Shutdown Program #11

Verena Lehmann, #dasdenkmalbleibt (The Monument Remains)
Friday, January 29, 2021, 7 p.m.
With Verena Lehmann and Ülkü Süngün
Language: German
Platform: Zoom
Registration / Link

Memorial in Berlin to the approximately 500,000 victims of the Nazi genocide of the European Sinti*zze and Rom*nja, Photo: Verena Lehmann

On Friday, January 29, 2021, starting at 7 p.m., Verena Lehmann, advisor for participation and education at the Association of German Sinti and Roma, Landesverband Baden-Württemberg, and Ülkü Süngün, artist and moderator, will speak in the form of an online conversation about the Berlin action Das Mahnmal der ermordeten Sinti und Roma bleibt! (The Memorial of the Murdered Sinti and Roma Stays!). In addition, the discussion will touch on other current civil rights movements of the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja with a focus on Baden-Württemberg. Lehmann uses current examples to show how forms of antiziganism are present in everyday life. For example, three Rom*nja were among the victims of the racist murder attack in Hanau on February 19, 2019: Mercedes Kierpacz, Kalojan Velkov, and Vili Viorel Paun. Lehmann describes the course of the crime from the reconstructed perspective of Vili Viorel Paun's father and explains why the victims could hardly be mourned publicly shortly after the crime.

It was not until 1982 that the Federal Republic of Germany recognized the persecution and extermination of the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja as a genocide committed under the National Socialist regime. Years of massive protests and actions by Sinti*zze and Rom*nja associations against their exclusion and unequal treatment had preceded the recognition. In 2012, a memorial was finally inaugurated in Berlin's Tiergarten: south of the Reichstag, the memorial designed by the artist Dani Karavan commemorates the approximately 500,000 victims of the Porajmos - the Romanes word for the Nazi genocide of European Sinti*zze and Rom*nja. Although relatives and citizens finally have a place where they can publicly commemorate the murdered at a symbolic grave, a conflict flared up in mid-2020 over planned construction work on cummuter train line that threatened the memorial. As part of the action alliance Unser Denkmal ist unantastbar! (Our Monument Is Inviolable!), Verena Lehmann is campaigning for the protection and preservation of the memorial in Berlin and co-initiated the petition Das Mahnmal der ermordeten Sinti und Roma bleibt!.

Comment by Ülkü Süngün
I would like to develop the focus of the online conversation with Verena Lehmann about civil rights movements of the Siniti*zze and Rom*nja after 1945 based on two works from the current WKV exhibition Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead. Una forma der ser, which are by the artists Otto Pankok and Ceija Stojka.
The large-format portrait charcoal drawings by the Düsseldorf artist Otto Pankok (1893-1966) show a number of Sinti*zze whom he had met in the immediate vicinity of his studio Heinefeld in Düsseldorf-the largest informal residential area in Germany at the time-between 1931 and 1934. Gaisa von Auschwitz zurück (Gaisa Back from Ausschwitz) is a sensitive portrait, painted in 1948, of a young woman standing on a path in the center of the painting, though her feet cannot be seen. Pankok made several portraits of her. In Gaisa von Ausschwitz zurück, she is wearing a dress and has her hands clasped behind her back. In the right background is a completely barred building with strange angular smoke rising from the chimney. Around the house are heavily stylized bare trees. On closer inspection, they resemble headless and tailless fish skeletons and are repeated as a pattern in the chest area of Gaisa's dress. In the lower left of the image, there is also an empty cup and plate on the path. Also empty is the oil lamp hanging in the upper left. A stylized face with a large nose, similar to a simple child's crayon drawing, peers out from between trees or bushes in the left half of the picture, smiling. The young woman in the center of the picture has shoulder-length dark hair, her beautiful face is sunken and haggard, her eyes are wide open, but her gaze slides out of the picture into the void; she seems to be looking at nothing, turned in on herself thinking about something. Pankok knows and shows her from the perspective of a Gadjo, that is, non-Rom*nya, as a survivor standing there all alone with nothing.
The small-format ink works by the Austrian and Lovara-Rom*nja Ceija Stojka (1933-2013), which can also be seen in the exhibition and were created from 2000 until shortly before her death, bear titles such as Auschwitz. Wir schämten uns (Ausschwitz. We Were Ashamed), Block 11. Arbeit macht frei (Block 11: Work Sets You Free) or Sieg Heil! Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (Sieg Heil! One People, One Empire, One Leader). Raw, reduced to the essentials, straightforward, and brutally direct, the disturbing drawings are like a slap in the face. Small details, words, and scraps of memory allow the horrors she experienced in Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and Bergen-Belsen until her liberation at the age of twelve to burst into our present. Inscribed as trauma, they can be passed down through generations.
In their works, Pankok and Stojka thus reflect the reality of life for Sinti*zze and Rom*nja in post-war Germany between disenfranchisement and speechlessness.

