On a small, circular reflecting pool in the center of Berlin, across from the Reichstag parliament building, a memorial to some of the often-forgotten victims of the Third Reich was dedicated last week.
The “Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered Under National Socialism” remembers the Gypsies. An estimated 220,000-500,000 of them, deemed “racially inferior” by the Nazis, died during a Nazi-conducted genocide. Sinti and Roma are names for the groups usually referred to as Gypsies.
The memorial to the “Parajmos,” which means devouring or destruction in some Romani dialects, was designed by Israeli artist Dani Karavan. Its water, Karavan told Spiegel magazine, is supposed to evoke tears for the dead. “I wanted to reduce [the design] to a minimum, not to make a big cry, but a silent whisper of pain.”
A small triangular stone sits in the center of the reflecting pool; once a day the platform will sink beneath the surface and return with a fresh flower atop it.
The $3.6 million memorial is surrounded by broken slabs of stone; next to it is a chronology of the Nazis’ killing campaign; a poem, “Auschwitz,” by Italian poet Santino Spinelli is engraved around the pool’s rim.
“This memorial commemorates a group of victims who, for far too long, received far too little public recognition,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during the dedication ceremony. “The destiny of every single person murdered in this genocide is one of unspeakable suffering. Every single destiny fills us, fills me, with sadness and shame.
“We cannot reverse what happened” during World War II, Merkel said, “but we can bring remembrance of it to the very center of our society.”
A lone violin played during the ceremony, which featured two minutes of silence and speeches by other political leaders and elderly Gypsy survivors.
During the Nazi era, Gypsies were subject to discrimination, sterilization, deportation, forced labor, internment and murder.
“Opening the memorial sends an important message to society that anti-Roma sentiment is as unacceptable as anti-Semitism,” Romani Rose, leader of the Central Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany, declared at the ceremony.