Remembering the Porajmos

From 2014 onwards, the POLIN Museum has been organising events intended to commemorate the Porajmos – the extermination of the Romani and Sinti people. We held meetings with witnesses off history, film screenings, lectures and anti-discrimination workshops focusing on the theme of the discrimination of the Romani people. The events commemorating the Porajmos are held in August, forming part of the Roma Genocide Remembrance Day. Cooperation with the Pheniben Dialogue Foundation and various experts in the field of Roma history and remembrance forms a crucial part of the organisational efforts related to the above events.

In 2014, we held a meeting with a witness of history – Mano Höllenreiner, a Roma who survived the Porajmos, as well as Anja Tuckermann – the author of a book which tells about his fate. During the meeting conducted by Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, PhD, Mano Höllenreiner recalled his memories of the Birkenau, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen concentration camps as well as his struggle during the post-war period. The meeting was accompanied by a screening of a British documentary directed by Aaron Yeger entitled “A People Uncounted” which forms an important voice in the discussion on the remembrance of the genocide of the Romani and Sinti people during World War II as well as their situation in contemporary Europe.

In 2015, in connection with the Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, Professor Sławomir Kapralski made a lecture entitled “Genocide remembrance and the Roma identity”. The main part of this lecture was devoted to the consequences of the experience of the Romani Holocaust for its Survivors and for the contemporary Roma as well as to the role which Porajmos remembrance plays in the various variants of the contemporary Roma identity and in the history of the Roma political movement.

During our anti-discrimination workshops entitled “The Romani people in Poland – conceptions, meetings and attitudes” we have considered the status of modern-day members of the Romani community in Poland and taken a look at the mechanisms which come into play where different cultures meet – and the mechanisms of exclusion and discrimination.

These events were very well received among the public. As a consequence, in 2016 we have organised an extended educational course for adults entitled “Remembering the Porajmos”, which made it possible to approach the issue from various perspectives. The programme of the course included workshops, meeting with Roma leaders and other experts as well as anti-discrimination workshops. Our guests included Krzysztof Gil (member of the Romani Art artistic group), Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, PhD (chairman of the Pheniben Dialogue Foundation) and Piotr Wójcik (author of a cycle of photographs dedicated to the life of the Romani people). Classes during which we looked at various forms of Porajmos remembrance and discussed the issue of remembrance and oblivion formed an important part of the course. One of the meetings was an open meeting combined with a tour which led us to the “Zalikierdo Drom” (“An Interrupted Journey”) mural in the Grochów district of Warsaw, which commemorates the Porajmos. Our guests included Agnieszka Caban (editor-in-chief of the Romani Quarterly) Lidia Ostałowska (reporter and author of publications about the Romani people) and Artur Wabik (co-author of the Zalikierdo Drom mural)

Cooperation and patronage: