On 16 May 1944, a large razzia (raid) took place in the Netherlands. In all, 578 members of the Sinti and Roma communities were arrested and deported to the Westerbork concentration camp. Before the Second World War, around 4500 Sinti and Roma travelled around the Netherlands with their violin orchestras and sales ware.
During the war, the Sinti and Roma were confined to large mobile home camps. They were prohibited from moving around in their own wagons. For fear of deportation, some dozens of Sinti and Roma moved into permanent houses. On 14 May 1944, the German occupation authority sent a telegram to various Dutch police corps, ordering them to collectively detain "all persons residing in the Netherlands that possess theGypsy characteristic". All Sinti and Roma families had to be moved to Camp Westerbork.
Sinti and Roma in Camp Westerbork
In Westerbork it became clear that the Dutch police corps had interpreted the 'Gypsy characteristic' a bit too broadly. Around 200 people turned out to not be Sinti or Roma, but simply mobile home inhabitants. These people were released shortly after arrival. Some 50 Sinti and Roma individuals also held passports of a neutral or allied country, and they were also permitted to leave.
The remaining 250 or so Sinti and Roma were transferred to the punitive area of Westerbork. They were guarded here for three days by the camp's Jewish guard unit [Joodse Ordedienst, OD].
Deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau
On 19 May 1944, 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from Westerbork to the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they arrived three days later. They were interned in a special ‘Zigeunerlager’, a section of Birkenau where over 22,000 Sinti and Roma were imprisoned during that period. The ‘Zigeunerlager’ was vacated at the end of July 1944. The Sinti and Roma that were still capable of work were transferred to other camps; those that remained were murdered. Of the 245 Roma and Sinti deported from Camp Westerbork, just 30 survived the war.
Source text: Memorial Center Camp Westerbork