The story of the
Weiß family through
the concentration and extermination camps of the Nazi regime
551 citizens of Hamburg
and another 359 Sinti from Northern
were deported to Poland
in trains without sanitary equipment or
food. The trip took three long days before the people arrived in Belzek.
forced to build the work-, collective- and extermination camps for the
keep the Roma
and Sinti calm during the transport, it was constantly spoken about
“resettlement” and each family was promised a house and
land in Poland.
Sinti had nothing left except for the clothes on their bodies. Their
property was confiscated by the Nazis.
the first two
weeks, 75 children died of exhaustion or epidemics.
point of time, we were given water and a Sinto standing right next to
shoved against one of the guards. The guard turned around, took his gun
shot the prisoner in the stomach. Shortly after, another SS man came,
prisoner holding his stomach, and said: ‘Did you shoot that guy?
Can’t you do
it right? I’ll show you how to do it!” Then he shot him two
more times, into
the back of the neck. The man had seven children and just wanted to get
water for them. He had to die for that!”
extermination camp Belzek
family was lucky: before the camp was enlarged to an extermination camp
winter of 1941/42, the Roma and Sinti were moved by the SS to Krychow,
Hansk. There, Mr. Weiß had to witness how children suffering from
shot dead in their hospital beds by guards.
closed in February 1941 and the Roma and Sinti were moved to Siedlce.
Executions happened daily. At one time, Mr. Weiß had to witness
how the SS
executed parent couples of Roma and Sinti and then knocked the heads of
children against walls until they were dead. Every day, the people were
with fear if they would live to see the evening.
station of their ordeal was the ghetto in Warsaw. Up to
half a million Roma, Sinti, Jews and other political prisoners lived
cramped together. All prisoners had to wear emblems, the Jews the star
and the Sinti and Roma a red “Z”.
family was separated here for the first time since May 16th,
1940, the day
of their deportation from Hamburg.
in the Warsaw ghetto
cost the lives of Gottfried’s brother Helmut, his sister Waltraut
and of his
little nephew Robert. This book shall hereby be dedicated again to
who lost their lives in the German concentration camps. May they
in peace with their brother and uncle, Gottfried “Friedel”
Weiß, and may their
suffering never be forgotten, so that nothing like it will ever happen
year on May
16th, a commemoration ceremony is held at the police station
Nöldeckestraße in Hamburg-Harburg (Rot-Schwarz umrandet)
ghetto was „liquidated“ in May 1943, the Weiß family
managed to escape.
Only a short time after, the family was caught by a police troop.
Thanks to their
ability to speak German, they were able to prevent the policemen from
shooting them, a fate suffered by tens of thousands of Roma and Sinti
forests of Poland,
but were instead incarcerated in another
camp. Thus, they came to Bergen-Belsen.
Germans began to move thousands of prisoners to the west. The Russians
getting closer and closer. Bergen-Belsen
was a nightmare. More corpses that living persons, almost
nothing to eat, this
led to cannibalism. In the following months, the situation became even
dramatic. Ever more transports from the Eastern territories arrived
Russian army was closing in. From January to April 1945, at least
of different ethnicity and religion died, most of them of exhaustion,
corpses were piled up metres high, doused with Diesel fuel and then
the forest management protested against that. After that, the corpses
we woke up
in the morning, there were certainly another ten dead lying in each
can’t imagine that the people in the surrounding area
didn’t smell that stench,
and I don’t believe them when they say that they didn’t
know about the
concentration camp. The stench was unbearable. We carried that smell in
noses for months afterwards
the camp was freed by the English. Gottfried Weiß
immediately started searching after his parents, his sister Maria and
brother Heinrich. All the more the relief when they found each other,
almost given up. The family was reunited, close to starving and
exhausted, but they had survived.
overwhelmingly hungry and ate as much as they could. They died because
stomachs couldn’t take that anymore. Others were cleverer and
more careful –
they ate slower and not so much at a time."
troops were facing the problem of feeding 60,000 people and treat them
medically as well, a problem enlarged by the epidemics. Many were
remain for weeks in Bergen-Belsen
because of the epidemic danger. After the camp had been cleared, all
were burnt down to prevent the epidemics from spreading.