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Ruptures in Memoryscapes 

Holocaust and Romani genocide in Southeast Europe

Say this city has ten million souls [...]/ Yet there’s no place for us, yet there’s no place for us.// [...] The Consul banged the table and said: ’If you’ve got no passport you’re officially dead’:/ But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.// [...] Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said: / ’If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’;/ He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.// [...] Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,/ a thousand windows and a thousand doors;/ Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

(W. H. Auden, Refugee Blues (1939



Was/Is there indeed no place for them, as the poet wrote eighty years ago? As if the very same world geographically defined as Europe has forgotten its recent past of exclusion, deportation, and denial to inhabit its space. This past brings to mind the Holocaust – genocide affecting six million Jews and similarly the genocides against the Roma, Slavic-speaking people in Poland, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, homosexuals, mentally ill and physically disabled persons. 

“Who remembers, when, where and how?” the historian Jay Winter [1] asks.

Moreover, who does one remember and why? 

“If blood in the sand is doomed to fade into oblivion, should we grieve? Must we remember?” we ask in line with Hinton, La Pointe, and Irvin-Erickson, the authors of “Hidden Genocides. Power, Knowledge, and Memory.” [2] Samudaripen/ Porajmos/ Pharrajimos [3] - genocide against Romani people - (often) bears this fate of “fading away into oblivion.” That is why we have placed the genocide against the Roma alongside the genocide against Jews. Our aim is not to relativize these two different and yet close-related flows of the past, but also to expose the often forgotten question of (the invisibility of) Roma suffering.

Choosing not to take a Holocaust-only viewpoint is a difficult task to assume. We move beyond to approach it by looking at traces of the hidden pasts in modern-day Croatia and Serbia that point to the various dynamics and versions of the genocides that occurred during WW2.

Our project revolves around the post-war Southeast European countries of Croatia and Serbia where remembrance of the Holocaust has taken aporetic courses within the self-defined nationalities. It picks up the ongoing events related to the war of the 1990s and the present-day where the anti-fascist in Serbia and anti-monarchist struggle against the then Serbia in Croatia erupt into the new forms of Holocaust-remembrance. At the same time, in both countries, the members of the military movements who collaborated with the Axis Powers are being recognized and celebrated as national heroes causing Yugoslavia to become an anti-legacy. Attempts at enquiring who the actual victims and perpetrators were, result in simplified narratives of assigning the victimhood to the self and the guilt to the Other. This remembrance, therefore, becomes a playground for political negotiations within the binary model of victims and perpetrators. 

This negotiation of WW2 in both countries spills over into the political remembrance of the wars of the 1990s. Pasts overlap and histories become entangled through the invocation of the old narratives of victims and perpetrators.

Departing from this point, we ask: To what extent and how do the atrocities of the Holocaust and genocide against Roma become exploited and manipulated? Who are the actors in and the users of the newly created remembrance? Does the Roma genocide fade away into the invisibility (again)? And if so, how? How do Jewish and Roma minorities position themselves towards their past and the majority that creates the political, cultural, and social self in relation to/against them? 

This research project is topologically organized into two parts to facilitate the capture of spatial – material and bodily – as well as oral testimonial traces of the given pasts in Belgrade and Zagreb. Following frequently forgotten, denied or erased sites of suffering on the one hand, and exposed sites of remembrance on the other, we pay attention to how persons inhabit their contemporary living spaces – including even WW2 detention and killing sites.  They testify to the enduring traces of the genocides in Croatia and Serbia, manifesting as both surpluses and lacks within the orders of remembrance. As such, they feature in the form of ruptures and voids in entangled historical and contemporary times that we use as a middle road where opponent narratives can meet and intersect. 


[1] Winter, Jay. 2006. Remembering War. The Great War between Historical Memory and History in the Twentieth Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

[2] Hinton, Alexandar Laban, Thomas La Pointe, and Douglas Irvin-Erickson. Eds. 2014. Hidden Genocides: Power, Knowledge, Memory. Rutgers University Press. 

[3] We choose the term “genocide” to avoid any political connotation that terms like “Romani Holocaust” or “Samudaripen” – “mass killing” – might imply while the word “Porajmos” might bear offensive connotations due to its secondary meanings of  “violation”, “rape”, “to open” or “to scream”.

This project is entirely funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and hosted by the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. 

Europa-University Viadrina

Große Scharrnstraße 59

15230 Frankfurt (Oder)



German Academic Exchange Service

Markrafenstraße 37

10117 Berlin



Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION

Logenstraße 9-10

15230 Frankfurt (Oder)


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