Do you recognize this badge?
Does it carry any symbolism for you? Does looking at this photo evoke any emotions for you? Do you know where it came from and what it means? Do you have an idea of who wore this inverted brown triangle on their chest, and why?
The brown triangle was the badge worn by Roma prisoners in concentration camps across Europe during World War II. Some Roma wore green or black triangles, identifying them as criminals or social outcasts, instead of brown. Thousands of Roma were slaughtered in Serbia before making it to camps. Others were expelled from Romania and starved to death in a Romanian-controlled section of Ukraine. By the end of the war, virtually the entire Roma population of Croatia was dead.
Of the estimated 23,000 Roma who were expelled to Auschwitz, almost 20,000 died. The infamous doctor Joseph Mengele was particularly fond of Roma children for his experiments. Other concentration camps in Europe held only Roma prisoners, including the Lety camp in what is now the Czech Republic. At the site of the former Lety concentration camp, there is now a pig farm.
No one knows exactly how many Roma were killed in Europe in World War II. Most estimates are in the hundreds of thousands, with some historians claiming over a million were killed.
After the war, a court in Germany ruled that the Nazi persecution of the Roma was not racially motivated, effectively barring Roma Holocaust survivors from receiving reparations. German authorities did not acknowledge the Roma genocide until 1982. To say that discrimination against Roma continues across Europe to this day is to put their current situation in the mildest possible terms. In the US dominant culture, the Roma are alternately ignored or kitsch-ified into obscurity.
I don’t intend for this post to be a comprehensive or authoritative summary of the Porajmos, as the Roma Holocaust is often called. I am by no means an expert on this event, and most of this information I pieced together from sources on the Internet. Rather, I’m reaching out to my small audience, to make a simple acknowledgement that the Porajmos happened.
It wasn’t just one religion or community who was decimated in the Holocaust, it was many. For some groups, particularly the Roma, persecution and denial of existence have remained the status quo.
Patches of many shapes and colors have been sewn onto the breasts of the damned.
Today is the 70th Anniversary commemoration of the Roma Genocide. For more information about how to participate, take a look at this site.