Since November of 2010, Yahad - In Unum has worked on documenting the Roma genocide. The organization works on collecting testimonies on the massacres that took place on the territories of the former Soviet Union (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia,), as well as Poland, by Nazi mobile units as well as the deportations to Transnistria from Romania. It also works on the identification of mass execution sites.
Village after village, family after family, by cross-referencing survivor testimonies with Romanian, German and Soviet archives, Yahad has identified 51 execution sites of Roma in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia and interviewed over 60 witnesses to the massacres of the Roma in these countries. Five research trips in Romania and one trip in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has enabled us to collect more than 150 testimonies on Roma survivors. To this day, Yahad has collected more than 180 testimonies on the persecutions of Roma in Eastern Europe, including Romania, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, in collaboration with our partner, Roma Dignity. These testimonies have clarified the fate of the Roma as both survivors and victims. The witnesses described shootings, deportations, starvation, sicknesses, and forced labor that the Roma were subjected to by the Nazis and their allies. Yahad - In Unum works with young Roma investigators on the ground in Eastern Europe to gather testimonies from survivors.
Persecuted by the Nazis and local officials, deported or interned, shot or left to starve to death, the Roma suffered a wide range of mass violence and persecution, depending on the country.
The deportations of nomadic Roma by the Romanian authorities started on June 1, 1941 and those that were sedentary in September 1942. They were deported to Transnistria, a region in southern Ukraine, between the Dniester and Bug rivers, given by Germany to their Romanian allies. The Roma were left to die from starvation in the fields. For three years, they lived in ditches, stables or collective farms. The Ukrainian villagers were temporarily expelled from their houses and kolkhozes in order to make space for the deported Roma. The latter group were forced to enter the houses on the same day the residents were expelled. The organized distribution of food rapidly came to a halt. Death from starvation, sickness or poverty began in the first months of the deportation and multiplied rapidly.
After the Jews, the Gypsies represented the only population group in the occupied Soviet Union whose systematic eradication began during the first year of the German-Soviet war, that is to say, at the time during which the German occupants still counted on a successful campaign.
The principal motivation in the case of the Gypsies was the racial ideology of the Nationalist-Socialists. As previously mentioned, on the basis of the empirical research conducted, the differentiation in certain monographs between sedentary Gypsies and “itinerant” Gypsies only existed on paper and had no influence whatsoever on the “politics of Gypsies” (“Ziguenerpolitik”) on site.
Their “way of life” did not play a role for the persecutors; the Gypsies were even more so – the enormity of the extermination measures established by the CES leaves no doubt on the subject – together as a people in the line of fire of the Einsatzgruppen and the Wehrmacht.
Starting from the spring of 1942, the Gypsies were “treated” like Jews in the territories behind army lines in the North, Middle and South.
Starting at this time, the extermination of Soviet Gypsies in all of the studied military territories assumes a systematic character, without many variations.
In terms of the Gypsy communes, the German persecutors applied the same methods that were shown to work for the executions of Jews, that is to say, execution by bullets.
A series of systematic shootings committed on the Roma community in the so-called General Government of Poland started on a mass scale in the spring of 1942. During 35 reasearch trips to Poland, conducted between 2010 and 2020, YIU’s team managed to interview 35 witnesses of the Roma genocide and locate 35 mass graves containting Roma victims. 25 of those 35 mass graves remain without memorial.