The black, circular pool in Berlin’s Tiergarten park has been filled with water since late October. In the middle, like an island, is a triangular stele with a flower lying on top of it. When it wilts, the stele sinks into the water, and rises a few minutes later with a fresh flower in place.
This is Israeli artist Dani Karavan’s expression of “Porajmos” – “the devouring” – in the middle of the German capital, between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. “Porajmos” is the word in the Romani language for the murder of Sinti and Roma – scorned as Gypsies – by the Nazi regime.
“Roma” (“men”), “Sinti,” or “Manusch” is what the members of Europe’s biggest minority – numbering between two and twelve million – call themselves. Although up to half a million of them were murdered by Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1945, they were largely forgotten when it came to honoring the victims of Nazism.
A group of activists including Romani Rose – now head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma – was able to draw attention to this scandalous state of affairs in 1980. Twelve years later, the German government decided to build a memorial to murdered Sinti and Roma in Berlin.
Two more decades went past before Dani Karavan’s work was finally inaugurated, with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other high-ranking officials in attendance. Karavan’s “Porajmos” now forms a memorial complex at the heart of the German capital, along with the memorials to the Jewish and homosexual victims of Nazism.
But it is a shame that “9841 – A Temporary Memorial to Johann Rukeli Trollmann” is gone from the capital. Two years ago, a slanting concrete boxing-ring reminded Berliners and visitors alike of the German light-heavyweight champion of 1933, who was stripped of his title because he was a Sinto. 9841 was Trollmann’s number when he was a prisoner in Neuengamme concentration camp, where he was killed in 1943. The temporary memorial is currently in Dresden.