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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sinti and Roma Memorial, Berlin

Sinti and Roma Memorial, Berlin

'Lest we forget'

I like the words used at memorial services for those who have died in wars. 'Lest we forget' are very apt words when reflecting on the past. 


When visiting a new city, there are endless possibilities for discovering unknown (to you at least) areas and sites. That’s exactly what happened on my first day in Berlin. I had headed off to see the Brandenberg Gate (which I had preplanned that I wanted to see), then crossed into a small part of the Tiergarten to walk to the Reichstag (the Parliament building). Just off the path was this memorial, to the Sinti and Roma people (known as gypsies to some) who were all sent to Nazi death camps in large numbers during World War II. As well as Jews, the Nazis had a deliberate policy of exterminating people they termed gypsies.


I really liked this memorial as I think that, while most people are well aware of the deaths of large numbers of Jews, the other minority groups such as the Sinti and Roma have been overlooked. Perhaps because in Europe at least these people still face an enormous amount of discrimination and isolation.

The memorial is surrounded by frosted glass walls which has information in the form of a timeline of the discrimination, beginning in 1933 of those termed ‘gypsies’, through to them being forced into ghettos, camps and then exterminated. One side (facing the Tiergarten path) is in English and this is what first had me notice it, I just automatically began reading the English I saw.
The inside panels have the same information in German.


Inside the memorial, there is a pool of water to reflect the sky and paving stones with the names of the camps where those labeled ‘gypsies’ were killed. 


The location of the memorial is deliberate, it is supposed to be a quiet spot away from the bustle of the city. And that’s exactly what it has achieved.

The artist who designed it is Dani Karavan, and he did a beautiful job.

It’s estimated that by the end of the war in May 1945 over 500, 000 men, women and children of Sinti and Roma background were killed, but the exact number is impossible to know.


It’s a lovely memorial, I really liked it and it’s important to remember and reflect on the past and hopefully learn from it. To paraphrase another well known quote, 'those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it'.


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