Thousands of Roma people were detained in camps and killed in Nazi-occupied Serbia during World War II alongside the country’s Jews, but little has been done to commemorate their suffering or preserve their memory. It was early morning on October 29, 1941 when Nazi forces surrounded the predominantly Roma neighbourhood of Marinkova Bara in Belgrade. At around 5am, Serbian collaborationist police and gendarmerie forces then entered the Roma settlement, taking away its male residents. Frightened men and their families were told they would be back soon after they finished work or after a routine ID check. But no one returned. Milena Stankovic’s husband, brothers and brother-in-law were among those arrested. “They were taken from the apartment and put into the camp at Autokomanda [Topovske Supe concentration camp]. After two days there, they were sent away in an unknown direction. I have heard nothing about them to this day,” reads a statement that Milena, who was 48 at the time of the arrests, gave to Yugoslavia’s Commission for Determining the Crimes of Occupiers and their Collaborators on June 26, 1945.
The Commission, which operated across the whole of Yugoslavia, was established to document crimes and other atrocities committed by the Nazis and their domestic allies, as well as to count the victims. The testimonies given by Milena Stankovic and many others are now kept in the Yugoslav Archive in Belgrade. At the outset of WWII, 60,000 Roma people lived in Serbia, and 300,000 in Yugoslavia as a whole. Researchers and experts say there is still no exact data on the number of Roma who were killed during WWII, but estimates suggest that 12,000 to 20,000 of them died in Serbia. Their deaths were a direct or indirect consequence of the Nazi occupiers’ rigorous anti-Roma laws, which were implemented by Serbia’s collaborationist regime led by Prime Minister Milan Nedic and his puppet government, usually referred to as Government of National Salvation.
From October 1941 until early 1942 in several cities and towns in occupied Serbia, Roma men were arrested, put into camps and executed alongside male Jews. Roma women and children were also arrested and imprisoned at Staro Sajmiste concentration camp in Belgrade, together with Jews.
Around a third of them died, although the majority managed to survive – partly due to an easing of regulations and partly because they stopped being high on the Nazis’ priority list.
via balkan insight: Serbia’s Forgotten Role in the Roma Holocaust