“The Roma voice is very much missing from the mainstream historical narrative,” Kocze said. “Their testimony has been denied, or deflated, and their credibility is questioned. These people aren’t counted, they don’t matter, no one cares about them, even to merely remember them as humans.”
That was the reason that Kateřina Čapková, a researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History Prague, initiated the database of testimonies, as a project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories. Before she began the project eight years ago, she said, there was “no such database or any other place where Romani testimonies were collected.”
Renata Berkyová, a Slovak-born Roma historian who was also instrumental in developing the website, said Romani testimonies were previously difficult to locate in dispersed archives. The database brings them into one central point that provides insight into the Nazi persecution of the Roma.
“You can see the trajectory of the survivor experience,” Berkyová said. “You can compare testimonies, and you can find the core of the experience in one place.”
Romani people were commonly portrayed as being uniformly nomadic, poor and unwilling to work, in part because of the effect of Nazi propaganda that dehumanized them, characterizing them as criminals, or “asocials,” explained Čapková. As a result, many people failed to regard their arrest, incarceration and executions as a process of genocide.
“Roma and Sinti were imprisoned and murdered on the basis of race, on racial grounds,” Čapková said. But the Nazis often said it “was because of alleged criminal activities, or alleged refusal to work.”