Research Centre on AntigypsyismEncyclopaedia to Document National Socialist Genocide of the Sinti and Roma in Europe

Press Release No. 63/2020
29 July 2020

Foreign Office funds Research Centre on Antigypsyism with approximately 1.2 million euros for large-scale project

Historical knowledge on the National Socialist genocide of the Sinti and Roma in Europe will be consolidated in a major encyclopaedia and made available for research as well as to the broad public. The international project is based at the Research Centre on Antigypsyism of Heidelberg University. The results will initially appear online. Based on this, participating researchers in Germany and abroad will then publish a multivolume reference work in print form. Initial investigations will focus on the European dimension of the genocide. The five-year project led by historian Dr Karola Fings just began its work with funding from the Foreign Office totalling around 1.2 million euros.

Asperg - Deportation von Sinti und Roma, Marsch über die Königstraße

“As a research subject, the National Socialist genocide of the Sinti and Roma has long been relegated to the sidelines. Although important special studies have appeared in the last 20 years, knowledge on this topic remains extremely fragmented,” explains Dr Fings, a recognised research expert in the field who joined the Heidelberg Research Centre after many years as Deputy Director of the NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne. The aim of the project is to combine and deepen prior research on the causes, structures, and progression of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. “We want to broaden the perspective as well as consider the European dimensions of the genocide,” explains the Centre’s Academic Director, Dr Frank Reuter.

Along with Dr Fings and Dr Reuter, numerous researchers from Germany and abroad will also be contributing to the encyclopaedia. The work will be organised alphabetically and contain roughly 750 key words. The handbook entries will feature overviews of individual countries and locations. Topics covered will include ghettos and camps, racist legislation, and persecution measures such as deportation and forced sterilisation. Events such as the murder of the Sinti and Roma in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the slaughter of the Roma population in Wehrmacht-occupied countries will be discussed. Finally, the work will incorporate personal biographies of both victims and perpetrators. Other topics to be covered include life in hiding and compensation payments after the collapse of National Socialism.

Dr Fings sees the planned work as an extension of the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism, which was dedicated in Berlin in 2012. “The encyclopaedia is also intended to make the German public even more aware of the genocide and to provide access to this knowledge for historical-political education.” Project cooperation partners include the Federal Agency for Civic Education, the Documentation and Culture Centre of the German Sinti and Roma, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, the Fritz Bauer Institute, and the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. A council will oversee the development of the encyclopaedia.

The Research Centre on Antigypsyism is part of the Department of History of Heidelberg University. Its mandate is to take up fundamental issues surrounding the causes, forms, and consequences of antiziganism in European societies from the Middle Ages to the present. Mechanisms of prejudice and discrimination practices are substantiated historically and studied at various levels applying a theory-based approach. The research results will be brought into context with research on racism, stereotypes, violence, and inclusion. Heidelberg historian Prof. Dr Edgar Wolfrum is Research Director.

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