MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Sinti and Roma - memories

At the end of February 1943 – at the command of Rapportschreiber Diestl – we carried out, together with Antoni Siciński, a record of both the Gypsies previously kept in the camp and of the newcomers. (...) What seemed most conspicuous to us, was that the Gypsies had civilian clothes. Women wore colourful outfits, and men were dressed in tawdry clothes. I also noticed that girls had thin fabric dresses, while boys had long shorts and shirts. Almost all of them were shoeless and they treaded barefoot on the cold and dirty floor of the barrack. Just after entering the residential part of the barrack, we were hit by a suffocating stench, so we requested the block head to put the tables for us outside the barrack and there we began making the list.

                   The Gypsies, who gathered in front of us, have been arranged in forty-five lines, ten people in each. Our task was to enter data in each Gypsy’s personal card in the following order: the prisoner number, nationality, name and surname, date and place of birth, as well as the last place of residence and the name of the office that made the arrest. The last column was blank for the purpose of a special entry regarding transfer, release or death. These are the data that have been entered in the columns in the main books of the camp. In the case of personal sheets we had the opportunity to make more detailed notes, regarding e.g. military service, decorations and criminality.

                   The Gypsies facing me were of different age. In the glaring light of the sun, all of them, without exception, looked very poorly. This ghastly appearance was partly due to the fact that since their arrival from the depths of the Reich, when they washed in the men's camp in the BIb section, they had no chance to wash, and this was more than a week or even longer ago. In addition, they were sleepless and malnourished. (...)

                    We began the registration at six o'clock and, including a very short lunch break, it took us until the evening roll call, starting half an hour earlier than in the men's camp.

It was because the reports on the numerical condition had to be delivered by an employee of the office of the Gypsy camp to the office of the men’s camp as well as to the office of the women’s camp, where summary lists of men and women were made. Completed registration cards were taken by Roman Frankiewicz to his office, and he made their copies, while we received the records of Gypsy men and women being at that time in hospital by another Polish political prisoner, Wojciech Barcz, a hospital recorder in the Gypsy family camp. After three days of work on the registration of the Gypsies we returned to the main camp in Auschwitz.

                   A few days later, together with Antoni Siciński, we went back to the Gypsy family camp in Birkenau, where the registration of the newcomers did not take a long time, as the transport was not very big and we could get back to Auschwitz the same day. Roman Frankiewicz then urged me strongly to get a permanent transfer to work in the camp office in the BIIe section. I was convinced, however, that I would visit the Gypsy camp many more times and that I would then make this decision. (...) Whenever I was in the BIIe section, Roman Frankiewicz urged me to abandon my function in the main camp and to move to Birkenau.

                    At the end of April, or perhaps at the beginning of May 1943, together with Kazimierz Sichrawa (no. 231), we were escorted by an SS man to the Gypsy camp in Birkenau. Treading the path, Sichrawa asked me questions about the living conditions in this camp, about how the SS men treated function prisoners and about those who he had become intimate with in the camp, and who had already been transferred to Birkenau. We stopped the talk when we arrived at the camp gate in the BIIe section. We checked in at the guardhouse with Blockführer Zielke. He was one of the most human SS men. Soon, we greeted Roman Frankiewicz, who was delighted to see us and we gave him our transfer cards. Then we became residents of the Gypsy camp.

Tadeusz Joachimowski (no. 3720)

 

I set up records there based on the transport lists and I ran the Main Book of the men from our camp. Every day, I had to enter the reports of the deaths, coming to Schreibstube from Krankenbau. I entered thousands of these. It was my eighth day in Schreibstube, when I received a Totenmeldung with my father's name on it. I was paralysed with emotions, tears streamed down my cheeks. Then the door opened with a bang and a SS-Oberscharführer Plagge stormed inside and yelled:

– Why is the one in the corner blubbering?

I was not able to answer. But my friend, Hilly Weiss, who was a report writer, explained:

– Her father died.

To which the SS man replied:

– One day we are all going to die – and he left the Schreibstube. (...)

I lost in Auschwitz about 30 relatives. Both grandmothers of mine died there. My aunt with ten children of hers were there. Only two of them survived. (...) Another aunt of mine was also in Auschwitz with her five children. None of them survived Auschwitz. Yet another aunt was killed with gas at the very end. My father literally died of hunger right in the first months after his arrival at the camp. The eldest sister fell ill with typhus and died of complications. Of course, malnutrition and hunger played a role too. Then my brother died. He was 13. He had to carry heavy stones until he was as thin as a skeleton. My mother died a few months later. Everybody was dying of hunger.

Elisabeth Guttenberger, born Schneck  (no. Z-3991)