Text by Paula Mittrowann
After the Dikh He NA Bister’s activities being limited to virtual space last year, it was possible this year to come together again in a smaller group of around 70 people from 11 countries. In the first days, the group leaders prepared with the young participants a series of educational events about the Holocaust and about racism in the past and present.
At the beginning the young people talked about their expectations and what they already knew about the Holocaust against the Sinti and Roma. Some groups worked with testimonies of survivors and with the biographies of those who were persecuted in Nazi-occupied Europe. Participants had an opportunity to visit the Auschwitz Museum.
Contemporary witness Zijo Ribic from Bosnia and Herzegovina told the participants about the 1992 Bosnian War, which he survived as the only one of his family when he was just eight years old. Following the main commemoration event on the August 2, Holocaust survivor and keynote speaker Werner Friedrich joined participants in a talk at the International Youth Meeting Center in Oswiecim. These personal meetings with survivors and witnesses are always particularly impressive and moving. During the workshops and lectures, a series of videos about the Dikh He Na Bister initiative were made.
Over two days, the participants visited the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum. First they visited Block 13 with the exhibition on the Holocaust of the Sinti and Roma in smaller guided groups. After visiting the so-called main camp, one of the groups, under the guidance of the artist Gosia Mirga, produced a textile work of art with portraits of surviving Sinti and Roma.
Another group learned more about the work of the museum’s tour guides. On the morning of August 2 participants we held our own small memorial service at Crematorium 5 before joining the main event. A representative of the youth event Irina Spataru spoke on behalf of the Dikh He Na Bister at the official memorial event and said: “I wish that one day my grandchildren can look up to the statues of Ceija, Raymond and Hugo and be proud of the Roma and Sinti, who stood up for remembrance and for humanity. I wish that we would all look and never forget.”
It’s been an intense week. Many new friendships were made and we hope that all participants felt empowered and anchored in this community. We are grateful for the time together.
Dikh He Na Bister! Look and don’t forget!
The project is funded by the EVZ Foundation and the Federal Foreign Office as part of the program YOUNG PEOPLE remember.