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Requiem for Auschwitz

Submitted by on 12 Jul 2012 – 11:29

Requiem for AuschwitzBy Jef Helmer, Member of the M. T.  Requiem for Auschwitz

The première of the Requiem for Auschwitz in De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam on the 3rd of May this year provoked a wave of moving reactions amongst the audience as well as amongst the more than 200,000 people who were watching the registration one day later on the national TV.

The Dutch Sinto singer Roger ‘Moreno’ Rathgeb wrote this musical work to commemorate all the victims of the Nazis irrespective their origin. In his words: “The notion that millions of people have passed through this gate, that they have suffered in the same way; hunger, pain, torture, gassing. They all went on the same road to the ovens, Jews, Poles, Sinti and Roma. This made me very angry. I wanted to set up a musical monument to unite people and nations.” This was after his first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1998.

As an autodidact in composing he started to write but after some time he completely got stuck. Then, the director of the International Gipsy Festival in Tilburg did him an encouraging proposal: “Roger, if you will complete the score I will do my utmost to realize performances of your Requiem in several capitals in Europe.” This was 2009. Within some months the score was finished. Three years later, Roger and hundred thousands of Dutch people heard for the first time the tones which he had for so long time only in his mind. During the performance hundreds of images were displayed of the loved ones of the victims; photographs which they took on their journey themselves and which were discovered in their suitcases. In between the different parts of the Requiem short texts were narrated selected from diaries and letters of murdered people. Famous Dutch actors and singers read these authentic texts.

The orchestra that is playing in this concert is the Roma und Sinti Philharmoniker in Frankfurt accomplished with thirty Roma musicians from Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. In Cracow, Bucharest, Frankfurt, Prague and Budapest national professional choirs, and soloists will be accompanied by this orchestra.

This Requiem for Auschwitz shows to be a strong demonstration of the cultural power against discrimination and exclusion.

Although the Requiem for Auschwitz commemorates all victims it also tries to raise awareness of the tragedy that has struck the Roma and Sinti during the Nazi regime.

The Holocaust is connected with Jewish victims. The general public hardly knows about the Roma and Sinti genocide. Also governments in many European countries are reluctant in recognizing this tragedy and in compensating the Roma and Sinti victims. The ignorance and indifference of the majority concerning this dark chapter of Europe’s past reinforces ambivalence, prejudice and discrimination against Roma and Sinti in the present.

By connecting the ‘forgotten’ Holocaust and the increasing racism against Roma and Sinti in present-day Europe, it becomes clear why they have to permanently take account of threats and persecutions, why they are reluctant about ethnic registration and why so many well educated Roma and Sinti hide their ethnic background.

Awareness of this ‘forgotten Holocaust’ is essential in combating current anti-Gypsyism in Europe.

On the 6th of May at the international conference ‘Roma between past and Future’ in Amsterdam experts and sixty participants reflected upon the comparison between present-day situation of Roma minorities and what happened to them in the 1930s and 1940s (texts of lectures will be available on www.niod.nl)

As part of the Requiem project a digital exhibition has been produced on the ‘Forgotten Genocide’ (www.romasinti.eu)

The Requiem-project has been well received in Dutch society. From the start well respected institutions such as the Anne Frank House, the National Committee 4 and 5 May, the NIOD, The Nieuwe Kerk, Dutch Auschwitz Committee supported the efforts of the initiators. They opened the doors to the Dutch TV and other mass media. Thanks to them the message of the project has reached a broad public.
Also the great support of the Council of Europe and the European Commission was essential in getting the results so far.

With the positive results of the first stage of the Requiem-project in The Netherlands our partners in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania and Hungary feel strongly motivated to get the performance of the Requiem for Auschwitz in their respective countries.

Further information: www.requiemforauschwitz.eu