Remembering the Roma Holocaust

Remembering the Roma Holocaust

Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
4th – 13th May 2019

Reviewed by John Owen

The Roma exhibition recently discovered a photographic collection partly in collaboration with the Gypsy Lore Society, which had its HQ in Liverpool in the 1930s. An historic bit of luck brought the whole history to light.

Eve Rosenhaft discovered the photos in the dusty files of archive shelving at Liverpool University twenty years ago, but decided recently to advance the project with a friend.

The documentation of some official national socialist racial profiling of minorities akin to police mugshots, but other archival photos of a more personal nature,such as family pictures that reveal more than bland statistics, depict giving life to the names and rescuing them for humanity.

Hans Weltzels collaboration as ethnographer, photographer and correspondent here with the Liverpool group. It is largely from his collection. Side by side, good versus evil.

He captured a whole race of people being marked out systematically by Nazis prior to their deportation to extermination camps. His own intimate portrayals of families, musicians, tinkers, singers, writers and horse traders, are poignant reminders, and contrast sharply with the police mugshots taken by Aryan thugs, the ugly face of national poison. Seeking to catalogue inferior races, looking for moral reassurance of their twisted fascist outlook.

The timely nature of the display showing people deemed as racially inferior criminal races, some destined for hard labour camps, others children especially for SS experimentation under Dr Mengele.

The slow rise of a racist state, the forcible wiping out of people off the German map. Racial party doctrine of Nazism in its most terrifying form.

The poet Heinrich Heine quoted 100 years earlier, “where they burn books people will follow.”

A charming passing interest in the life of Sinsis, Unku and Lafen races that lived in central Germany, free spirits all, became out of character with Hitler’s dream of Aryan supremacy. Ergo extinction became the fate of many.

As a communists sympathizer and journalist his book of his work, published in the 1930s, was widely read in GDR until the collapse of the Berlin wall 1989 by school children on the curriculum but not or never in the West.

The powerful imagery reinforces the harsh cold statistics and dates of official Nazi bureaucratic speak. The police style mugshots used explicitly to criminalize the images for party propaganda purposes.

The innocent, whose whole way of life became an anathema to the rigid totalitarian era of Nazism order must prevail. Inherently freedom loving people travelling from town to town didn’t fit the bill. Not good factory fodder for the state to exploit. They didn’t fit the bill.

Using children as lab rats and forcibly sterilizing males holding them in special gypsy camps away from the mainstream population.

The harsh lessons of history should warn us to the present dangers in the post-Brexit era, the rise of racist demagogues Farrage’s Ukip and other right wing forces EDL and bonehead Tommy Robinson. Plus their co-compatriots across Europe. Fatal nationalism is deadlier than any war.

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