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Porrajmos Porrajmos

The persecution and extermination of the Roma
and Sinti
population by the Nazis

produced by Opera Nomadi
and Radioparole (2004)

a radio documentary divided in three parts each of them of 30 minutes

download or listen to the first part [mp3]

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Who knows the meaning of the word "Porrajmos"?
Porrajmos in the Roma language means "devouring", indicating the persecution and the extermination of the Roma population by the Third Reich.

During Second World War 500.000 gypsies have been killed, victims of the Nazi National Socialism and its fanatic projects of racial domination. The history of the gypsy extermination is a forgotten history, offended by the lack of attention from historians and intellectuals: till today the documentation of the facts is fragmentized and their linkage is insufficient, although the issue should gain attention just for the fact, that the gypsy prosecution in the Nazi era, obviously together with the one of the Jews, has been the only one grounded entirely on racial motivations: Just like the Jews, the gypsies were prosecuted and killed just because they were considered as an “inferior race” which was, following the Nazi-fascist ideology, not destined to submission and servility for the Third Reich, but to death. This is the core of the problem. In fact, for a long period after the Second World War the Nazi extermination of the gypsies hasn’t been recognized as racially motivated. Instead, it has been considered as being the consequence – for some obvious – of the crime prevention measures which are “naturally” undertaken in war-times. That thesis found its ground in the decrees and orders of the first years of the Hitler regime, were the gypsies were indicated and defined as “asocial”. As we know the Nazi terminology is not always an explanation of real facts: in this case the term “asocial” has been used to indicate those people who are for one or another reason impossible to integrate and homologize in the new Nazi National Socialist system.
In reality the gypsies have been prosecuted, imprisoned, tortured, sterilized, used for “medical” experiments, gased in the extermination camps, because of their being gypsis, that in the Nazi Ideology meant “inferior race” unworthy to exist. Following this argumentation, the gypsies were genetically thieves, betrayers, nomads: the reason for their dangerousness had to be found in their blood, which precedes always the behavior.
(Giovanna Boursier, in Zigeuner, lo sterminio dimenticato, Sinnos editrice)

The radio documentary is divided in three parts, each of them of thirty minutes duration.

  First part

In 1936, on the eve of the Olympic Games at Berlin, Hitler decided that the town had to be cleaned up. The racial politics of the Nazis led to the construction of a concentration camp at Berlin-Marzahn, where hundreds of Roma and Sinti got imprisoned.
Otto Rosenberg gets imprisoned in Marzahn, he’s only nine years old. That’s how his story of prosecution begins, taking him seven years later to deportation in the Zigeunerlager, the camp for the gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Otto Rosenberg maintained his silence for years, till he decided to give his testimonial.
Together with his story, one of the rare testimonials of the Roma and Sinti prosecution, we’ll listen in the first part to the considerations of two Italian historians who devoted their work to this subject: Giovanna Boursier and Luca Bravi.


  [sinti boy 1943]  


  otto rosenberg   Second part

In the second part we keep on listening to Otto Rosenberg’s testimonial. Rosenberg, the only survivor of his family, is deported to the Zigeunerlager of Auschwitz and to other Camps: Buchenwald, Dora, Ellrich and finally to Bergen-Belsen where he is liberated by the allied forces.
 But his tragedy doesn’t end with world war’s ending, like the tragedy of all of the surviving Roma and Sinti. The German Federal Republic will admit the racial prosecution suffered by these nations only after a long silence and will grant compensations only with an irremediable delay.
 Besides Giovanna Boursier and Luca Bravi, we’ll listen in the second part of the documentary to the voice of Mirella Karpati, profound connoisseur of the Roma and Sinti history and culture in Italy and among the first in this country to collect the oral testimonials of Nazi prosecution


