26 February 1943: First transport of Roma and Sinti reaches Auschwitz

On 26 February 1943, the first transport of Roma and Sinti people from Germany arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex.

Roma and Sinti prisoners. Image: © USHMM

Romani prisoners in a camp © USHMM

This followed an order in January 1943 specifying that all Roma and Sinti living within the Third Reich were to be deported there. They were put in an area of the camp which became known as the ‘Gypsy family camp’ or Zigeunerlager.

Otto Rosenberg was sent to Auschwitz with his Sinti family, and wrote about his experiences:

Sorting began immediately. The Jews over there, the Sinti over there, the Poles over there and so forth. Everything was organised. You were taken to a doctor. He gave a signal, mostly with a bell… You had to roll up your sleeve and a Pole – his name was Bogdan – tattooed a number on your arm with a sort of pen. Z 6084 was my number.

It is estimated that as many as 23,000 Roma and Sinti were deported to the Auschwitz camp complex, and that around 20,000 of them were murdered.

On 2 August 1944, SS soldiers murdered all of those who were still in the ‘Gypsy Camp’; around 3,000 people were sent to the gas chambers.

Under Nazi persecution, more than 200,000 Roma and Sinti were murdered or died as a result of starvation or disease; around 25% of the pre-war population.

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