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Being Gypsy (1970)

Being Gypsy DVD

“Being Gypsy” is one of Peter and Zsóka Nestler’s most important works. The film uncovers the history and fate of the Roma and Sinti in Germany under Nazism and their continued persecution after the war.

In the Romani language, Roma means “people.” This film lends a voice to these people, who tell of how they were arrested and locked up in camps and prisons, and how 90 percent of their families never returned from the death camps. They speak in dialects from Burgenland, Bavaria and Saxony. They live in desolate barracks on the fringes of cities, where ten people share a room with damp walls. The children are sick all winter long.

Peter Nestler adds more facts with his dark low voice. A camp employee describes his visit to the “gypsy camp” in Birkenau, which shocks even him (despite his “thick skin”). At the end of the film, a woman wisely and precisely sums up all the injustice done to these people: It isn’t that they haven’t let themselves be assimilated in 600 years – no, they haven’t been allowed to be assimilated, up to this very day. Peter Nestler doesn’t try to water this down, either in narrative or film. His milestone documentary is not only straightforward, but the first to bear witness to the persecution of Sinti and Roma in Germany and Austria.

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