The Holocaust was the systematic Nazi annihilation of six million Jews during World War 2. The forgotten Holocaust, Porajmos, was the extermination of more than 220,000 Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) - a quarter to a half of the European population - during the Nazi genocide. It is difficult to assess the actual number of victims of this long-neglected chapter of the Holocaust but some estimates are as high 700,000.

The Nazis classified Sinti and Roma as 'subhumans' and stripped them of all civil rights. Persecution, arrests, and deportations were directed against all members of Sinti/Roma families and they faced starvation, illness and brutal labor, until they were consigned to the gas chambers.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Nazi mobile killing units, Die Einsatzgruppen, killed tens of thousands of Sinti/Roma in the German-occupied eastern territories. Many were subjected to deportation to the Nazi death camps and thousands were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

was located nearby the provincial Polish town of Oshwiecim in Galacia, and was established by order of Hitler and Heinrich Himmler on 27 April 1940. Auschwitz-Birkenau became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed. By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with some estimates running as high as three million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning. 9 out of 10 were Jews. In addition, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, and prisoners of all nationalities died in the gas chambers.

A section of Auschwitz-Birkenau was established as a Gypsy camp and Gypies were brought in from the whole of Central Europe, many thousands of them in a very short time - most of them were gassed.

Four of the Mulfingen children

May 12, 1944, 39 Sinti children were transferred from the St. Josefspflege Orphanage in Mulfingen in Germany - 20 boys who received Nos. Z-9873-Z-9892 and 19 girl who received Nos. Z-10629-Z-10647. 35 of the children were killed ...

A Nazi doctor at Auschwitz, Josef Mengele, nicknamed The Angel Of Death, tortured Sinti victims and did medical experiments of unspeakable horror.

Victims were put into pressure chambers, tested with drugs, castrated, frozen to death. Children were exposed to experimental surgeries performed without anesthesia, transfusions of blood from one to another, isolation endurance, reaction to various stimuli. The doctors made injections with lethal germs, sex change operations, removal of organs and limbs.
Josef Mengele did a number of medical experiments, using twins. These twins as young as five years of age were usually murdered after the experiment was over and their bodies dissected.

Josef Mengele - and Holocaust victims

Some forty years after the war, only a few of the twins could be found. Strangely enough, many of them recall Mengele as a gentle, affable man who befriended them as children and gave them chocolates. Since many had immediately been separated from their families upon entering the camp, Mengele became a sort of father figure. Still a tension existed, that at any time they could be killed if they did not keep a low profile. Older twins recognized his kindness as a deception - they recalled how they were visited by a smiling Uncle Mengele who brought them candy and clothes. Then he had them delivered to his medical laboratory either in trucks painted with the Red Cross emblem or in his own personal car ...

One twin recalls the death of his brother:

"Dr. Mengele had always been more interested in Tibi. I am not sure why - perhaps because he was the older twin. Mengele made several operations on Tibi. One surgery on his spine left my brother paralyzed. He could not walk anymore. Then they took out his sexual organs. After the fourth operation, I did not see Tibi anymore. I cannot tell you how I felt. It is impossible to put into words how I felt. They had taken away my father, my mother, my two older brothers - and now, my twin .."

Romani Victims of Josef Mengele

Mengele injected chemicals into the eyes of the children in an attempt to change their eye color. He carried out twin-to-twin transfusions, stitched twins together, castrated or sterilized twins. Many twins had limbs and organs removed in macabre surgical procedures, performed without using an anesthetic.

Mengele was almost fanatical about drawing blood from twins, mostly identical twins. He is reported to have bled some to death this way. Once Mengele's assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Gypsy twins during the night. Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then proceeded to inject chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantaneously. He then began dissecting and meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins' bodies.

Romani Victims awaiting death

On the night of 2-3 August 1944, the Gypsy camp was liquidated. Danuta Czech described it in her book Auschwitz Chronicle:'After the evening roll call, a camp arrest is ordered in Auschwitz II and a block arrest in the Gypsy Family Camp, B-IIe. Camp B-IIe and other barracks where Gypsies are housed are surrounded by armed SS men. Trucks drive into the camp ..'

The defenseless women, men, and children were loaded on the trucks that were to carry them to the gas chambers. After the gassing the corpses of the murdered were incinerated in the pit next to the crematorium, since the crematorium ovens were not operating at the time.

In Yitzhak Arad's book 'Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka - The Operation Reinhard Death Camps' the Holocaust survivor Jacob Wiernik described the arrival of the largest Gypsy group brought to the death camp Treblinka, in the spring of 1943: 'One day, while I was working near the gate, I noticed the Germans and Ukrainians making special preparations ... meanwhile the gate opened, and about 1,000 Gypsies were brought in (this was the third transport of Gypsies). About 200 of them were men, and the rest women and children ... all the Gypsies were taken to the gas chambers and then burned ...' 

Romani Victims

The book 'Sinti & Roma: Victims of the Nazi Era, 1933-1945' published by The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells that the discrimination against Sinti and Roma in Europe continued after World War 2.

The 1989 Film 'And The Violins Stopped Playing' by director Alexander Ramati was starring Horst Buchholz, Maya Ramati, Didi Ramati and Zitto Kazann. The film tells the moving true story of a group of gypsies in occupied Poland during World War 2 and how, against a bitter and bloody backdrop, they struggle on with only their strength and courage to survive. 

/Louis Bülow





Find out more:
Roma & Sinti

Romani Holocaust Chronology

Genocide of Roma-Sinti

Memorial of Porajmos

The Holocaust Websites

were established 1996 to promote education about the history of the Holocaust and assist visitors in developing understanding of the ramifications of prejudice and racism. The resources include essays, poems, eyewitness testimonies, photographs, documents, films, literature, timelines, links.