2 August 2020

Dr Astrid Ley

Deputy director of the Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen

Statement on the occasion of the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma 2020

My name is Astrid Ley, I am deputy director of the Sachsenhausen Memorial.

We are happy to participate in the European Day of Remembrance for Sinti and Roma. It is very important to us to keep alive the memory of the Nazi crimes against this and other minorities in order to take a stand against racism in our society today.

Over a thousand Sinti and Roma were deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1936 and 1945. I am standing here in front of one of the barracks of the camp infirmary, which houses an exhibition on National Socialist. One room is dedicated to the descent reports on Sinti and Roma, which were prepared by staff of the so-called “Racial Hygiene Research Centre” under the psychiatrist Robert Ritter.

The main aim of the expert reports was to record all Sinti and Roma living in the territory of the Reich. During the “racial biological investigations”, blood samples were taken and faces and bodies were measured with special instruments in order to document physiognomic – i.e. external – characteristics. In addition, the researchers collected information on kinship relations and compiled the results for each extended family in so-called inheritance tables.

These documents later served the police as a basis for the compilation of deportation lists, according to which tens of thousands of Sinti and Roma living in the Reich territory were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Most of them were murdered there.

The staff of the Research Centre therefore played a central role in the genocide of the Sinti and Roma: Without their recording work, the systematic deportation of German Sinti and Roma would not have been possible. Nevertheless, none of the scientists were later brought to justice, because – as the defence put it – they “only did research”. The fact that they nevertheless bear a considerable share of the responsibility for the genocide of the Sinti and Roma is one of the topics we are working on here in the exhibition with budding doctors and nurses. In this way, we want to sensitise members of the medical profession to today’s medical-ethical problems with the help of Nazi history.


Romani Rose

Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma

Erich Schneeberger

Deputy Chairman of the Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma and Chairman of the Association of German Sinti and Roma

Timea Junghaus

Executive Director
European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC)

Adam Strauß

Chairman of the Council of German Sinti and Roma in Hesse

Marian Kalwary

Chairman of the Association of Jews,
Survivors and Victims of the Second World War

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