On Holocaust Memorial Day this year we will direct our attention to the genocide of the Sinti and Roma during the Nazi regime and their struggle for recognition of the crimes against them, and their resistance against the ongoing discrimination they have been subjected to in Germany. Together with the Essay Film Festival we are showing Injustice and Resistance
, the first of two new films by Peter Nestler with an introduction by Professor Emeritus Rainer Schulze
and followed by a discussion with Mania Petrovic
, who has been actively engaged in raising awareness about Roma history, culture, and language in the UK for many years.
This event will lead up to further screenings, including Peter Nestler’s second new film The Open View - Artists of the Sinti and Roma
during this year’s Essay Film Festival (24-30 March 2023)
The centuries-old racism directed against Sinti and Roma turned into systematic persecution and genocide under the regime of the Nazis. It is estimated that between 220,000 and 500,000 Sinti and Roma became victims of the Nazis and their collaborators; over 25,000 Sinti and Roma from Austria and Germany were among them. But the end of the Third Reich did not mean the end of racism and discrimination for those that survived. Symptomatically, it was not until March 1982 that the racially motivated genocide of the Sinti and Roma people was officially recognised.
Using archive material and extended interviews, Peter Nestler’s carefully researched documentary traces the ongoing humiliation and injustice that Sinti and Roma people have experienced in Germany and Austria since the Second World War, and their continuous resistance and fight for recognition.
At the centre of his film are the testimonies of the long-term civil rights activist Romani Rose, who has been the head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma since 1982. Rose lost thirteen close relatives in the Nazi camps. From what he tells about his father and his uncle, we learn about the failure of the Catholic Church to protect the Sinti and Roma, and about the medical experiments they were subjected to in the Neckarelz concentration camp. From the 1970s onwards, Rose has been deeply involved in the civil rights struggle to achieve justice and equality for the Sinti and Roma in Germany. For example, the film covers a hunger strike at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site in 1980, which Rose took part in – a protest against the decision of the Bavarian authorities to deny the Sinti and Roma community access to important documents relating to their oppression. Gaining much international attention, this strike became an important catalyst for advancing the recognition of the civil rights of Sinti and Roma.
Germany, Austria 2022, colour &. b/w, 115 mins. With English subtitles.
Director: Peter Nestler, Camera: Rainer Komers, Editor: Dieter Reifarth, Sound: Michael Busch, Production Companies: Strandfilm GmbH (Frankfurt am Main) in coproduction with Navigator Film Produktion (Vienna) in cooperation with Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) / 3sat (Mainz) Producer: Dieter Reifarth, Line Producer: Monika Lendl.
Book tickets through Eventbrite
Prof. em. Rainer Schulze
Rainer Schulze is Professor Emeritus of Modern European History and Human Rights at the University of Essex. In 2000-2007 he was one of the project leaders involved in developing a new permanent exhibition at the Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen and a member of their international advisory board. He has worked as a historical consultant for Holocaust/Bergen-Belsen related exhibitions and documentary films and most recently for a documentation on 50 years of Pride marches in London. From 2007 to 2016 he coordinated the annual Holocaust Memorial Week at the University of Essex, and in 2012 he set up the Dora Love Prize for schools in Essex and Suffolk (and beyond) which is currently running in its 11th year. His research interests are the Holocaust, with particular reference to non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, the history and current situation of Roma and Sinti in Europe, and LGBTQ+ history and rights. He is a member of several advisory and trustee boards.
Mania Petrovic has lived in the UK for 30 years after regularly moving between countries in Europe and settling in Sweden for a period. She currently works as the coordinator for the Roma homeless team at St. Mungo’s in London.
Her family has lost many relatives in the Porajamos, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against the Roma and Sinti people, about which she has been raising awareness among authorities and the wider public, individually, together with her family, and with groups and organisations.
She and her family have been involved in many annual protests from National Roma Day to anti-racism marches as well as the recent protest against entertainer Jimmy Carr at his shows across London, which resulted in the removal of a widely condemned racist joke against the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities from his show.
Another form of campaigning was her involvement in the writing, producing and performing of The Young Vic's play Me For the World in 2020. Petrovic joined other non-professional actors, including her two children, from the Roma and Irish Traveller communities in a show that took the form of a meal and questioned many stereotypes.
Mania Petrovic has also acted as interpreter and advocate for some of the largest and longest established organisations in the UK supporting Roma and has been teaching Romanes, the language of the Roma, to keep the language alive.
Peter Nestler Biography
German filmmaker Peter Nestler is among the most important documentarists of our time. His influential work, which is also receiving increasing appreciation outside of the German-speaking world, encompasses more than 60 films – made over six decades, Nestler's films are exemplary documentary works notable for their political and artistic persistence.
Born in Freiburg in 1937, Nestler began making documentaries in 1962, first in the FRG and then in Sweden after 1966, where he still lives today. Until the 1990s, he worked for Swedish television, directing almost one film a year, often in collaboration with his wife Zsóka Nestler (1944–2016). Today, at 85, Nestler continues his exciting work, which employs a variety of cinematic forms and at whose center stands a sharp analysis of the connections between politics and economics. "In essence," notes one of Nestler's collaborators, "he is shooting one long, big film, like a storyteller eternally spinning their tale. The individual films are merely chapters or excerpts from this life's work."
This is certainly the case for his most recent, two-part film Unrecht und Widerstand and Der offene Blick, which sees Nestler resuming his decades-long examination of the fate of Germany and Austria's Sinti and Romani populations: a major and intense epic about a massive injustice told as a story combining trauma and self-assertion. (Constantin Wulff / Translation: Ted Fendt; Courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum)