The Roma and Sinti in KL Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Roma and Sinti constituted a large group among the prisoners of the KL Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. According to the documentation that remained after the Third Reich, they were considered enemies of the nation and ruthlessly liquidated. As a result of diseases, hunger, or cruel treatment, most of the prisoners of Roma origin died.
After the outbreak of the war, various restrictions were imposed on the Roma. With time, their freedom began to be limited and, like the people of Jewish origin, they were settled in ghettos. In December 1942, Heinrich Himmler issued an order to deport Roma and Sinti from Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and Austria to the Auschwitz camp. The transport of the Roma people began in February 1943. Instead of coming from three countries, prisoners were brought from practically all over Europe.

In connection with these events, a family camp for people of Roma origin was established in the Birkenau sub-camp, the so-called „Zigeunerfamilienlager” or the Gypsy family camp. Prisoners from these transports were marked with a black triangle as anti-social, red as political prisoners, and some with a green triangle reserved for criminal offenders. Despite the existence of a special sub-camp for Roma and women, some of the newly transported people were sent to the general camp, making it very difficult to determine the total number of Roma and Sinti who came to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is also difficult because some of these prisoners were directed to the gas chambers, for example for fear of an outbreak of typhus.

Initially, Roma prisoners were mainly employed in building their barracks. When they finished that work, they often did not receive a permanent assignment to commandos. It was a great excuse to lower their already hungry rations. The scale of hunger in this part of the camp was unimaginable. Insufficient amounts of food, overcrowding in the barracks, and the lack of running water much contributed to the increase in the incidence, including epidemic diseases such as typhus. Also more common in the camp, such as hunger-diarrhoea, tuberculosis, and urinary tract diseases. There were also very rare diseases caused by extreme avitaminosis and exhaustion, such as water cancer (noma faciei), which attacked the soft tissues of the face, mainly among children and adolescents. All this resulted in very high mortality. And although a separate hospital was established for the Roma, and despite a pharmacy that was built in the camp, unfortunately, the people who saved lives in the camp did not manage to reduce the mortality rate.

The sublime torture invented by Dr. Mengele was also used on the Roma. It was supposed to disinfect wounds and accelerate healing. A bath in soapy water, sodium sulfate, and then in a solution of hydrochloric acid, had the opposite effect: the wounds grew larger, and the whole procedure intensified the pain.
In August 1942, the Roma who remained in the Zigeunerfamilienlager were loaded onto trucks and, despite resistance, were taken to the gas chambers. Soon after, a small transport of Roma was brought, some stayed until the liberation of Auschwitz, but the „Gypsy camp” officially did not exist anymore.

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