Romani people ethnic flag. 3D illustration

New Online Database Presents Wartime Testimonies of Czech and Slovak Roma

The website will eventually contain around 250 testimonies of Roma Holocaust survivors. Credit: Freepik.

Prague, Aug 2 (CTK) – The stories of Roma survivors from the Czech and Slovak Republics about their experience during World War II are now available on Svedectvi Romu, an online database launched today, symbolically, on International Roma Holocaust Memorial Day, the Czech Academy of Sciences has announced.

The website will eventually contain around 250 testimonies, with both Czech and English versions of the database.

“The experience of Roma and Sinti during World War II is still a neglected topic, even though the Roma communities still feel the consequences of the wartime genocide and persecution today,” said historian Katerina Capkova, head of the steering committee of the Prague Forum for Roma History. “Moreover, even in the few publications about the Roma and Sinti Holocaust, the perspective taken from documents written during the war by the state administration and police forces often prevails.” 

Capkova said she hoped the website would help spread awareness of the genocide of the Roma and Sinti during the Holocaust. That is why the website is being published before the database is complete, as the researchers have currently processed roughly half of the testimonies.

The database includes a detailed abstract of each testimony, a detailed search option, a map display of selected events, annotations to the sources used, and a glossary of terms.

Foreign institutions, such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, have expressed interest in presenting the project, and the Prague Forum has also established cooperation with the Central European University in Vienna.

In the database, researchers use published texts as sources, where a witness retells their personal war experience under their own name. They reproduce the testimonials as written by the author. If they are in doubt about any information in the testimony, this is explained in a footnote. According to Capkova, it is also important for history to note how the witness perceives the events with time, even if their testimony differs from reality.

The remaining testimonials should be added to the website over the next 18 months, she added.

This work will be demanding, especially because the testimonies processed so far are from the largest collections, while now experts will also be working with individual memory books and conducting research in various magazines, in particular Roma and anti-fascist magazines from the Communist era, which may contain further materials.

“In the future, we plan to expand the site in English to other areas of Nazi-occupied Europe. We are planning a version in the Roma and Slovak (or German) languages. However, it depends on whether we can get the financial means to do so,” Capkova told CTK.

The Prague Forum for Roma History mediates and initiates academic research into the history of Roma and Sinti people in the 19th and 20th centuries. It draws attention to the importance of studying Roma history for a comprehensive understanding of European history and the present.

On the night of 2-3 August 1944, the Nazis liquidated the Roma camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau and murdered over 3,000 prisoners in gas chambers. They killed hundreds of thousands of other Roma and Sinti people elsewhere. To honour their legacy, 2 August has become designated as the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.


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