The Voices of The Young

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Mug shots of Sofie B., who was interned at the Gypsy camp at Halle when taken into police custody. Germany, 1940. —Bundesarchiv, Koblenz. Germany-USHMM

The Romani Children, much like the Jewish children were killed due to the fact that they could not be used for labor and were simply taking up space in the camp. Many fell ill quickly due to being exposed to so many people at once and The Gypsy children were more susceptible to illness because in their small villages, they had never been exposed to a variety of illness. Families were generally separated. For the children that were spared from the gas chambers, their fates rested in the hands of German SS physicians who conducted sham medical experiments, many of which resulted in death or illness that led to death. Some of these experiments included testing various sterilization methods without anesthesia. To get a perspective from a child from these times, I read the survivors tale of “Bubili: A Young Gypsy’s Fight For Survival.” From this recollection of memory that seemingly comes across as a horror story, One can see that Bubili’s strong, determined attitude is what brought him through his survival. His accounts were mind boggling and his maturity for a boy of thirteen was almost hard to believe. He described their treatment as if they were cattle. When the reign of The Nazi party first began, Bubili was thrown into jail for not having his papers on him, but he managed to escape and ran off to live in the forests of Yugoslavia until he later was forced to the concentration camps with his uncles and aunts. In the camps, Bubili learned to fend for himself and trade items to get a nicer pair of shoes. The Romani and Sinti people are very concerned with their hair, teeth, and shoes.

“And without my hair, I was no longer Bubili. I was a piece of wood, No, worse, even a piece of wood could be used for something. We were trash, something to be thrown away. Why did The Germans have to strip us of our humanity?”

The loss of his hair made Bubili feel as if he was dehumanized, which I consider the overall goal of The Nazis during this time. After they made these people not humans, it was much easier to abuse and murder them. This is proven to be true when one studies many famous serial killers as many ritualize their killings by making their victims seem like animals. Even after feeling like nothing, Bubili worked past his oppression and was determined to survive. When he got off the train, as people were being separated, his luck caused him to be sorted as a man rather than the children and women who were immediately being sent to the gas chambers for extermination.

“I am Bubili. I will outlive these bastards. I will one day give testimony.” I believe Bubili was even more determined to live after witnessing the deaths of both his father and uncle. Alone, at a young age, he miraculously maintained his life until he was released from the camps after The US invasion. At his release, Bubili had been transferred to ten camps and had escaped death several times. His memoir is both captivating and heartbreaking. “Yes, I had to bear witness to this senseless machinery of human destruction”.  He also later reveals that it is unsettling to him that the stories of his people seem to be hidden, whereas the stories of other people’s groups are put on display. After all, The Romani and Sinti lost over 80 percent of their population. It is through this staggering number that I think that not many stories were to be told because there were not too many survivors and their groups had been previously persecuted long before Hitler came into power. It is with great sadness that I come to the conclusion that since they were already a targeted group, many people seemed not to care of their disappearance and from a global perspective, since they were a small, nomadic group, they did not have strong ties to any certain area.

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photo courtesy of USHMM. Three boys standing outside of the Ghetto in Lodz.