The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime was inaugurated in 2012. It shows how memory changes over time and invites us to reflect on marginalisation and to uphold human rights today.
In 2012, directly across from the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament, a new, central place of remembrance was inaugurated: the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime by artist Dani Karavan.
Hundreds of thousands of Sinti, Roma and people of other groups were persecuted and murdered between 1933 and 1945 under the racial ideology of the National Socialists. In the Federal Republic of Germany as well as in the GDR, these people were largely written out of the official culture of remembrance. Only after much persistence by the Zentralrat der Deutschen Sinti und Roma (Central Council of German Sinti and Roma) did public awareness grow and, with it, the willingness of the Federal Government to appoint a memorial site.
“A reminder to protect minorities in the future”
Situated directly opposite the parliament, centre of the democratic decision-making process, the location of this monument is particularly symbolic. It shall, according to the preamble, not only honour the victims ‘but (…) also (exist) as a solemn reminder to fight discrimination against Sinti and Roma’ and to call for a firm commitment to human rights and protection of minorities in the future.
The delayed completion of this monument further reflects how memory and thought processes are invariably influenced by the present, and how they change and are reconfigured over time. Memory is always multifaceted: beyond the official commemorative discourse, there are a variety of alternative memories which often become apparent only after many years of campaigning by individual groups. Many of the Sinti and Roma living in Germany today experience blanket discrimination, racial exclusion or even direct attacks. The construction of this monument alone is not enough to change the social structures of discrimination.
However, these places of commemoration can help us link the memories of the past to an awareness of the marginalisation present today, and invite us to develop an inclusive understanding of diversity and human rights in our society.
Food for thought: Which groups in our society are written out of today’s collective memory and culture of remembrance?