Tuesday October 16, 2018
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The Forgotten Holocaust: A brief history of the Roma

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By Annesha Das Gupta

The question is asked: “Have you heard of the holocaust?” The answer comes: “Yes, sure. The atrocities that were performed against the Jews. Tell who hasn’t!” “But what about the Romani Holocaust?”

“Romani Holocaust? What is that?”

Yes, in each and every part of the world, across all the educational institutions, this is what has gone amiss. People are made to forget a race of human beings who suffered but whose sufferings were never made to surface in our textbooks.

Let us look at the historical amnesia. It is time to redeem it.

The Romani Holocaust – Mainstreaming

  • Before the Nazis – A short introduction

 

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Image Courtesy: Bob Dawson

According to the eminent Romani scholar, Ian Hancock, the Romanies were unfortunately victimized much before the arrival of the era of the Nazis, and that its reasons are complex but can be explained in four main points: a) The first Roma who arrived in Europe were there because of the Ottoman Turkish, who conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire and so the Roma people were also perceived as possible threats. b) The Roma, a group, who were neither whites nor Christians and therefore, were considered to be aliens. c)  They also never claimed to any geographical territory or have an economy, militia or a government. d) The culture, as Hancock says, was the final nail in the coffin, which segregated and build up a strict social boundary against the Roma and the non-Roma world.

Further, Hancock explains in his essay, Romanies and the Holocaust: A Reevaluation and an Overview, that sometime in the early 1920s a psychiatrist called Karl Binding and a magistrate, Alfred Hoche, jointly authored and published a book named, The Eradication of Lives Undeserving of Life. It was mentioned referring to the Roma people that were “unworthy of life” and the “incurably mentally ill”.

After the coming of the Nazis, they followed up the practices in the US such as euthanasia and sterilization and implemented them on the Roma.

A law incorporating the phrase “unworthy of life” was put into effect just four months after Hitler became the chancellor of the Third Reich.

  • Arrival of the Nazis

Image Courtesy: The Telegraph

 

Thus, when the Nazis, first arrived in 1933, German laws were already into effect against the Roman for over 100 years.

But the conquest of the Balkan, southern and Eastern Europe began when Hitler ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia, a former ally, in the spring of 1941 after they refused to allow the German troops to cross its territories.

The Romani Holocaust – was planned and executed by the Nazi Germany and its allies. Bob Dawson, a Roma and ‘gypsy’ heritage collector explains: “Nazi racial theory met a stumbling block with the Roma and Sinti as they were more ‘Aryan’ than the Germans and yet the Nazis realized they were not Aryan in the same way as the Nordic ideal”. Further, he goes on to say, that, Nazi racial theorists, such as Hans Gunther, had to find an explanation to explain “alleged racial flaws” and they were ‘asocial’ and distinct from Germanic Aryans because of their mingling with “inferior races”.

In September 1935, Roma became subjected to the restrictions of the Nuremberg laws just like the Jew masses. Whereas, two years later the Nation Citizenship Law relegated the Romanies and the Jews, as second-class citizens. In the same year, Heinrich Himmler decreed the “Struggle against Gypsy”, where the Roma people were stated as “mixed blood” and involved in “criminal activities” so their each and every move must be reported to the regional police departments of Reich Central Office.

Again, between June 13-18,1938, was declared as “Gypsy Clean-Up Week” (or Zigeunerauf in the documents) throughout Germany which was in reality, the horrendous preparations for the complete extermination of the Roma and Sinti people.

In 1939, Johannes Behrendt of the office of Racial Hygiene Institute issued a brief statement where it was said that “all the ‘gypsies’ should be treated as hereditarily sick and the only solution is their elimination with any destination”.

In January of 1940, it is found that about 250 children from Brno were murdered in Buchenwald, where many were used as test subjects to examine the efficacy of the Zyklon-B cyanide gas Crystals and later in the gas chambers. It is worth mentioning that a distinctive attribute of the Holocaust was the extensive use of human subjects in medical experiments. The most notorious of the physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

His nefarious experiments used to include the placing of subjects in pressure chambers, testing of drugs on them, freezing them and even injecting of chemicals into children’s eyes which was apparently an attempt to change the color of their eyes. Though, unfortunately, most of his documents including a 3,300 paged  have allegedly been destroyed by a Dr. Otmar Von Chuer of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

On 16 December 1941, Himmler issued that the Romanies of the West Germany were to be deported at Auschwitz-Birkenau. And three years later, on 4 August, about 2,400 Romanies were gassed and cremated there and the event is remembered as Zigeunernacht.

