Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project
"Forget You Not"™
preserving the past to protect the future...


 § August 2, Each Year §
Romani Extermination
Remembrance Day

Sixty-First Anniversary
of the Liquidation of the Gypsy Camp in Birkenau

August 2, 2006 marks the 61st anniversary of the liquidation of the so-called Gypsy Family Camp in Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp. On that day in 1944, the Nazis killed 2,897 men, women, and children in the gas chambers. August 2 has been observed since 1997 as the Romani Extermination Remembrance Day.

Romani woman
Romani woman (prisoner no. Z-63598), imprisoned October 1, 1943. The letter 'Z' stands for 'Zigeuner' or Gypsy. [Auschwitz Memorial Archives.]
In terms of numbers, the Romanies (Gypsies) were the third-largest group of deportees to Auschwitz, after the Jews and the non-Jewish Poles. Romani (Gypsy) transports reached Auschwitz from 14 countries. The first Romanies arrived on July 9, 1941, when there were two Polish Romani among a group of nine prisoners sent to the camp by the German criminal police in Katowice.

In December 1942, the Germans decreed that Romanies (Gypsies) should be imprisoned in concentration camps. Auschwitz was the camp chosen. Entire Romani (Gypsy) families were deported to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The first transport arrived on February 26, 1943, when the Familienzigeunerlager or Zigeunerfamilienlager ("Gypsy Family Camp") was still under construction; when completed, it comprised 32 residential and 6 sanitation barracks.

Romani children, Holocaust

Romani children, victims of medical experiments at Auschwitz.

A total of 20,967 men, women, and children were imprisoned in the Romani (Gypsy) camp between February 26, 1943 and July 21, 1944. This figure does not include about 1,700 Romnies from
Bialystok, who were not entered in the records. Suspected of carrying typhus, they were sent straight to the gas chambers and exterminated.

Diseases killed the majority of the nearly twenty thousand prisoners in the Zigeunerlager. Children deported to or born in the camp were particularly at risk, with noma ("water cancer"), scarlet fever, measles, and diphtheria all endemic. Some children also became subjects of Dr. Josef Mengele's criminal experiments.

The Germans intended to exterminate the Romanies completely as early as May 1944. On May 15, Gypsy Camp director Unterscharfuehrer SS Georg Bonigut ordered the inmates to stay in their barracks. The next day, 50 to 60 SS men surrounded the camp. They attempted to force the prisoners out of the barracks, but failed to do so. Fearing casualties, the Germans withdrew. There were significant numbers of Wehrmacht veterans among the prisoners. The Germans also feared that a mutiny could spread to other parts of the camp. On May 23, over 1,500 Gypsies were transferred from Birkenau to Auschwitz, from where they were subsequently transferred to Buchenwald. Two days later, 82 Gypsies were shipped to the Flossenburg camp and 144 Gypsy women to Ravensbrueck. Fewer than 3,000 people remained in the Family Camp.

The extermination of the Romanies in Birkenau occurred on the night of August 2/3, 1944, on orders from Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler. A ban on leaving the barracks was imposed on the evening of August 2. Despite resistance by the Gypsies, 2,897 men, women, and children were loaded on trucks, taken to gas chamber V, and exterminated. Their bodies were burned in pits next to the crematorium.

A total of about 23,000 Romanies were imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau; approximately 21,000 of them perished. The remainder were transferred to other camps. They labored in industry. Romanies were also subjected to criminal medical experiments. They were used as subjects in experiments at Buchenwald on the effects of drinking sea water. It is estimated that about half of the Romanies in lands occupied by the Third Reich died as a result of German persecution and terror.

Today, Romanies remember the murdered members of their families. On August 2, 1997, two Roma survivors, Herbert Adler (no. Z 2784) and Adolf Labinger (no. Z 41121), unveiled a restored memorial plaque on the ruins of one of the Familienzigeunerlager barracks. A permanent exhibition commemorating the martyrdom of the Gypsies was opened at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2001.


Source: Auschwitz Memorial Museum and Auschwitz Memorial Archives.

Romani symbol
.Special Selected Links: 

The 'Devouring': A look at the Romani Holocaust

Roma (Gypsies) and the Holocaust

Memorial Album (with a selected Poem)
Honoring Romanies (better known as "Gypsies") that Have Perished in the Holocaust