Artur Radvansky: Remembering Roma war veterans murdered at Auschwitz

10-06-2003

Artur Radvansky - a Jewish Holocaust survivor - still bears his Auschwitz tattoo, and will roll up his sleeve to show it you. He will tell you tales of unspeakable horror and grief: experiences which have pursued him in his nightmares for decades. But one memory stands out in his mind from all the others - the day he watched the guards bring in a group of Romany war veterans from Germany, destined for the gas chambers. At a recent seminar on the Roma Holocaust in Prague, Artur told his story to Radio Prague.

"I witnessed the most terrible thing, something which no-one else knows about in this country because no-one else is alive to remember it. One day, the Auschwitz guards brought in between 400 and 600 Romanies from Germany. Many of the men were former German soldiers who had fought in Poland during the First World War. Some of them were still wearing their medals - the Knight's Cross, if you're familiar with it. They were decorated soldiers - German soldiers - and yet one night the guards came and took them to the gas chambers to be killed."

"Elie Wiesel once said: Those who experienced Auschwitz can never forget it, and those who didn't can never understand it. It took me more than 20 years before I could talk about it. I used to dream I was back in the camps. I used to wake up in a fever, shaking with fear, thinking my children were about to be killed and I had to save them. I've got two kids and I never told them about my dreams - I couldn't. But now I work with a German evangelical organisation, and for the last few years I've been going to Germany, explaining the Holocaust to German kids, from 4 years old to university age. The nightmares have almost stopped. I still get them sometimes. But now I turn over and go back to sleep."

10-06-2003