According to Mrs. De Wick,an eyewitness, Anne Frank, a notable Jewish Holocaust victim, had witnessed the prelude to the murder of Romani children at Auschwitz. In her words: “I can still see her standing at the door and looking down at the camp street as a herd of naked gypsy girls were driven by to the crematory, and Anne watched them going and cried”.

Do not forget them – Victims and survivors of the Roma Holocaust

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Image Courtesy: The Journal

 In different regions of the world, the Romani Genocide or the Romani Holocaust is known by different terms. The term Porjamos which literally translates to “devouring” in the dialects of the Romani language was first coined by Ian Hancock in the early 1990s. Hancock also used the world Kalderash Rom, which mostly popular among the activists but remains unknown to many Romanies as well as to the descendants of the Holocaust victims and survivors.

Whereas the people involved with the Romani Civil Rights movement in Hungary has the preference for Pharrajimos (cutting up) which is Marhine, meaning untouchable and since the letter ‘p’ is not is use there, it is unpronounceable among the community.

The total number of the Romani people who were killed in the Holocaust accounts more than one and a half million people and whereas in Nazi occupied France it was, between 16,000 to 18,000 of them.

According to Francoise Sagan, “Being a Jew under Hitler made you first a guilty party and then a parcel which the Yellow Star, itself now become a label, dispatched to those unknown camps – a process which took a more or less brief period of time, but a period of time all the same. Being a ‘Gypsy’, however, made you an instant target, since the relatively small number of persons of the race facilitated in their execution”.

In 1950, the Wurttemberg Ministry of the Interior issued a statement to the judges of the hearing a war crime restitution, claiming that the ‘Gypsies’ were persecuted under the Nationalist Socialist Regime not for any social reason but for their criminal and anti-social tags.

Twenty-one years later, in 1971, Bonn Convention, according to Hancock, taking advantage of this, cited that they were not paying the Roma people as the reasons for their victimization during the Nazi period because of their security only.

Whereas in the February of 1987, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a conference named ‘Other Victims’ with a panel on Romanies but unfortunately no member of the Roma community is part of the organization or the presenters since 2002.

It was as late as in 1982 when West Germany finally decided to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The Polish government commemorated the genocide on August 2nd, 2011.

The first memorial commemoration of the Holocaust victims was erected on May 8, 1956 in the Polish Village of Szczurowacom. Other incident is of the Gypsy Caravan Memorial, which traveling since 1996, along Poland, from Tarnow via Auschwitz sites and Borzecin Dolny, where the well-wishers and people of the Roma community gather for the remembrance.

Lastly, on 24 October 2012, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism was unveiled in Berlin.

Many people who belong to the community are afraid to reveal their presence openly in the society. Primarily,because of the unfair stigma attached to their identity and the various unsympathetic laws against them. the gap needs to be abridged so that Roma community can proudly claim their place in the society and move up the social ladder.

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Cricket madness in Chicago

People sacrifice other chores just to enjoy this beautiful game and to keep it alive in countries outside India where cricket is not a major sport.

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Cricket has become a popular sport in Chicago. Around 900 people play the game in the windy city.

By West Loop Cricket Association, Chicago

WLCA Working Committee

Hari Mohan, Harshavardhna Hedge, Kunal Tembhurne, Niranjan Kulkarni, Saurabh Nigam, Shreenidhi Bharadwaj, Shekar Reddy Palla, Shwetabh Gaurav, Sunil Saini, Vivek Sarkar

About:

Cricket is more a religion, less a sport in India. People are obsessed with the sport and magnitude of love cannot be defined in words.

In the United States, Baseball, Basketball and Soccer are obviously more popular. However, Cricket has a strong presence due to the passion and love of Indians for the game. The Indian community in USA avidly plays and promotes cricket and, in the process comes closer to each other.

 

Cricket
The tournament played between Chicago Centaurs and Arrigo Avengers.

 

The passion for the game is unreal in USA too. Working men enjoy the sport in their free time. They even book grounds (baseball/soccer grounds) to practice and conduct tournament matches. The players are from all backgrounds – students, businessmen, lawyers, IT professionals to doctors. They all take out time out of their busy schedules and come together to rejoice the gentleman’s game in the windy city.

Tournaments in Chicago

As cricket has a strong presence in Chicago, many friendly yet competitive tournaments are conducted by cricket fanatics to keep the game alive.

