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Sinti and Roma: The Beginning of Persecution

In the following video, Reinhard F. recounts how exclusion, forced labor and persecution of the Sinti and Roma gradually intensified in the 1930s. 

Sinti und Roma: Der Beginn der Verfolgung. Ausschnitte aus dem Video-Interview mit Reinhard Florian, Archiv "Zwangsarbeit 1939-1945", Dauer 07:40 Minuten, Schnitt: Alexander von Plato, Loretta Walz, Bearbeitung: Tobias Kilgus, Cord Pagenstecher © Freie Universität Berlin 2012

Porajmos - the National Socialist Genocide of the Sinti and Roma

Sinti and Roma are an ethnic group living in Europe for centuries. In Germany they were discriminated against especially from the 19th century on. Since 1906 the "Anweisung zur Bekämpfung des Zigeunerunwesens" was in force in Prussia. The National Socialists persecuted them as "Gypsies"  on racist grounds and prohibited them - like the Jewish population - from marrying "Aryans" since 1935 (Nuremberg Laws). As a result of the Reich Citizenship Law, Sinti and Roma lost their German citizenship.

Soon after, they lost their jobs or had to give up their businesses; young people were not given apprenticeships. In 1938, so-called "asocials", among them thousands of Sinti, were arrested by the criminal police in the "Arbeitsscheu Reich" campaign and deported to concentration camps; many were forcibly sterilized or murdered. Since 1939, Sinti and Roma were no longer allowed to leave their place of residence; shortly thereafter, systematic deportations to concentration camps began, especially to Auschwitz.

Sinti and Roma call the genocide in Romani Porajmos ("the devouring"). Throughout Europe, the Porajmos claimed 100,000 to 500,000 victims; the exact number is not known yet .

The survivors were discriminated against even after 1945; only late did those who had been expatriated regain their citizenship. In many European countries, Sinti and Roma are still affected by racism, exclusion and violence.

Their years-long struggle for compensation and recognition also included the wish for a central memorial in Berlin. The memorial designed by Dani Karavan between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate was inaugurated on October 24, 2012.


Biografical Data 

Reinhard Florian

  • 1923: born near Insterburg in East Prussia
  • 1937: school dismissal, forced to work in agriculture
  • 1941: Arrest, odyssey through prisons, admission to Mauthausen concentration camp, slave labor in quarry
  • 1942: Slave labor in the Auschwitz, Monowitz, Rydultau and Blechhammer concentration camps
  • 1945: Death march, liberation in Mauthausen/Ebensee. Initially unable to work, stateless, residing in Bayreuth
  • 1952: first marriage
  • 1953: move to Aschaffenburg
  • 1957: after a long period of incapacity for work, work on construction site
  • 1958: second marriage, two sons
  • 1990s: struggle for recognition and compensation
  • 2012: publication of the autobiography "I wanted to go home, to East Prussia".
  • 2014: Reinhard Florian passes away on March 17