The French Holocaust survivor Raymond Gurême passed away on Sunday, 24 May 2020, at the age of 94. The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma mourns the death of this outstanding personality of the Sinti and Roma civil rights movement in Europe.
Romani Rose, chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, paid tribute to Raymond Gurême in very personal words: “Raymond Gurême joined the French resistance against the Nazi terror regime at that time. Until today, he fought for the recognition of the Holocaust against Sinti and Roma, as well as for the dignity and equal rights of Sinti and Roma in Europe. With his commitment and fight against antigypsyism and racism, especially for and with young people, he gained great respect and recognition from all who had the opportunity to meet him. Sinti and Roma throughout Europe have lost through the death of Raymond Gurême an outstanding civil rights activist”.
On several occasions he accompanied young Sinti and Roma to Krakow and Auschwitz as part of the youth remembrance initiative “Dikh he na Bister” on the occasion of the European Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma. In his speech during the commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2 August 2016, he called, as so often, especially young people to a common fight against antigypsyism and violence:
“My testimony is for young people. Don’t leave your future to the hands of bloody fools! You must resist. You must resist the discrimination, racism, violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe. We, the old ones have lit the flame. Now, it is up to young people to feed it, make it grow, and so that we become stronger. Young people, stand up! Stay standing, and never fall to your knees!”
Raymond Gurême was born into a French Manouches family in 1925. Since the age of two, Raymond has performed as an acrobat or clown in the family’s own travelling circus. In October 1940, the entire family was arrested by French gendarmes when the German occupying forces ordered the forced settlement of all Manouches. One month later, the Gurêmes were sent to the Linas-Montlhéry internment camp. Although Raymond managed to escape in the summer of 1941, the rest of his family was deported to Muslane and Montreuil-Bellay, one of the largest concentration camps for so-called non-residents in France. He worked on farms and kept returning to Linas and later to Montreuil-Bellay to smuggle food into the camps. In August 1943 he was arrested again and deported to a labour camp in Heddernheim, Hesse, where he had to recover bodies after bomb attacks. On one occasion he was brutally beaten up by a Nazi and lost sight in one eye. In the end Raymond escaped again with the help of a French railway worker who hid him in a train and drove him back to France. Only in 1950 he managed to reunite with his family. After the war they received neither financial nor moral support. In the face of increasing antigypsyism and racism in France and throughout Europe, Raymond Gurême has been involved in Holocaust remembrance work with young people and in civil rights work, especially in the last ten years. His story was published in the work “Interdit aux nomades” (Nomads banned) by Isabelle Ligner.
Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-600 Oświęcim