Roma and Sinti have lived in Germany and Europe for over 700 years. They have been treated with hostility, slandered, criminalized, marginalized, expelled, and even murdered. Under certain pretexts and on the basis of prejudices, they are denied rights and participation in work, education, prosperity; and social recognition is made difficult and denied.
It not clear how many Sinti and Roma currently live in Germany. It is estimated that there are between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Approximately 60,000 Sinti and 10,000 Roma are in possession of a German passport. They have been recognized as a national minority in this country since 1998.
But how do Sinti and Roma differ? Sinti are members of the minority group who settled mainly in Western and Central Europe since the Middle Ages, whilst Roma have resided mostly in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Outside the German-speaking area, "Roma" is often used as a name for the whole minority, although they actually represent a very heterogeneous group and are distinguished by different languages or religions, among other things.
According to a recent EVZ funded study (RomnoKher, 2021), 41.2% of the minority surveyed referred to themselves as "Sinti", 22.9% as "Roma", 2.5% used the double form "Sinti and Roma", while 9.2% rejected such a self-designation.
Antigypsyism has a long tradition in Europe and is not just a phenomenon of the 20th century. The term, which is used analogously to antisemitism, refers to a "specific form of racism that has been directed against the Sinti and Roma for centuries" (according to the working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – IHRA).
The term is actually controversial because it contains a pejorative foreign term, the G-word, with which Sinti and Roma are still stigmatized to this day. Nevertheless, some Sinti and Roma organizations use "antigypsyism" to make the racist attributions it involves visible.
The discrimination and persecution of the Roma and Sinti suffered over many centuries came to a climax under the rule of the National Socialists, who were fueled by a racial mania. They deported children, women and men to ghettos and concentration camps, made them work as slaves, abused them for human experiments and even murdered them. How many people fell victim to the genocide of the European Sinti and Roma is unknown. It is estimated that up to 500,000 people were murdered.
Even after the end of the NS regime, Sinti and Roma were stigmatized, deprived and the suffering inflicted on them was denied (sometimes they were defamed with claims that their suffering was "self-inflicted"). The authorities in the post-war period, which were often dominated by former National Socialists (and a large part of society), denied that Roma and Sinti were victims of the genocide. There was a second persecution after 1945, which led, among other things, to many survivors being cheated out of material compensation. It was not until 1982 that the genocide of the Sinti and Roma was officially recognized by the Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Another 30 years passed before the "Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under National Socialism" was inaugurated on October 24, 2012, by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
However, this does not change the fact that large parts of the population are still prejudiced and racist towards Sinti and Roma. For example, according to the 2018 Leipzig study on authoritarianism, nearly 55% of respondents professed to have a problem with Sinti and Roma being in their neighborhood.
The extent to which these negative attitudes burden the everyday lives of Sinti and Roma is reflected in the report "Perspektivwechsel – Nachholende Gerechtigkeit – Partizipation" (Change of Perspective – Catching Up Justice – Participation) presented by the Independent Antigypsyism Commission in June 2021. Sinti and Roma organizations as well as private individuals report on unequal access to education, housing, work and health care as well as discrimination, marginalization, criminalization and a lack of protection by state institutions and the judiciary.
The "RomnoKher Study 2021", funded by the EVZ Foundation, proves that this finding also applies to the sphere of education. It says: "The fact that lessons and breaks in particular also show such high rates of discrimination, despite mandatory pedagogical supervision, is alarming and in particular in need of explanation. Teachers and schools apparently lack effective and manageable concepts and methods to counter antigypsy verbal abuse, insults and violence decisively and sustainably."
The media – according to the report by the Antigypsyism Commission – also contributes decisively to the prejudices against Roma and Sinti. Especially since the beginning of the 2010s – since the increased immigration from Romania and Bulgaria – antigypsy narratives such as accusations of asylum abuse and fraud are reproduced and enhanced by the media.
The Antigypsyism Commission outlines how racism can be addressed with six central demands. The EVZ Foundation supports, among other things, the demand for greater participation for Sinti and Roma in the media, politics, science and administration.
"Combating antigypsyism is the task of the so-called majority society. In order to strengthen the fundamental rights of Roma and Sinti, in Germany but also in Central and Eastern Europe, funding is needed for the self-organizations of Roma and Sinti themselves. With projects that support inclusion, involvement and educational opportunities, the EVZ Foundation is a decisive partner here," says Dr. Petra Follmar-Otto, Director of the EVZ Foundation.
In the cluster "Acting against Antisemitism, Antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination and Racism", the EVZ Foundation is active in Germany and Central as well as Eastern Europe in order to combat antigypsyism; it supports the educational awakening of Sinti and Roma in Germany, and funds scholarships for Roma in Eastern Europe.