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USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Sinti and Roma interviews

Established in 1994 to preserve the audio-visual histories of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: the Visual History Archive (VHA).

Roma Interviews

The USC Shoah Foundation has a collection of 407 video interviews with Roma survivors of persecution by the Nazis and their Allies. They were gathered in 18 countries and in 16 languages between November 1995 and November 1999.

The interviewees, 185 men and 222 women, were predominantly from Poland and Ukraine and gave their testimonies mostly in the Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian languages; a smaller group of testimonies are from western and southern Europe. Around half of the interviewees report that they led nomadic lives before, during, and after the war. Over three quarters relate that they were from Romani-speaking communities; 24 testimonies are exclusively in the Romani language. They describe their families, traditions, Christian and Muslim religious observances, relations between different Roma groups, as well as relations with the local population.

Nazi and Axis persecution of Roma during World War II took various forms. Around 100 Roma survivors were prisoners of camps in Poland—including the “Zigeunerlager” in Auschwitz-Birkenau—as well as Austria, Germany, Ukraine, Latvia, and other countries. Thirty eight discuss their experiences in ghettos in Ukraine especially, but also in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Forty one were witnesses to executions; for example, the five accounts of a mass shooting in Aleksandrovka (Smolensk oblast, Russia) make this the most witnessed single execution in Russia among the Institute’s testimonies.

Many interviewees talk about continuing persecution after the war and describe the efforts of various governments to force the Roma to establish permanent settlements and to participate in state-led integration schemes.

Interview Languages:

Polish (181 interviews), Russian (103), Ukrainian (42), Romani (24), German (15), Serbian (9), Slovak (6), Bulgarian (5), English (4), Russian and Ukrainian (4), Czech (3), Italian (3), Romanian (3), Hungarian (2), Dutch (1), French (1), Latvian and Russian (1).

Interview Countries:

Poland (181 interviews), Ukraine (135), Moldova (16), Germany (10), Russia (10), Yugoslavia (9), Romania (7), Latvia (6), Slovakia (6), Austria (5), Bulgaria (5), United States (4), Belarus (3), Czech Republic (3), Italy (3), Hungary (2), France (1), Netherlands (1).

Birth Countries:

Poland (164), USSR (98), Russian Empire (37), Romania (33), Czechoslovakia (22), Germany (15), Yugoslavia (9), Austria-Hungary (8), Austria (5), Bulgaria (5), Latvia (4), Italy (3), Hungary (2), France (1), Netherlands (1).



Selected Indexing Terms

anti-Roma arrests

anti-Roma measures

anti-Roma prejudice

anti-Roma school prejudice

attitudes toward Roma

childhood anti-Roma prejudice experiences

inter-Roma relations

nomadic life style (Roma)

post-liberation Roma identity concealment

Romani (language)

settled life style (Roma)

Roma communities

Roma cultural observances

Roma culture

Roma ghetto inhabitants

Roma history

Roma identity

Roma identity exposure fears

Roma kapos

Roma labor servicemen

Roma persecution awareness

Roma persecution bystander responses

Roma population roundups

Roma prisoner functionaries

Roma prisoners

Roma refugees

Roma resistance fighters

Roma soldiers

Roma war veterans

Roma-general population relations

Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma

Zigeunerlager (Auschwitz II-Birkenau)


Selected Bibliography

Kenrick, Donald; Puxon, Grattan. Gypsies under the Swastika, Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2009.

Milton, Sybil. “Holocaust: the Gypsies,” in Israel Charny, William Parsons, and Samuel Totten (eds.) Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts, New York: Routledge, 2004, pp. 160-202. 

Tyrnauer, Gabrielle. Gypsies and the Holocaust: a Bibliography and Introductory Essay, Montréal: Concordia University: Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies, 1991.

Weiss-Wendt, Anton (ed.). The Nazi Genocide of the Roma: Reassessment and Commemoration, New York: Berghahn, 2013.


Visual History Archive Curator

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Crispin Brooks