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Documentation and Cultural Centre

of German Sinti und Roma


It took until 1982 – nearly four decades –

for a German government to acknowledge
politically the genocide against the Sinti and
Roma. During this time, historiography and
memorial museum work more or less ignored
the Nazis’ policy of exterminating our minority.
Our Documentation and Cultural Centre made
it its central task to get people to re-examine
this aspect of Germany’s history. The centre was
set up in Heidelberg Old Town in the early
1990s. It is unique throughout Europe and
receives funds, as an institution, from both the
German government and the Land of Baden-
Württemberg. After many years of renovation
and extension work, the building complex
presenting the world’s first permanent
exhibition on the holocaust committed against
the Sinti and Roma was opened to the public
on 16 March 1997.

Günter Grass, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature,

visits the permanent exhibition.
Violin maker Hermann Weiß
at a workshop.

The Centre sees itself not only as a museum for

contemporary history and a site of historical
remembrance, but also as a place where
people encounter one another and engage in
dialogue. A great part of our public relations
work is dedicated to human rights issues. As a
forum for other minorities, too, the Centre
seeks to lend a voice to all those who are
victims of discrimination and racist violence
today. Against the background of persecution
against the Sinti and Roma during the National
Socialist period, the centre feels a special
obligation to serve as a forum for critical
debate on current social and political questions.
One of our central tasks is to document the
600-year-old history of the Sinti and Roma in
Germany, focusing on the crimes of genocide
perpetrated by the Nazis, crimes that have
been repressed from public consciousness for
decades now. We also attach great importance
to presenting the cultural contributions the
Sinti and Roma minority have made in the
fields of literature, the fine arts and music and
to dispelling stereotypes.

Our centre is located in a listed building in the

heart of Heidelberg Old Town. You will find the
permanent exhibition in the building’s middle
section, which dates from the 18th century.
The historical roof construction has been inte-
grated into the final section of the exhibition.
A new building section was erected on top of
the historical cellar vault and serves as the
foyer to the exhibition. The cellar vault, which
occupies approximately 200 square metres,
accommodates the projection and lecture room.
Here we also hold revolving exhibitions,
lectures, concerts and workshops. The adminis-
tration offices of the Centre and the Central
Council of the German Sinti and Roma are the
right wing of the building.

You can order a magazine, published in

German every spring and autumn, providing
information on events with cultural,
contemporary historical, and political themes.
This service is free of charge. You can also read
about our publications and programme of
events on our website:
A flamenco evening with Ursula Moreno.

A concert with the violinist Roby Lakatos.

Sinti and Roma

Maybe you are wondering about the precise

meaning of the words “Sinti” and “Roma”? They
originate in Romani, the language of our minority.
Romani is used as a second mother-tongue
alongside the language of our home country. The
term Sinti is used to designate members of our
minority group who have been living in Central
Europe since the late Middle Ages, whereas Roma
refers to those of Southern European origin.
Outside German-speaking territories, Roma – or
simply Rom (human being) – is also used
generically for all members of our minority group.
Incidentally, Romani is related to the old Indic
language of Sanskrit. This indicates that the Sinti
and Roma originated in India. Over the centuries,
the Sinti and Roma developed their own Romani
languages in their respective European home

The widespread German word “Zigeuner” (which

can be translated as Gypsy) is, however, an alien
term coined by the majority populations in the
German-speaking countries where the Sinti and
Roma have lived. Most of the Sinti and Roma reject
this term as discriminatory, since it is usually used
in a derogatory sense. Whenever the expression
“Zigeuner” is used in the context of historical source
material, it is always important to bear in mind the
stereotypes and prejudices associated with it.
Collecting and archiving evidence of personal histories,
such as old family photos belonging to Sinti and Roma,
is one of the main tasks of our Centre.
This photograph shows Elisabeth Emmler with her children.
They were all later murdered in Auschwitz.
Permanent Exhibition

The first permanent exhibition at the Heidelberg

Documentation Centre on the Nazi genocide against
our minority opened its doors to the public in March
1997. Occupying an exhibition area of 700 square
metres, it traces the history of the persecution of the
Sinti and Roma from 1933 to 1945.

The first section of the exhibition documents the

gradual process by which Sinti and Roma were
excluded and deprived of their rights in the German
Reich until the beginning of the Second World War,
when the Nazis began deporting them to
occupied Poland. The second section begins with the
invasion of the Soviet Union and deals with the
“Final Solution”, the systematic extermination of Sinti
and Roma in occupied Europe.
The exhibition closes with a commemorative
walkway through the building’s historic attic.
Plaques on individual countries commemorate the
genocide against the Sinti and Roma in the
territories occupied by the Germans and countries
allied to Nazi Germany. The final section of the
walkway passes along a wall displaying the names
of over 21.000 Sinti and Roma who were
deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where almost
all of them were murdered.
Our Educational Programme

The exhibition is supplemented by videos of

documentaries and statements by survivors. If they
want, visitors can watch them individually as
they move round the exhibition. There is also
a projection room where large groups can watch
exhibition videos and documentaries on various
other topics. Foreign visitors will find audio-guide
systems in English, French, Japanese and Spanish.
Groups of visitors who book visits in advance are
offered guided tours of the exhibition that focus on
specific questions. We invite them to discuss topical
questions like the dangers of racism and right-wing
extremism, for it is vitally important, in face of
human rights violations and racist violence today,
that we heed the Nazi genocide as a terrible

We also offer
■ Study and project days (also as part of standard

and further-training programmes)

■ Project consultation and project hosting

■ Exploring the city in the light of its recent history

and seeking traces of the past

■ Advanced training for teachers and conferences

for specialists
■ Talks with contemporary witnesses and experts

■ Excursions

■ Rentable mobile exhibitions

Auschwitz Museum

On 2 August 2001, a permanent exhibition

devoted to the National Socialist genocide against
the Sinti and Roma was opened to the public at
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The exhibition
was initiated and created by the Documentation
and Cultural Centre, which exercised overall control,
in close co-operation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau
Memorial Museum.
The exhibition, which is housed in Block 13 of the
former main camp, documents three major areas: the
process by which the German Sinti and Roma were
excluded from society and deprived of their rights
from 1933 to 1945; the genocide on the Sinti and
Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe; and the history of the
Sinti and Roma in Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination
camp. Thanks to the participation of numerous
national Roma organisations in historical research,
countless new sources (including many private
photographs from the time) have been discovered
that reveal the historical dimensions of the genocide
against the Sinti and Roma, a subject to which too
little attention has been devoted in the past.
Mobile Exhibition

In most European countries, the genocide carried

out during the Second World War against the Roma
and Sinti, which cost about 500.000 members of
this minority their lives, remains almost completely
repressed from public consciousness. Due to a lack
of enlightenment, the racist clichés and stereotypes
about the Roma and Sinti cultivated by Nazi
propaganda persist to this day. The old prejudices
are one of the main reasons why Europe’s
approximately ten million Roma and Sinti continue
to be the victims of racially motivated violent crimes
and subjected to discrimination and disadvantaged
in all areas of society.
With this in mind, the English-language exhibition
“The Holocaust against the Roma and Sinti and
Present-Day Racism in Europe” seeks to gain
a better understanding of the past in order to help
overcome present conflicts. The prime goal of
the exhibition is to examine the holocaust against the
Roma and Sinti, and, above all, the extent to which
Europe as a whole was involved. The exhibition
can be rented out from the Centre. It is approximately
70 metres long and occupies at least 180 square
metres of exhibition space. We can also offer
an audio-guide system in the language(s) required.
How to find us

Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum

Deutscher Sinti und Roma
(Documentation and Cultural Centre
of German Sinti and Roma)
Bremeneckgasse 2
69117 Heidelberg

Tel. +49 62 21.98 11 02

Fax +49 62 21.98 11 77


Opening Times
Tues, Wed, Fri 10 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Thurs 10 a.m. – 8.00 p.m.
Sat, Sun 11 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Guided tours by prior arrangement

Take the 11 or 33 bus from the main railway

station and alight at the “Bergbahn/Rathaus”

stop. By car to the multi-storey car park P12

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