A haunting portrait of Anna Maria Steinbach is August’s Portrait of the Month. We chose it because August 2nd is Roma Genocide Remembrance Day. On that day in 1944, nearly 3,000 Roma and Sinti people, mostly women, children and the elderly were sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Anna Maria was probably one of them. She was nine years old.
It’s not widely known that like the Jews, Roma and Sinti people were targeted for persecution and annihilation by the Nazi regime. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum about 220,000 Roma and Sinti people were systematically killed during the Holocaust. Roma and Sinti sources say the number was closer to 500,000.
In 2012, a monument to the victims of the Roma-Sinti genocide was built in Berlin. What I love about the memorial is that every day a fresh flower must be placed in the center of its reflecting pool. It must be attended to daily. It wasn’t built to bear silent witness but requires the human touch to tell its story.
I believe it enriches our lives to find meaningful ways to remember the past. This month’s Portrait of the Month artist, Valerie believes the same. In talking about the portrait-making workshop she describes how important it is to know her own family’s heritage as Peruvian Incas.
Look and Don’t Forget
This is the name of Roma remembrance efforts coordinated by the International Roma Youth Network. They are “a network of youth and youth associations, which creates space for young people to become active citizens through empowerment, mobilization, self-organization and participation.” They seek to create trust, and mutual respect between Roma and non-Roma youth.” This is so important because the Roma and Sinti people are still marginalized and discriminated against today. Learn more
There is also a digital exhibit about the Roma and Sinti featuring the stories of several children. It was produced by a committee of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in partnership with a few other organizations. See the exhibit
I’ll end with this poem by an Italian Roma poet named Santino Spinello. It’s engraved on the memorial monument in English, German and Romany.
Sunken in face
a torn heart