Find more information on the 16 May on the website of the Documentation Centre of German Sinti and Roma:
Sinti and Roma fought against the deprivation of their rights and their “racial” registration from the very beginning. They protested against discriminatory regulations and attempted to obtain the release of deported family members through petitions or personal intervention.
“Many of our men were in the Great War and fought for the fatherland as well as any other. However, Dr. Portschy has not considered this. Dr. Portschy has taken away all our civil rights … We have always been Roman Catholics and I therefore see myself forced to lodge a complaint from us all at the highest offices of the government of the Reich.” (Protest letter from Franz Horvath from Redlschlag to the government of the Reich dated 12.5.1938)
Note: Tobias Portschy, first Gauleiter of Burgenland, was one of the driving forces of the “racial policy” directed at Sinti and Roma after the “Anschluß” of Austria. A few weeks after writing the letter, 63-year-old Franz Horvath was arrested as a “protester” and deported to Dachau concentration camp. The other signatories to the letter managed to escape in time.
With the help of friends and neighbours, some Sinti and Roma managed to go underground to escape impending deportation. They were sometimes warned by officials who deliberately delayed or circumvented the execution of the deportation orders. Paul Kreber who worked for the police in Wuppertal, was one of them. He refused to carry out deportation orders and helped the persecuted to flee. He was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit in 1988 on the suggestion of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma. Others were able to escape from the closely guarded ghettos and concentration camps in occupied Poland and lived in hiding for many years. A few also managed to escape from other concentration camps and even from the extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Sinti and Roma also offered various forms of resistance in the concentration camps. A highlight was the revolt in camp section B II e of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the “gypsy camp”. When the SS wanted to murder the Sinti and Roma prisoners still living there in the gas chambers on 16th May 1944, they armed themselves with stones and tools. They barricaded themselves in the barracks and were thus able to avert imminent extermination for the time being. However, the SS finally liquidated the “gypsy camp” in the night of the 2nd to 3rd of August after the selection of all prisoners capable of work. Although the remaining 2,900 people had no chance this time, they resisted their tormentors until the end.
“An SS guard told me how much more difficult this special action had been than anything else which had ever been carried out in Auschwitz… The gypsies, who knew what was in store for them, screamed: fights broke out, shots went off and people were wounded. SS reinforcements arrived when the trucks were only half full. The gypsies even used loaves of bread as missiles. But the SS were too strong, too experienced, too numerous.” (Dazlo Tilany talking about the “liquidation” of the “gypsy camp”)
Sinti and Roma worked closely together with resistance groups in the occupied territories. They played an important role in the national liberation movements, especially in eastern and southeastern Europe, and they also cooperated closely with the Résistance movement in France. A large number of Sinti and Roma lost their lives in the armed struggle against National Socialism. Many members of the minority received the highest decorations after the end of the war. The resistance was supported in different ways. However, there were many instances of denunciation at the same time.