“The voice of Rome is missing from the mainstream historical narrative,” Kocze said. “Their testimony is denied, or minimized, and their credibility is questioned. These people don’t count, they don’t matter, nobody cares about them, even if only to remember them as people.”
That is why Kateřina Čapková, a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History Prague, initiated a database of testimonies, as a project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories. Before he started the project eight years ago, he says, “there was no such database or any other place where Romani testimonies were collected.”
Renata Berkyová, a Slovak Roma historian who was also instrumental in the development of the website, said that Romani testimonies were previously difficult to find in scattered archives. The database brings them to a central point that provides insight into the Nazi persecution of the Roma.
“You can see the trajectory of the survivor’s experience,” says Berkyová. “You can compare the testimonies, and you will find the main experience in one place.”
Romani are generally portrayed as uniformly nomadic, poor and unwilling to work, in part due to the effect of Nazi propaganda that dehumanized them, characterizing them as criminals, or “asocial,” Čapková explains. As a result, many people fail to consider their arrest, imprisonment and execution as a process of genocide.
“Roma and Sinti were imprisoned and killed based on race, on racial grounds,” Čapková said. But the Nazis often said it was “due to alleged criminal activity, or alleged refusal to work.”