Commemoration of the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp

In April 1945, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps were liberated. This year’s commemoration focused on remembering the imprisoned Sinti and Roma.

Jacques Delfeld stands at a lectern during his memorial speech. In front of him are many wreaths of flowers. Behind him are large-format posters with pictures of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp.
Jacques Delfeld (left) during his memorial speech together with Doreen Denstädt, Minister of Justice and State Commissioner against Antigypsyism in Thuringia (centre), Professor Jens-Christian Wagner, Director of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation (Photo: Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma)

In the context of the mass arrests in 1938/1939, hundreds of Sinti and Roma were also deported to concentration camps – including Buchenwald. Abused as labor slaves for SS-owned factories, a large number of the prisoners fell victim to the inhumane living conditions and the terror of the guards.

In 1944, the SS brought about 1,800 Sinti and Roma from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Buchenwald. For most of them, the camp was only a transit station. After only a short time, the SS sent them on to Mittelbau-Dora, Ellrich or Harzungen. Here they are used as forced laborers under inhumane conditions; only a few survived.

On September 26, 1944, two hundred Sinti and Roma – most of them children and adolescents – were sent from Buchenwald concentration camp on an extermination transport to Auschwitz. Except for two survivors, they were all killed in the gas chambers two weeks later. Today, a memorial commemorates the deported and murdered Sinti and Roma at the former Block 14 in Buchenwald.

Jacques Delfeld, vice chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, called on the German state and authorities in the main commemorative speech to finally start taking the growing antigypsyism seriously.

“Not only in Germany, but also in Europe, right-wing extremist and nationalist groups and parties are openly agitating against our democratic constitutional state and also against minorities. They are trying to make antigypsyist, antisemitic and racist arguments acceptable again and are fomenting violence.”

Jacques Delfeld

In view of the fate of several hundred thousand Sinti and Roma murdered by the National Socialists, he said, remembrance is an important requirement for recognizing dangers to our state today at an early stage.

Trees of remembrance for Sinti and Roma

Along the routes of the death marches on which the prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp were driven by the SS to the Bavarian concentration camp Flossenbürg in April 1945, people have been planting trees collectively since 1999. They are financed through tree sponsorships. Thus, piece by piece, a path of living memory is being created.

For the Student Association of Sinti and Roma in Germany, Chairman Francesco Arman and student Melody Steinbach planted a beech tree during the commemoration ceremony. Melody Steinbach’s great-grandfather, Erwin Steinbach, was himself imprisoned in the concentration and extermination camps Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora. He was one of the small number of Sinti and Roma who survived imprisonment.

Francesco Arman planting a tree. He holds a shovel in his hand.
Tree planting of the student association (Photo: Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma)
Melody Steinbach speaks into a microphone on the grounds of the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial.
Melody Steinbach during the opening speech at the Memorial to the Murdered Sinti and Roma (Photo: Documentation and Cultural Center of German Sinti and Roma)

Outdoor exhibition

The examination of the history of Buchenwald concentration camp is supported by many people and initiatives, including the Documentation and Cultural Center. Together with this network, the Memorial organizes the station trail “History. Knowledge. Action. A path through Buchenwald”. This involves visiting various historical sites in the former concentration camp, whose significance is explained through recitations, statements and an outdoor exhibition.

The various stations of the exhibition either pick up on events from the camp’s history or deal with specific groups of victims. At Station 5, dedicated to the murdered Sinti and Roma, Melody Steinbach recalled the fate of our people.

The station is sponsored by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma together with the student association.

Further information on the Buchenwald Memorial