'Gipsy Camp' at Birkenau.


Roma people were deported from all over Europe to what was known as the 'Gypsy Camp'. It was created in Birkenau after Himmler signed an order in December 1942. The first groups of German inmates arrived in February 1943. The camp started to fill up rapidly as new transports landed.
The camp consisted of 32 wooden barracks with no insulation. The facilities were built to accommodate 400 people, but over 1000 people were crowded into them during the camp's lifetime. The Roma families were living together, unlike other nationalities in other parts of the Auschwitz complex. Roma people were beaten and cursed upon their arrival at the camp and were forced to form rows in which they were moved from the train to the camp. After arriving at the camp, there was a communal bath, followed by mocking remarks from the SS members. For many Roma, the public bath was a humiliation source since it was against custom for a woman to undress in front of strangers. Following the bathing, the inmates were given the black triangles used to classify 'asocials,' which they had to attach to their clothes. Unlike most prisoners, they were permitted to wear civilian clothing. They also had a tattoo on their left forearm that started with a large letter Z (German for "gipsy"). Unlike those in other concentration camps, the Roma camp's inmates were not included in labour commandos outside the camp. They mainly worked inside the camp, which meant that they did a lot of meaningless work. The best way to survive was to escape, but this was made more difficult because most of the inmates didn't work outside Birkenau. Despite this, 80 failed escape attempts were reported, the majority of which ended in execution.

In total, over 20 000 people were detained in the 'Gypsy Camp'. A party of 1 700 Polish Roma, for example, remained unrecorded after getting typhus. They were escorted back to the gas chambers without being registered. German and Austrian Roma made up the largest community, followed by Roma from Czechoslovakia and Poland's territories. Gipsies from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries arrived in smaller groups. Transports to other death camps were their last chance of escape. Following these transports, the remaining 3000 Roma, mainly the aged and poor, women, and children, were sent to the gas chambers.

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More on our blog:

» Famous Holocaust sites around the World

» Faces of Auschwitz

» Majdanek Concentration Camp in eastern Poland

» What airport do you fly into for Auschwitz?

» The Birkenau Camp

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