Remembrance culture in Bonn Memorial plaque for Bonn's Sinti and Roma is back
Bonn · After almost seven years, the memorial plaque for Bonn's Sinti and Roma who were deported and murdered by the Nazis has returned to its former spot in the pedestrian area opposite the station. One reason for the long wait was the work on new commercial buildings there.
In October 2016, a memorial plaque was removed because of construction work in the area around the central station forecourt. It had been erected in1999 to remember the Sinti and Roma from Bonn who were victims of the National Socialist genocide between 1938 and 1945. Now it is back and hangs on a free-standing boulder outside the steps leading down to the station underground.
The State Association of German Sinti and Roma NRW had long campaigned for the memorial plaque to be reinstalled. Chairman Roman Franz said: "A commitment to democracy is the basis for bringing the majority and the minority closer together." He said that in the 1930s there would have been around 100 Sinti in Bonn; only about half of them survived the Nazi era. He was joined by Lord Mayor Katja Dörner (Greens) and District Mayor Jochen Reeh-Schall (SPD) at the unveiling of the plaque.
Dörner apologised to Franz for the fact that it had taken so long to re-install the plaque. In 2016, they had failed "to find a dignified place for the plaque during the transitional period of the construction work", she said. According to Philipp Hoffmann, head of the Zentrum für Stadtgeschichte und Erinnerungskulturen (Centre for Urban History and Cultures of Remembrance), they had not thought that the construction process would drag on for so long. Otherwise, they would have looked for an interim or alternative location, Hoffmann said. "We are in a public space here. There was a wish that the plaque should come back to the place where it was previously installed," he said. This is why it was necessary to wait for the completion of the construction work. He added that it had also taken some time to go through the relevant committees of the city.
In his speech, Franz spoke about the atrocities committed by the National Socialists. Some 500,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered, but it was not until 1982 that this genocide was recognised in Germany. For Franz, the location of the memorial has the advantage of being centrally located. "A lot of people come by here to see what it is." He said that it was about appealing to the general population.
Dörner noted that discrimination against Sinti and Roma did not end after 1945. "In the post-war period, and for decades, mainstream society denied the genocide of the Sinti and Roma and not infrequently knowingly and wilfully overlooked and ignored it," she said. Sinti and Roma are still discriminated against today, for example when it comes to access to the housing and labour market or also within the education system, said Dörner.
All involved parties hope that the plaque will contribute to raising public awareness of the crimes committed by the Nazis against Bonn's Sinti and Roma and to awakening interest in their history and culture. As long as Sinti and Roma are not perceived and treated as equals, everyone is obligated to "stand up for them on an equal footing and with mutual respect", Dörner emphasised.
Original text. Jan-Oliver Nickel
Translation: Jean Lennox