Sinti and Roma memorial
Tucked into a quiet, tree-lined boulevard behind Brandenburger Gate is the glass walled memorial to the thousands of Sinti and Roma people who were killed during the 1940’s.
Bullet holed buildings
East Berlin had quite a profound effect on me, it was a very moving time and as a result there were quite a few tears, lots of silence but also lots of discussion around war and Hitler and the true meaning of socialism. Many of East Berlin’s buildings still bare bullet holes and the statues have parts missing because of gun fire and whilst this had a sobering effect on us we had to remember that it was just history.
However I think what I found most hard to deal with is that as a world we seem to have learnt nothing from the second world war. The current rhetoric from many countries around the world is now about division, hatred, fear and ignorance. A select number of rich individuals, mostly men, have seized upon an opportunity to promote intolerance and I find it unbearable to listen to or watch.
Memorial to Sinta and Roma people
The memorial was opened in October 2012 and was designed by an Isreali artist called Dani Karavan. The memorial consists of a circular body of water with a triangular stone set in the centre. The triangle symbol is refernce to the badges worn by prisoners of the regime. In letters circling the pool is a poem by a Roma poet Santino Spinelli which says
“Gaunt face, dead eyes, cold lips, quiet, a broken heart, out of breath, without words, no tears”
The etched glass walls
The glass walls around the site detail the basic events leading up to WWII and directly after. It is estimated that 500,000 Roma & Sinti people were murdered. I find that number really staggering and my memory draws me back to a meme that I saw a little while ago on social media. It depicts men in the cell of a concentration camp and the words say
“Remember it didn’t start with Gas chambers. It started with politicians dividing the people with ‘us VS them’. It started with intolerance and hate speech and then people stopped caring and turned a blind eye”.
If you want to see the meme it’s here.
A new flower is placed upon the memorial every day.
Trying to explain genocide to children who see no division
Our children have grown up in many different places with many different people. It would be fair to say that they do not see skin colour or race or gender as a means of division. Trying to explain genocide was so difficult because they just couldn’t comprehend why people were targeted on the above basis.
Although we re-countered stories of what had happened we chose not to show our youngest two any photos from WWII. We felt that at the age of 8 and 6, those photos would be too harrowing. An age appropriate understanding involves knowing that people were starved to death and gassed in chambers. I think it’s vital they understand the mistakes that were made in history and I so hope our future generations can live in a more harmonious and respectful way.
The moment we stop teaching our children history is the moment white models wear fashion tshirts depicting slavery!