young girl looking at exhibition boards in a display

The Romani Holocaust - Lessons and Legacies

The genocidal persecution of Romani groups by Nazi Germany and its allies remains a relatively unknown aspect of the Holocaust, and historical failures to acknowledge it underpin their continuing exclusion all over Europe.

The Challenge 

The genocidal persecution of Romani groups by Nazi Germany and its allies remains a relatively unknown aspect of the Holocaust, and historical failures to acknowledge it underpin their continuing exclusion all over Europe.

Through her own exhibition work and her collaborations with policymakers, activists, educators and museum professionals in Britain, Europe, the USA and East Asia, Eve Rosenhaft’s research has informed the representational practice of cultural partners.

The project stems from Eve’s research on the Romani Holocaust, which has been published in the following articles and book chapters:
• ‘At large in the “Gray Zone”: Narrating the Romani Holocaust’, in Sebastian Jobs and Alf Lüdtke (eds.),Unsettling History. Archiving and Narrating in Historiography, Frankfurt a.M. and New York: Campus, 2010.
‘Exchanging glances: ambivalence in twentieth-century photographs of German Sinti’, Third Text 22 (2008), pp. 311-324
• ‘Wissenschaft als Herrschaftsakt: Die Forschungspraxis der Ritterschen Forschungsstelle und das Wissen über „Zigeuner“’, in Michael Zimmermann (ed.), Zwischen Erziehung und Vernichtung. Zigeunerforschung und Zigeunerpolitik im Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2007.

Research Action

Between 2016 and 2018 Eve collaborated with a German anti-racism and Holocaust memory activist, Jana Müller, to develop a bilingual travelling exhibition entitled “…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” that portrays the experiences of nine interrelated Sinti and Roma families (about 80 people) under National Socialism and in the aftermath.

The exhibition draws on photographs from the collections of the Liverpool University Library, supplemented by visual and documentary material from a range of European archives. Since late 2017 it has been on display in several cities in Germany and the UK, as well as in Prague and at the memorial site in Auschwitz (where most of the subjects of the exhibition died).

The exhibition has been accompanied by events at which Eve and Jana have spoken, often accompanied by surviving members of the families portrayed. At each venue, workshops have been organised for schools, and specific groups from the local community or from among policy practitioners have been invited to discussions and seminars.

Working in Partnership

The project has been funded by a range of institutions, including the Arts and Humanities Research Council (academic network collaboration); the German Foreign Ministry; Alternatives Jugendzentrum youth centre in Dessau, Germany, and its director Jana Müller; Sogang University and the South Korean Government (funding and design of exhibition in Seoul); the Imperial War Museum London; and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC.

Outputs and Outcomes

In Germany, members of survivor families recognised themselves and others in the photographs, while white Germans were prompted to recall a forgotten ‘Gypsy’ presence and its disappearance. Visitors to the exhibition also reflected on links between the city’s Nazi past and the current wave of right-wing violence in the region.
During a period as a Visiting Professor at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea, Eve collaborated with local scholars and artists to develop a version of the exhibition that would have relevance for East Asian audiences. The Unwelcome Neighbors exhibition runs from 24 January and 28 February 2019 in the Korea Foundation Gallery in Seoul.
Impact on museum practice followed Eve’s collaborations with the Imperial War Museum London (IWM) and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). In 2021 the IWM will complete the £30.5 million overhaul of its World War II galleries, incorporating new Holocaust Galleries.
The Museum’s interest in integrating Romani history, its commitment to combating stereotypes, and its strategic decision to ‘draw heavily upon unique personal stories’ made Eve’s research particularly relevant. Eve advised Museum staff on the historical events, the state of current scholarship, terminology, and both the materials and the approach used in her exhibition have informed the Museum’s portrayal of the lives of Sinti and Roma before and during the Holocaust.

In 2018 Eve wsa the only historian among the invited co-leaders of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Hess Seminar for Higher Education teachers, which focused on the persecution of Sinti and Roma, and she selected materials to be included in the Museum's packages for teachers, including the on-line tool Experiencing History. 

I feel certain that the assistance Eve has given will impact the understanding of visitors comng through the galleries, and the way that they consider and reflect on the experiences of Roma and Sinti.

Content leader of the Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum, London

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