the Roma were persecuted, detained and executed as part of the Holocaust. Roma call the Roma Genocide the Porajmos, which means the ‘Devouring’ in Romani language.

Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harbored social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be “racially inferior.” The fate of Roma in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, German authorities subjected Roma to arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia and thousands more in the killing centers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka. The SS and police incarcerated Roma in the Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, and Ravensbrück concentration camps. Both in the so-called Greater German Reich and in the so-called Generalgouvernement, German civilian authorities managed several forced-labor camps in which they incarcerated Roma.

Under Adolf Hitler, a supplementary decree to the Nuremberg Laws was issued on 26 November 1935, classifying the Roma as “enemies of the race-based state”.

Under the July 1933 sterilisation law, many Roma were sterilised against their will.

August 2nd is assigned Roma Holocaust Memorial day because on the night of 2nd August 1944, the remaining 2,897 Roma women, old men and children from the so called “Zigeunerlager” or “Gypsy” camp were killed in gas chambers. There were no Roma and Sinti survivors from Auschwitz concentration camp.

SS medical researchers assigned to the Auschwitz complex, such as SS Captain Dr. Josef Mengele, received authorization to choose human subjects for pseudoscientific medical experiments from among the prisoners. Mengele chose twins and dwarves, some of them from the Gypsy family camp, as subjects of his experiments. Approximately 3,500 adult and adolescent Roma were prisoners in other German concentration camps; medical researchers selected subjects from among the Roma incarcerated in Ravensbrück, Natzweiler-Struthof, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps for their experiments, either on site in the camps or at nearby institutes.

German military and SS-police units also shot at least 30,000 Roma in the Baltic States and elsewhere in the occupied Soviet Union, where Einsatzgruppen and other mobile killing units killed Roma at the same time that they killed Jews and Communists. In occupied Serbia, the German authorities killed male Roma in shooting operations during 1941 and early 1942. The total number of Roma killed in Serbia will never be known. Estimates range between 1,000 and 12,000.

In France, Vichy French authorities intensified restrictive measures against and harassment of Roma after the establishment of the collaborationist regime in 1940. In 1941 and 1942, French police interned at least 3,000 and possibly as many as 6,000 Roma, residents of both occupied France and unoccupied France. French authorities shipped relatively few of them to camps in Germany, such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Ravensbrück.

Robert Ritter was a German racial scientist doctor of psychology and medicine, with a background in child psychiatry and the biology of criminality. In 1936, Ritter was appointed head of the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit of Nazi Germany’s Criminal Police, to establish the genealogical histories of the German Gypsies, both Roma and Sinti, and became the architect of the experiments Roma and Sinti were subjected to. His pseudo-scientific “research” in classifying these populations of Germany aided the Nazi government in their systematic persecution toward a goal of “racial purity”.

Roma woman with German police officer and Nazi psychologist Robert Ritter

Sometimes known as the “Forgotten Holocaust,” the Roma Genocide was excluded from the history of World War II for decades after the end of the war. There were no Roma witnesses at the Nuremberg Trials.

The genocide of Roma people wasn’t formally recognised until 1982. Until then, the West German government denied that Roma were subjects of racially motivated persecution. Instead, it was insisted that Roma were imprisoned for their ‘asocial’ and ‘criminal’ characteristics, allowing the government to avoid responsibility for racial discrimination and compensation for genocide.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/genocide-of-european-roma-gypsies-1939-1945

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/photo/victim-of-nazi-medical-experiments

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/nazi-medical-experiments

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/what-roma-genocide

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Trying to Please the Monsters

I was watching a documentary last night called Lost Home Movies of Nazi Germany. The documentary contained footage taken by German civilians and soldiers. Some of the footage was truly horrendous but other parts of the footage appeared at first glance quite pleasing. For example, it showed a young attractive woman dancing topless for some German soldiers.

However, when I thought about it later and put it in context, those pleasing images suddenly became very disturbing. The film material was taken in the USSR during Operation Barbarossa, and the young woman dancing was a Roma. It occurred to me that she wasn’t dancing half-naked because she enjoyed it, she was dancing because she thought it would please the monsters that had invaded her village. In her culture as in many other cultures, women would not show themselves naked in front of men—unless it was their husband.

