An ignored resistance
babelmed - 19/05/2015
About 6000 Roma and Sinti prisoners in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp resisted SS officers who intended to exterminate them in gas chambers on May 16, 1944.
16 May is commemorated every year to remember and celebrate this resistance. Roma activists, however, still struggle to spread the knowledge and raise awareness about the resistance, which is largely ignored in the media and public sphere.
According to the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network, "The Nazi intended to exterminate the Roma completely as early as May 1944. On May 15, Gypsy Camp director SS Georg Bonigut ordered the inmates to stay in their barracks. The next day, 50 to 60 SS men surrounded the camp. They attempted to force the prisoners out of the barracks, but failed to do so. The 16th of May 1944, men, women and children of the Gypsy camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, warned by the internal Resistance Network of the camp, got organized in order to fight off SS guards who came the same night to lead them to the Gas Chambers. Fearing casualties, the Nazi withdrew in front of the rebellion of Roma men, women and children."
However, the Roma in the camp were exterminated on the night of 2-3 August.
Roma activists hold various events including marches and seminars to commemorate the date, however the resistance is still largely unknown by the general public. Activists complain abouth the lack of references to the event in history books and even the fact that it is not included in most of the Roma movements' key activities.