The persecution of he Roma and Sinti in the Netherlands.

The biggest group of Holocaust victims were the Jews, an estimated6 million were murdered between 1933 and 1945.

The second biggest group were the Gypsies (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 also are requited to be registered. On March 29, 1943, the situation for the Roma and Sinti changes completely. The head of the SS and German police in the Netherlands, Hans Alvin Reuter, wants 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 May 14, a telegram arrives 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 gypsies, must be immediately 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 gypsy 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, jewelry, is taken under the guise that everything will be returned. Then follows the ‘medical examination’, ‘delousing’ and their hair is shaved off. About 245 Roma and Sinti, including at least 123 children, are locked up in a 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 one bucket to relieve themselves.

On May 21, 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 gypsy camp unimaginable unsanitary conditions prevail and many people die of typhoid fever, diarrhea or of starvation. Selections take place in the gypsy camp between the end of May and the beginning of July 1944 and many men and women are 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 in the night of 2 to 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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It could have been my Family.

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One of the most disturbing aspects of the Holocaust was the randomness of its victims. There were targeted groups like the Jews, Roma , Sinti, Homosexuals, Disabled people and Jehovah witnesses and a few more groups deemed to be undesirable and ‘untermensch-sub human’, The Nuremberg laws dictated who was or was not fit to live in the Nazi occupied countries.

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However it was often also left at the discretion of local Nazis to determine who was considered to be Jewish or Sinti or otherwise.

The picture at the top of this blog is of Anna Maria (Settela) Steinbach. The haunting picture is often used in Holocaust documentaries, but ever since I found out about the origin of the picture it has haunted me more then I ever could have expected. Anna Maria (Settela) Steinbach was Sinti and was born 23 December 1934 in the village of Buchten, in the southeastern province Limburg of the Netherlands. She died in Auschwitz-Birkenaus on July 31 1944. Buchten is only a few miles away from my birthplace Geleen, in fact it is so near that in 2001 it merged into the bigger municipality of Sittard-Geleen. There is actually a chance that Setella may have been related to the husband of one of my cousins.

Although I am not Sinti or Jewish or otherwise, being 6.2ft tall, blonde(ish) and blue eyed, the Nazis would have loved me. However my father who was born in 1936, could have easily been mistaken for Sinti or Roma he had a sallow complexion, dark hair and brown eyes. Even his surname could have been a reason for the Nazis to assume he was Jewish, our name is ‘de Klein’ but all too often people leave out the ‘de’ bit turning the name ‘Klein’  from a Dutch name to a Jewish name, although it is also a German and French name.

There is a 1976 French movie “Mr. Klein” which is about a French art dealer who gets mistaken for a Jewish man with the same name.  He then frantically tries to proof there was a case of mistaken identity.Although the movie is not based on a true story I have heard of instances where people were pursued because of mistaken identities, often mistaken on purpose by Nazi sympathizers who wanted to get rid of people they just didn’t like and who had Jewish sounding names.

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My father was never arrested or picked up or anything like that, My Grandfather though was executed by the Nazis, unfortunately the circumstances why are still not clear to me and I may never find out why.

Something that has played in my mind for a while now is the fact my  family name is “de Klein” rather then “Klein” might just be the reason why my family survived. Those 2 letters just could have saved their lives

It could have so easily been my family who would have been put on that train to Westerbork. Auscwhitz or any other of the concentration camps.

TRAIN TO DEATH

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Hoping against all Hope- The stare of desperation.

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It is amazing and in a way disturbing but this girl was born literally minutes away from where I was born and yet I was not aware of her existence or had even heard of her until now.

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Just a few seconds… that’s how long this girl stared into the camera on 19 May 1944 in the doorway of this boxcar in Westerbork, unaware of her fate. The train was about to depart for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland. It is surmised that she was gassed there during the night of 2 August 1944. Her exact identity was unknown for decades, but as the ‘Girl with the Scarf’ she became a symbol of the persecution of the Jews.

Extensive research conducted by the Dutch journalist Aad Wagenaar revealed in 1995 that the girl was not Jewish but in fact Sinti. Her name was Anna Maria Steinbach. She was born on 23 December 1934 in the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. Her parents gave her the Sinti name Settela.Around 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. Only 30 of them survived the war. Westerbork’s Camp Commander Albert Gemmeker ordered the Jewish prisoner Rudolf Breslauer to film daily life in the transit camp.

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This still image, originally from that film, has been included in The Second World War in 100 Objects as a remembrance of this often overlooked group of Nazi victims.2.16 minutes into the film.

Setella was born in Buchten (now part of Sittard-Geleen, in southern Limburg,Netherlands) as the daughter of a trader and violinist. On May 16, 1944, a razzia against the Romanies was organized in the whole of the Netherlands. Steinbach was arrested in Eindhoven. That very same day, she arrived with another 577 people in Westerbork concentration camp. Two hundred seventy-nine people were allowed to leave again because although they lived in trailers they were not Romanies. In Westerbork, Steinbach’s head was shaved as a preventive measure against head lice. Like the other Sinti girls and women, she wore a torn sheet around her head to cover her bald head.

On May 19, Settela was put on a transport together with 244 other Romanies to Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train that also contained Jewish prisoners. Right before the doors were being closed, she apparently stared through the opening at a passing dog or the German soldiers. Rudolf Breslauer, a Jewish prisoner in Westerbork, who was shooting a movie on orders of the German camp commander,

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filmed the image of Settela’s fearful glance staring out of the wagon. Crasa Wagner was in the same wagon and heard Settela’s mother call her name and warn her to pull her head out of the opening. Wagner survived Auschwitz and was able to identify Settela in 1994.

On May 22, Setella Steinbach, arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She were registered and taken to the Romani  section. Those who were fit to work were taken to ammunition factories in Germany. The remaining three thousand  were gassed in the period from July to August 3. Steinbach, her mother, two brothers, two sisters, aunt, two nephews and niece were part of this latter group. Of the Steinbach family, only the father survived; he died in 1946 and is buried in a cemetery in Maastricht.

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After the war, the fragment of seven seconds in Breslauer’s movie was used in many documentaries. The image of the anonymous young girl staring out of the wagon full of fear and about to be transported to Auschwitz became an icon of the Holocaust.

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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. Thanks 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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