Initially, I didn’t want to post the pictures, but I thought it was important to show the forgotten side of the horrors of the Holocaust. Also to celebrate the beauty of this young woman, not only her external beauty but also her internal beauty and the courageous soul she was. She must have realized that this could also result in her being raped.

The footage also showed how hypocritical and condescending the Nazis were. One soldier got his hand palm read while sneering at the woman.

Other young women tried to look their best, again to find favour with their occupiers.

Roma were seen as subhumans by the Nazis, but when it suited them they were willing to temporarily ignore that. If it would suit the purpose to make them feel good about themselves or playing God over these women, they would even flirt with them. Knowing well that these women would possibly be murdered, even by themselves.

I don’t know what happened to these women, even if they survived the war, there was a chance they would have been punished after the war for “entertaining” the enemy.

That same enemy would stare from a distance at a beautiful woman dancing half-naked for her survival, risking being raped or worse. The gawking soldier looks more like a Peeping Tom.

source

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000crdh

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.

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Dr.Robert Ritter and Eva Justin

Ritter

One lesson that many people haven’t learned from the Nazi era is that scientist don’t always have the best interest of humanity at heart. They often are driven by their own curiosity rather then what’s best for their fellow man. Yet people often follow their advise blindly, without questioning motives or who funds the research carried out by scientists. This week I heard a newly elected politician say during an interview on the radio”Why wouldn’t we trust scientists?” A statement like that scares me. Not because I am anti scientists, far from it, science has made so many positive changes in our lives, but it scares me because it is accepted without being questioned. Science is like any other thing in life, don’t just accept things because someone says it is the right thing to do.

Dr.Robert Ritter was a German scientist. The Nazis established the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit  in 1936. Which was  headed and run  by Dr. Robert Ritter and his assistant Eva Justin.

Their task was  to conduct an extensive  in-depth study of the “Gypsy question  and to provide the regime with the data which would be used for policies to set up a new Reich “Gypsy law”. After a substantial fieldwork in the spring of 1936. The research consisted of interviews and medical examinations to ascertain the racial classification of the Roma, the Unit concluded that the majority of  Romani,  were not of “pure Gypsy blood”,  and posed a danger to German racial purity and should be deported or eliminated.

BLODD

Ronert Ritter, who was  a psychiatrist,with a background in child psychiatry and the biology of criminality, hoped to determine the links between heredity and criminality. With funding from the German Association for Scientific Research and access to police records. In 1937  he began to systematically interview all the Gypsies living in Germany.

In a report of his research findings in 1940, Ritter concluded that 90 percent of the Gypsies native to Germany were “of mixed blood.” He described such Gypsies as “the products of mating with the German criminal asocial sub-proletariat.” He further characterized Gypsies as a “primitive” people incapable of real social adaptation.”

Eva and Robert

Eva Justin was an anthropologist, she specialised in so-called scientific racism. (a pseudo-scientific belief that verifiable evidence exists to support or justify racism (racial discrimination).

Justin was one of the first Registered Nurses to earn a PhD. She was able to speak the  Romani language, which earned  her the trust of Roma and Sinti people. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Lebensschicksale artfremd erzogener Zigeunerkinder und ihrer Nachkommen” (fates of alienated educated gypsy children and their descendants)

romani

The children that Justin studied had been selected for deportation. However the transport was delayed to facilitate the conclusion of  her research and until she received her PhD. The children were then sent to the Gypsy family camp at Auschwitz on 6 May 1943. Just over 3 weeks later on May, 30 1943, Josef Mengele  became  chief medical officer of the Romani family camp  at Auschwitz. Some of the children were subjected to his experiments and most were eventually killed in the gas chamber. Approximately 39 or 40 children that Justin had studied were sent to Auschwitz , and all but four died before the end of the war, many before her thesis was published.

She was present when the Sinti and Roma deportations to concentration camps were organized.

ANTHRO

Despite the de-Nazification of Germany after World War II, Ritter was not required to take responsibility for his actions during Nazi rule.

In post-war West Germany, Justin worked as a psychologist for the Frankfurt police, even acting as a consultant to the legal system for compensation cases for Holocaust survivors.She died from cancer in 1966 in Offenbach am Main, a city on the outskirts of Frankfurt. In 1958 the Frankfurt district attorney initiated an investigation into Justin’s wartime actions, but the investigation was closed in 1960.

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.

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Sources

USHMM

Bundesarchiv