Third part

"I was born in 1920. As child I lived in Croatia. Then I came to Italy with my parents. After a while they detained us and put us into the camp of Agnone, in the province of Campobasso. I’ve been three years in that concentration camp."
"I was born in 1940 at Prignano in a concentration camp. Like all the other people my parents had made their tour to the markets and then came here to Modena to pass the winter. One morning we found ourselves in front of the carabinieri and the chief of police. After one day of controls my parents were brought into that little village in the mountains of Prignano."
That’s how the testimonials of Emilia Goman and Gnugo de Bar begin. Using their memories we try to tell that the little that is known about the active role of the Italian fascist politics in the Porrajmos of the Roma and Sinti, a page of our history which is almost entirely to be investigated.

campo di concentramento    

a radio documentary by Andrea Giuseppini
produced by Opera Nomadi
with the patronage and contribution of the Regional Council of Emilia Romagna
© Opera Nomadi and Radioparole 2004

thanks to:

Emilia Goman, Gnugo de Bar, Mirella Karpati, Giovanna Boursier, Luca Bravi, Alberto Rossatti, Paola Palminiello, Aleramo Virgili, Giusi Marcante and Davide Ravera


Bibliography in Italian about Porrajmos

AA.VV., Alla periferia del mondo. Il popolo dei Rom e dei Sinti escluso dalla storia, Milano, Fondazione Roberto Franceschi, 2003
Bernadac C., Sterminateli! Adolf Hitler contro i nomadi d'Europa, Roma, Casa del libro, 1989
Boursier G., Converso M., Iacomini F., Zigeuner. Lo sterminio dimenticato, Roma, Sinnos, 1996
Boursier G., Gli zingari nell'Italia fascista, in "Italia Romaní", a cura di L. Piasere, Roma, vol.1, 1996
Boursier G., La persecuzione degli zingari nell'Italia fascista, in "Studi storici, n.4, 1996
Boursier G., Lo sterminio degli zingari durante la seconda guerra mondiale, in "Studi storici", Roma, n.2, 1995
Boursier G., Zingari internati durante il fascismo, in "Italia Romaní", a cura di L. Piasere, Roma, vol.2, 1999
Bravi L., Altre tracce sul sentiero per Auschwitz, Roma, Cisu, 2002
Donati V., Porrajmos. La persecuzione razziale dei Rom-Sinti durante il periodo nazi-fascista, Mantova, Istituto di cultura sinta, 2003
Fings K., Heuß H., Sparing F., Dalla ricerca razziale ai campi nazisti. Gli zingari nella Seconda guerra mondiale, Collana Interface, Centro studi zingari (a cura di), Roma, Anicia, 1998
Fonseca I., Seppellitemi in piedi, Milano, Sperling&Kupfer, 1999
Karpati M., Il genocidio degli zingari, in "Lacio Drom", Roma, n.3, 1965
Karpati M., La politica fascista verso gli zingari in Italia. Testimonianze sui campi di concentramento in Italia, in "Lacio Drom", Roma, n. 2-3, 1984
Karpati M., Zingari ieri e oggi, Roma, Centro studi zingari, 1993
Kenrick D., Puxon G., Il destino degli zingari, Milano, Rizzoli, 1975
Levakovich G., Ausenda G., Tzigari, Milano, Bompiani, 1975
Levak Z.B., La persecuzione degli zingari. Una testimonianza, in "Lacio Drom", Roma, n.3, 1976
Lewy G., La persecuzione nazista degli zingari, Torino, Einaudi, 2002
Masserini A., Storia dei nomadi. La persecuzione degli zingari nel XX secolo, Padova, Edizioni GB, 1990
Muller-Hill B., Scienza di morte. L'eliminazione degli ebrei, degli zingari e dei malati di mente, Pisa, ETS, 1989
Novitch M., Il genocidio degli zingari sotto il regime nazista, in "Quaderni del Centro studi sulla deportazione", Roma, n.2, 1965
Rosenberg O., La lente focale. Gli zingari nell'Olocausto, (a cura di U. Enzensberger), Venezia, Marsilio, 2000