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75th Anniversary of the Romani and Sinti Genocide

In the history of the Romani, the Second World War was a tragic period during which the German Nazis and their allies committed genocide on them – as they did with the Jews. This was a racially motivated attempt at exterminating the whole nation. The extermination was carried out in a systematic manner by the Third Reich between 1943–1944, according to the decree by Heinrich Himmler from December 1942 on the “final solution to the Gypsy question”. Mass executions had also taken place earlier, which was associated with the German occupation troops marching into the conquered territories. It is estimated that in this period in Europe some 500 thousand Romani were murdered, which probably accounted for about 50 per cent of their pre-war population. Operations based on a top-down plan were conducted in various places – in mass extermination camps, among others. The KL Auschwitz II – Birkenau concentration camp operated a Romani family camp (“Zigeunerlager”) in the years 1943–1944. More than 23 thousand Romani and Sinti from various European countries had been imprisoned in the camp. On the night of 2 August 1944, the Romani camp was liquidated, and the prisoners were murdered in gas chambers.

Today, at the former KL Auschwitz II - Brikenau, at the site of the Romani camp there is a statue in memory of the extermination of European Romani. For over a quarter of a century, every year on 2 August international events have been held here to commemorate this tragedy. In 1996, during an international conference organised in Oświęcin, Romani leaders from 10 European countries and the United States established the 2nd of August as the International Roma Genocide Remembrance Day. The Roma and Sinti Genocide Day celebrations are also observed in Poland, pursuant to a resolution of the Polish Sejm of 2011.

The coin commemorates the tragic events of the night of 2 August 1944. The reverse of the coin features an image of a survivor of the genocide, Marianna Paczkowska (1925–2010), modelled on a preserved photograph. She was deported with her family in March 1944 to “Zigeunerlager” at the KL Auschwitz II – Birkenau (she was registered as Paczkowski Marie, camp number 10042). Being able to work, she was transferred to the KL Ravensbrueck, and from there to the subcamp Wolkenburg. On the night of 2 August 1944, her family was murdered in a gas chamber.

The obverse of the coin features the inscription: Likwidacja “Zigeunerlager” KL Auschwitz- Birkenau (Liquidation of Zigeunerlager KL Auschwitz-Birkenau) 02.08.1944 and images of barbed wire.

Tadeusz Czekaj