Romane Thana. Places of the Roma and Sinti – Exhibition in Vienna
It is estimated that about 90 per cent of Austrian Roma and Sinti were killed in concentration and extermination camps under Nazi rule, with the active participation of local authorities.
The focus of the exhibition at Wien Museum is on places in Vienna and in the Province of Burgenland where Roma and Sinti have lived and/or are living today. This includes Roma settlements in Burgenland originally founded in the 18th century, traditional places in Vienna, but also places that bring to mind the long history of persecution and the Nazi genocide, such as Lackenbach, Auschwitz and Łódź.
Ironically, this part of the history of Roma and Sinti is well documented precisely because they were under close surveillance by policy-makers and administrators. Legal texts, photos taken by police and Gestapo officers, anthropometric data measured in the interests of Nazi “race hygiene”, and the cynical rejection of applications for victim benefits form an impressive body of evidence.
The exhibition aims at educating visitors about widespread stereotypes (non-sedentary lifestyle, begging …) and about the long history of persecution.
Another, quite different perspective on Roma and Sinti emerged in conjunction with 19th-century exoticism, which gave rise to stereotypical imagery in various media and genres depicting their supposedly free lifestyle, erotic appeal and musicality.
Leaving aside these dominant attributions – both the openly hostile and the exoticising – the exhibition is an attempt to discuss the question of “normality” and to find and showcase stories about successful integration and social acceptance, drawing on information provided by Roma and Sinti themselves.
Opening: 11 February, 6.30 pm
Venue: Wien Museum, Karlsplatz, Vienna
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Exhibition: 12 February to 17 May 2015
Photo: Wien Museum