The Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma was one of the Partners in the Roma Routes Project. The centre undertook a number of activities and also hosted the final project conference.
The Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma is the only centre of its kind in Europe and was established in Heidelberg in the early 1990s with the support of the City of Heidelberg. It is funded by the German Federal Government and the Land of Baden-Wuerttemberg. After years of conversion and extension work, the building complex was ceremonially opened to the public on 16th March 1997. It is now home to the world’s first permanent exhibition on the genocide perpetrated upon the Sinti and Roma by the Nazis.
Alongside its function as a museum for contemporary history and a site for commemorating the past, the centre also provides a setting for encounters and dialogue. A significant part of its public relations work is devoted to human rights. As a forum for other minorities, too, the centre seeks to lend its voice to all those who have suffered discrimination and racist violence. In view of the persecution of the Roma and Sinti under National Socialism, the centre feels a special obligation to provide a forum for critical debate on pressing socio-political issues.
As another of the centre’s tasks is to document the 600-year-old history of the Sinti and Roma in Germany, its main focus still remains on the genocide by the Nazis which was repressed from public consciousness for several decades. To memorise this terrible event, the centre has focused on documenting the past. By interviewing surviving Holocaust victims and preserving their memories on tape and video. Or by extensive archive research at home and abroad. The centre’s staff also systematically gathers personal testimonies from survivors and their relatives. Old family photographs are of particular interest in this respect. By now already our still growing archival collection is unique.
Another vital part of the centre’s work is to present the cultural contributions of the Sinti and Roma minority in the fields of literature, fine arts and music, thus helping to break down stereotypes. To this end, the centre arranges conferences and seminars in conjunction with experts from Germany and other countries. Every spring and autumn, it runs an extensive programme of public events that includes lectures, exhibitions, films, concerts and excursions.
During the Roma Routes Project German partner held numerous concerts, exhibitions and discussions to focus on developing communication and understanding between Roma and Sinti and the wider non Roma community.
These events included:
- An Art café about the fairy tale culture of Sinti and Roma
- Movie programme (two documentaries about Roma)
- Sinti and Roma String Orchestra
- Lecture with Timea Junghaus from Hungary
A concert by Ida Kelarova and the JazzFamelija. The formation of this group is connected through Roma and Jazz elements, connecting Roma harmonies and Latin-American rhythms with the sound of a jazz band. Ida Kelarova’s emotions are able to address the audience who do not even understand the Roma lyrics. The audience therefore was thrilled about Ida Kelarova’s performance, and the concert was a big success.
Photographic exhibition “Roma Rising” with pictures by Chad Evans Wyatt. In the 1990s Wyatt came to see that a new kind of portrayal of the Czech Republic’s Roma was possible. The mass media mainly evolved a kind of theatre of “gypsy” life, images descended into stereotype. Seldom was the quite obvious Roma professional and middle-class presented in the press. The exhibition had a lot of visitors who were very interested in the new positive way of Roma portrayal.
Music Ensemble of Benares. North Indian Kathak dance with the Roma influenced Spanish Flamenco. The audience was fascinated by the dance and the music which was presented on a specially created stage in our Centre.
An international commemoration of the extermination of Roma at the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp took place in Poland on 2nd August. A delegation of young Germans, half of them grandchildren and great-grandchildren of victims of the holocaust and half young people from the majority society, accompanied survivors of the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz