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 BadenWürttemberg. 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 integrated 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 administration 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 countries. 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 warning. 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 Deutschland Tel. Fax +49 62 21.98 11 02 +49 62 21.98 11 77

Internet E-Mail 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

Transport 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 “Kornmarkt/Schloss”.

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