Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Memorials at Treblinka Death Camp, Poland


Memorials at Treblinka Death Camp, Poland

Sachi G. Dastidar

 During a 2015 summer trip to Poland we visited the infamous Nazi Treblinka (Extermination) Camp in Poland, a short distance from beautiful Warsaw, the capital of Poland.  At the Treblinka Museum we met a Roma employee who presented us with copies of Polish Roma journal. Roma are also known as Gypsy. Roma’s were also targeted for extermination by Nazis for their Indian ancestry. 


Interestingly many Roma in Europe are increasingly identifying with India and Indian culture, teaching Hindi in Roma schools, adapting Indian outfit on joyous occasions, and for Polish Roma flag it has resemblance with Indian tricolor  and chakra [a spiked-wheel] in the center as with Indian flag’s Ashok Chakra.


Picture 1: Treblinka Memorial field

       The infamous Treblinka Nazi Death Camp is a 2-plus hour drive northwest of the capital Warsaw. In the midst of the sorrowful atrocity we witnessed several examples of hope and generosity. Busloads of Jews – young and old – from faraway places were walking miles after miles though the remains of the sprawling camp. They were placing flowers and stones at memorials to the families with whom they share only their faith. Gauging the suffering in Treblinka is impossible. Yet it is praiseworthy for the visitors' sincere efforts. One visiting Jewish couple who was spending three weeks going from village to village where large numbers of Polish Jews lived before Holocaust. Seeing us in our Indian outfit that couple asked, “Are you Indian?” “Hindu?”

     We replied yes to both.

     Then they asked, “What are you doing here?”

     We replied, “Like you we too have come to pay respect to the fallen and ask the Mother Goddess for nirvana of their soul. Now we are also praying for return of Black Mother Kali, the demon killer, on Earth to destroy the demons forever.” We added “weren’t there Indians called Roma or Gypsy who were murdered here too?”

  They replied, “Of course. Please go to that area for more memorials,” pointing towards an area. 

Picture 2: Sachi and Shefali Dastidar at Treblinka Memorial

We walked for hours through the camp, which in size is like a small town, in that 100+F hot summer day, finally entering the Museum. We were inspired by the museum as we are trying to establish a Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Museum on the effects of British-inspired, Muslim League Party-proposed and Congress Party-agreed Indian partition of 1947 resulting in the creation of the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with millions killed because of partition and tens of millions were cleansed. The Subcontinent was further partitioned in 1971 when the majority of Muslim Pakistan, the Bengali, who revolted against oppression by the minority Punjabi of then West Pakistan. Three million Bengalis – mostly from the minority Hindu community and the rest secular Muslims – were killed in nine months by the Army of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Bengali Islamist allies giving birth to Bangladesh. As we were going through Roma items at the Treblinka Museum one Roma lady handed us a copies of “Romano Atmo” journal. Hesitatingly we picked up a journal of which the pictures attracted our eyes as we didn’t understand Polish language. Soon we picked up a second and a third issue. We were exceedingly impressed by the small, oppressed, poor, minority Roma in its effort to preserve their Indian heritage and stories of Nazi killing. It was reveling to us, even the Roma flag had symbolism of the tricolor Indian National Flag, along with the wheel of Buddhist King Asoka.


Picture 3: Model of the Extermination Camp 

      Onslaught on linguistic and religious minorities continued for centuries with the dreadful culmination of Nazism with attempts of complete annihilation of Jewish and Roma identities.

Picture 4: Objects found at the Camp

      We were told that Treblinka was one of the few Death Camps that the Nazis were able to destroy before Allied Forces liberated it. Thus mostly the fields remained, not buildings. Here is a foundation of a building.

 Picture 5: Building site

        At the Museum the Roma lady presented us several copies of Roma journals Romano Atmo to us. Here is the cover of one of those. (Through that connection President of the Polish Roma Association wrote an article for the 2016 Partition Center Journal of the Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project: ISPaD. See https://empireslastcasualty.blogspot.com/2017/07/partition-center-journal.html.)  Here is the cover of one of the journals.)

  • Picture 6: Romano Atmo