On 16 May 1944, Romani prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp stage an uprising.
After Heinrich Himmler ordered all Romani people to be sent to concentration camps for extermination on 16 December 1942, the SS set up a separate camp within Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Section B-IIe, known as the Zigeunerfamilienlager ("Gypsy Family Camp"). Since then, around 23,000 Romani have been deported here, of which 6,500 have survived and are in the camp currently.
Since Rudolf Höss returned to his post as camp commandant to supervise 'Operation Höss', the deportation and extermination of Hungarian Jews, on 8 May, he decided that more space was needed. So on 15 May, Höss ordered the liquidation of all prisoners in the Gipsy Family Camp.
Commander and rapportführer (reporting officer) of the Gypsy Family Camp disagreed with the SS and their methods and asked Polish political prisoner Tadeusz Joachimowski to warn the Romani prisoners that at Lagersperre (curfew) the following day, the SS would enter the camp and round them up for execution.
Today, on 16 May, at 1900 hours, the gong is sounded for the Lagersperre and SS cars drive into the Gipsy Family Camp. Around 60 SS soldiers approach the barracks, but the Romani, armed with shovels, knives, and stones, refuse to come out. The SS soldiers, stunned, back away to their vehicles. After consulting with their commander, the SS soldiers leave the camp. The Romani manage to save themselves from certain death.
Sadly, this will not last long. Throughout June and July, the Romani will be moved into the even-numbered camp blocks as tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews will be accommodated in the odd-numbered ones. Then, on the morning of 1 August, the SS will take transport around half of the Romani prisoners, those fit for work, to Auschwitz I, Ravensbrück, and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Throughout the 2 August and early morning of 3 August, SS soldiers will close down the Gipsy Family Camp, murder the remaining 2,897 Romani women, children, elderly people, and the infirm in the gas chambers and burn their bodies in Crematorium V.
Picture: Romani prisoners at Belzec extermination camp, 1940
Source: USHMM 74705 ...