Otto Pankok, "Gaisa von Auschwitz zurück" (Gaisha back from Ausschwitz), 1948, Courtesy: Pankok Museum Haus Esselt, Hünxe
Ceija Stojka, Die Gejagten. "Die Ankunft war so …" (The Hunted. "The arrival was so ..."), not dated, Courtesy: Stiftung Kai Dikhas, Berlin

It was not until 1982 that the persecution and extermination of the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja was recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany as a genocide committed for racist reasons. This was preceded by years of massive protests and actions by individual Sinti*zze and Rom*nja associations, which in the 1970s vehemently pointed out their exclusion, disenfranchisement and unequal treatment. Examples are the 1979 rally at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the 1980 hunger strike in Dachau. In 1982, the state associations joined together to form the Central Council of German Sinti*zze and Rom*nja, with headquarters in Heidelberg, and were able to unite in building pressure on the government as their demands received increasing public attention. As a result, reparations were established in 1981 as a "hardship settlement" in the form of a fund with lump-sum payments for survivors. Prior to this, survivors returning from the concentration camps had for years been systematically denied legitimate claims and support payments or had them reduced on the grounds that the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja had not been imprisoned for racist reasons, but as potential criminals "in order to prevent crime." This is referred to as a "second persecution" and is considered a targeted, active policy of disintegration against the victims. After 1945, official and police discrimination against the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja continued unabated: many of those responsible for the persecution and extermination, however, continued to work unchallenged in government offices and universities of the Federal Republic until the 1960s. The memorial to the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja of Europe murdered under National Socialism was only inaugurated in 2012 after much controversy.

Verena Lehmann
Verena "Marge" Lehmann is an advisor for participation and education at the Association of German Sinti and Roma, Landesverband Baden-Württemberg. She is a co-founder of the Initiative Sinti-Roma-Pride, an independent organization for the young generation of Sinti*zze and Rom*nja, which campaigns for their equal rights and cultural participation.

Ülkü Süngün
Ülkü Süngun is a visual artist from Stuttgart. In her work, she critically engages with identity and migration politics through various media, such as sculpture, installation or lecture performances, and conducts artistic research with her process-open and collaborative approach.

On the Event Series
The online conversation #dasdenkmalbleibt is the second segment of the four-part event series curated by Ülkü Süngün, On Local and Global Structures of Antiziganism, which explores questions from the-unfortunately currently closed-WKV exhibition Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead. Una forma de ser in depth and is contextualized locally. The focus is on an examination of the emancipation of Rom*nja and Sinti*zze in the face of the current forms and practices of their discrimination.

All dates of the series of conversations About Local and Global Structures of Antiziganism

Radu Ciorniciuc, Acasa, My Home
7–10 December 2020
Monday, 7 December 2020, 7 pm
With Radu Ciorniciuc, Lina Vdovil, Ümit Uludag, Ülkü Süngün  

Verena Lehman, #dasdenkmalbleibt (The Memorial Remains)
Friday, January 29, 2021, 7 pm
With Verena Lehman and Ülkü Süngün

Frank Reuter, Research Center Antiziganism, Heidelberg
About the representation of Sinti*zze and Romn*ja in visual media, especially in photography
Language: German
Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 7 pm

Mehmet Daimagüler, lawyer (among others NSU victim advocate),
About the arson attack on a Romn*ja family in Ulm
Language: German
Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 7 pm

Schlossplatz 2
D-70173 Stuttgart
Fon: +49 (0)711 - 22 33 70
Fax: +49 (0)711-22 33 791
Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart