Part 1 in a Series
It is estimated that approximately six million Jewish people were murdered during the terror of Adolf Hitler. However, there was another estimated five million people who were killed, including gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, gay people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a variety of others disliked by the Nazis.
Romani Gypsies Second Largest Group
The Romani gypsies were considered as outsiders and “racially impure,” as seen by the Nazis. Up to one million died in a mass killing known as Porajmos. Likes the Jews, they were sent to camps, gassed, and used for forced labor. Scholars mostly ignored these deaths until the 1980s. These gypsies were forced to register as members of another ‘race.’ Many were put on a train headed for Auschwitz, where a terrible fate awaited them. One young child, age ten at the time, Ceija Stojka, said, “The dead were stacked up in the corners and against the doors. For endless days, we stood. No food, no water. All the babies and pregnant women were dying. The door opened, and the wall of dead and pregnant women fell out. Young Ceija’s mother convinced guards the young lady was 16 and a strong girl. The girl was then known as Z6399.
A Sadistic Female Guard
While at Auschwitz, Ceija’s younger brother died from Typhus. She and her mother were sent to another concentration camp in Germany. There a sadistic female guard abused them. Her name was Binz. The girl reported, “She had a large dog she would have attack and kill. No warning. One day we were hanging sheets frozen in the cold, and an old woman tripped. Binz stomped her head as she lay on the ground until her brains came out.”
Binz Learn’s Ceija’s Age
Binz discovered that Ceija’s mother had lied about her age. Binz planned to torture her mother by submerging her in icy water. When her mother learned her fate, she and Ceijua fled to a truck headed to another German Camp. At the new camp Ceija, now 11, slept in a pile of recently-killed-bodies. The young girl asked the corpses for their forgiveness and then buried herself in their bodies to stay warm.
How The Two Survived
Ceija and her mother survived by eating paper and pieces of leather. However, one day while the young girl was closing the eyes of the dead, she heard a loud bang. A wall nearby blew down. She saw tanks. Next, she saw a young man standing there in an unfamiliar uniform. He told Ceija, “I am your liberator.” The allied forces had arrived. She and her mother were freed. Her mother pushed the now 12-year-old 700 miles in a wheelbarrow. They traveled to Linz, the third-largest city in Austria. This was a location where the Roma people met. Ceija and her mother were overwhelmed with happiness when the four surviving siblings were also there, and the family was able to reunite.
Ceija Finds A Pleasant Life
Through the years, Ceija faced many obstacles. The now-grown woman became a well-known artist as well as an activist for awareness of Roma killed in the Holocaust. Her numerous paintings depict images of horrible death camps as well as more pleasant paintings of her mother and her siblings. Ceija died in 2013 at the age of 79.
Hitler Made A Decree Against Gypsies
In 1935 Hitler issued a decree classifying Gypsies as “enemies of the race-based state.” This placed them in the same category as the Jews. In 1982 West Germany formally recognized that Germany had committed genocide against the Romani.
Tomorrow Part 2 in this Series