Chicagotwenty20 tournament

Chicagotwenty20 is the oldest cricket tournament that was conducted in Chicago. It’s first season took place in 2009 and the tenth season was played in 2018. The league is played in 20 overs format. 56 teams participate from Chicago and are divided into groups 4 with 14 teams in each group.  Each team has a squad of 16 players with 11 playing and rest 5 as extras. Each team has a home ground. 7 matches are played at home ground and the rest at the opponent’s ground. The top eight teams from each group are qualified for the quarter finals. The tournament is almost four months long. The best player of the winning team is awarded the man of the match in every match. Best Batsman, Best bowler, MVP ( most valuable player) awards are given at the end of the season.

The 2018 season was won by team Yorkers. The Best Batsman, Highest score and the MVP award was given to Mr Pavan Shetty of team Yorkers, who scored 418 runs. The best bowler award was given to Sivakumar for taking 27 wickets.

 

Cricket
This is the team who connected via the meetup link which has more than 300 members.

 

WLCA Super 8 tournament

WLCA (West Loop Cricket Association, Chicago) was formed by four IT professionals in 2016 with the sole objective of promoting the game of cricket in Chicago City area. Based out of vibrant and affluent Chicago West Loop, WLCA is an assemblage of 300+ cricket players. These cricket enthusiasts come from different walks of life being corporate professionals, UIC/IIT students and local businessmen. There are hundreds of followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

WLCA mainly involve in:

  • Organize annual cricket tournament
  • Coordinate weekly cricket games in different Chicago City park locations
  • Coordinating friendly games with other known Chicago Suburban teams
  • WLCA team represented Chicago City in other Chicagoland tournaments including Chicago T20 League and Soha Cup
  • Maintaining and making available Cricket Equipment Kit free of cost to playing group

The WLCA hosts Super 8 Cricket tournament which started in 2017 by the West Loop cricket association (WLCA). It is played under the format of 8 overs and 8 players in each team. This concept of tournament was the first to be launched by WLCA in Chicago. This is the shortest time-consuming format (2 days) and the played at the heart of Chicago Downtown. The first season was extremely successful (12 teams) and participating teams called out as the best organized cricket tournament amongst many happening in Chicago.

Season 2 played in 2018 organized by WLCA had 16 teams divided into four groups with four teams in each group. The semi-finals and final are played with 10 overs. There is a man of the match, best bowler, best fielder award for every match

Cricket
Westloop Wolves Team.

 

Here is the fixture and schedule of Season 2:

There are 16 teams participating in this short format cricket tournament.

16 team is divided into 4 groups.

Group A Group B Group C Group D
Winter Wolves (A1) Chicago Wild Kittens(B1) Arrigo Avengers(C1) Super 9s(D1)
Dark Knights (A2) Challengers(B2) Cook County(C2) Chicago Super Kings(D2)
Chicago Centaurs(A3) Hunters (B3) Westside Wolves(C3) River City (D3)
International Khiladies (A4) Ballers(B4) Knights(C4) CSK+(D4)

Each team in the group will play only two matches with the other two teams.

From each group top two teams will be qualified for the quarterfinals, then semis and finals.

Chicago Centaurs were the Champions and Super 9s were the runners up.

The tournament has become a big deal in no time. It was sponsored by big names like USBank (thanks to Susan Brown), Lodha Group (this group was also the associated sponsor of Ind vs, Eng Test Series in 2018) and Metra Spice Mart (Only Indian Grocery Store in Chicago Downtown). The tournament has gained momentum in no time and is likely to do so in the years to come.

Keeping the game alive overseas

Cricket has become a huge deal in Chicago. Around 900 people play the game in the windy city. Tournaments like above help in maintaining healthy competition and something to be excited for.

People sacrifice other chores just to enjoy this beautiful game and to keep it alive in countries outside India where cricket is not a major sport.

 

Cricket
Dark Knights Led by Pranjal Chauhan

 

“My favourite sport and always loved to watch and play the game anywhere in the world anytime. Always loved to organize these kinds of tournament from childhood so continuing the same thing outside the country”, Says Harshavardhna Hedge, Organizer, WLCA super 8 tournament.

“Well I love the sport and love my country. We get to relive our childhood and impart love for the game to the next generation. The community comes together and enjoy, and we also return to the society through charity”, Says Hari Mohan, Organizer, WLCA super 8 tournament.