How to do something as good as Terezin with the Romany Holocaust

Workshops, Performances and Discussions organized by the Stories Exchange Project
TerezinCzech Republic
18 and 19 September 2000
Ilona Laznickova DirectorMuseum of Romany Culture Brno
The building in which we will open the Museum is about to be finished. But for quite a while we’ve been thinking about what the Museum should look like inside, to show both the Romany minority and the white majority the Romany traditions from their beginnings to today.
I think it should be in the form of a story. We should be telling the story of the Romany nation by telling small stories of individual Romany lives and their confrontations with the white majority.
The closer we get to the opening, the more I’ve been thinking that this kind of story-based approach is best. It willshow not only the historical facts: it will also tell you why Roms live the way they live now.
As I have been reminded here today, stories are very powerful tools, especially to those who are open – andwe expect that people who come to the Museum will be those who are open and want to learn about the Romany community.
We’ve been collecting stories ourselves, especially stories of many survivors of the Holocaust.
The Romany Holocaust is an important part of Romany history, but it is something which is not that well known to the public. It is not that well known to the Romany community either.
We have hours of stories by RomanyHolocaust survivors who have recorded their memories. These recordings will be part of the exhibition itself, so that the memories are not lost.
What’s also very important for us is to have your support. We need you, especially the young people, tothink about what you expect from the Museum, how the exhibition should look so that it will speak to you. How would you imagine such an exhibition?
It’s not easy for us to compose it.
We feel that because of its very human mission it should addressnot only Roms but also the white public.
John ErwinDirectorThe Stories Exchange Project
It’s wonderful that the Romany Museum will soon have a building, and it will be full of physical objects and people will come to that place to see them.
But of course there are many ways of preserving difficult memory. Another is the way we work in the Stories Exchange Project – and one of the ways in whichthe Terezin Chamber Music Foundation is working with its schools project: the Internet is open to anybody anywhere.
Mark LudwigExecutive DirectorTerezin Chamber Music Foundation
In preserving memories, the more enduring thing is how you can apply it to people of very different backgrounds. This sharing of traditions is whatenriches our collective experience. We can celebrate not only the similarities but also the differences, and that is the real challenge, to be able to becomfortable seeing those differences and to gain an appreciation of them too. And in listening to the stories—- well for example you have the history ofTerezin.
Just this afternoon we were walking withHelga Hoskova and Zuzana Podmelova who both survived Terezin, and history came alive because they were sharing their experiences, their stories.
Though I have not lived those stories, there are elements of human experience that resonate for me — and then hearing and then reading the stories that are on the Stories Exchange Project Web-site: Romany culture is different and understanding that difference togetherwe can go on from here and work together.
John Erwin
And the medium is important.
One of our concerns is how to develop the Stories Exchange Project. One way is to develop school curricula—- and thatwould be one option too for commemorating the Romany Holocaust.
But differences can indeed be complementary.
So let me tell a brief story: out of school, in a sense.
This morning as Ms. Laznickova and I were coming to Terezin from Litomerice we were talking about how the Romany Museum and the Stories Exchange Project might collaborate. Perhaps the Museum could house and make available our own archives, many tapes that are nowscattered throughout the country: we despair of bringing them together in one office in Prague. But the Museum in Brno has a commitment to doing that kind ofthing.
I think this is a very important idea, and I hope we can do it. We would need some money, of course. The Ministry of Culture might be a source of funding.
Mark Ludwig
Speaking of gathering things—- and people-– in a single physical space, here we are in Terezin. Just think of the history here, of what happened here a little less than sixty years ago. And now here we are in this room, a space for education and exchanges ofideas. We can sit here and use this history and these surroundings as catalysts for change, for lookingforward.
John Erwin
Yes. And the challenge is how to do something as good as Terezin with the Romany Holocaust. This is a bigchallenge, obviously, given the conditions.
[see in the Holocaust menu in Stories and Responses on this Web-page:
"Does it open up your world?” “How lucky I am to be doing what I’mdoing”
“It’s very close to us, the past”
“To remember well, we have to know a lot more”]

No Responses to “How to do something as good as Terezin with the Romany Holocaust”

  1. After retiring from teaching with the
    Somerset Traveller Education Service,
    I am delighted to be at the beginning
    of planning, with friend and colleague
    Martin Levinson, an exhibition/
    celebration of Romany life for the
    Exeter Museum for 2005.

    Like you, we want to tell a story, and
    as our plans develop, I hope we can
    exchange ideas.

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