On the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is celebrated on the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945, Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” remembers the genocide of the Romani people in the 1930-1940s, which was a part of the tragedy of the Holocaust. Tens of thousands of Romani people had died in Auschwitz. Until now the history of the extermination of Roma in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, the western regions of Russia, remains understudied. That is why the testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses are so important. In a documentary directed by Tatyana Chistova, which was made in collaboration with ADC “Memorial”, the survivors of the Roma genocide from Pskov region recall their experience.
We also managed to publish some memoirs about the persecution of the Roma during the occupation of the Pskov and Smolensk regions in our pamphlet “Finding the Paths of Memory”.
It is important not to forget this tragedy in the days when the victims of the Holocaust are being remembered. Currently, the Russian Jewish Congress holds its Holocaust Remembrance Week, and topical documentaries are shown. “Restoring Dignity” project reported about the genocide of Roma on the territory of the USSR and the mass executions of Roma in the village of Aleksandrovka (Smolensk region), near Novorzhev (Pskov region), and near the village Borki (Novgorod region) (see their online laboratory, time code 00:32:15 to 1:10:00).
On April 24, 1942, 176 Roma people, who had worked on the collective farm named after Stalin’s Constitution, were shot in the village of Aleksandrovka (Smolensk region). Anna Anfimova, one of the first researchers of the shooting in Alexandrovka, reported the details of this tragedy (see Tum-balalaika magazine, No. 15-16, 2000, pp. 10-13). The first monument was erected by the villagers of Aleksandrovka in 1982, and in 2019, with the participation of the Russian Jewish Congress, a new monument was erected in Aleksandrovka, which features 143 names of the 176 executed Roma people. This is the most well-known place in the Russian Federation where the execution of Roma had taken place, about which some documents and evidence have been preserved.
Participants of the “Restoring Dignity” project spoke about two other, lesser-known executions. In the summer of 1942, on the territory of the former “Krasny Lebedinets” state agricultural farm (some 4 km from Novorzhev), at least 200 Roma families were shot. They had been first driven from different neighboring places to the Novorzhev prison, then children were poisoned in prison, and adults were taken to be shot. Fifteen mass graves were later found in the sand pit there, an estimated thousand people had been killed. However, only 3 graves were inspected and no memorial signs were installed near Novorzhev.
In the autumn of 1942, near the village of Borki (Novgorod region) Nazis met a Roma camp and shot about 30 people, the names of most of the victims are still unknown. The grave was accidentally discovered by Matveyevs, a Russian Roma family, when they were digging up a cellar in the 1970s. They reburied the bones and put up an iron cross. Documents of the Soviet Ministry of state security (MGB, later KGB) indicate that Masalsky, a Roma person and a member of the Communist Party, had been executed there together with his wife and children. The executions had been carried out by Einsatzkommando 1-C, which had been based in the village of Zhestyanaya Gorka (Batetsky district of Novgorod region).