Yesterday afternoon, Peter Höllenreiner, who had been closely connected with the work of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the Documentation Centre for many years, passed away. Peter Höllenreiner survived the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp as a child. In recent years he has intensively engaged with his own history and that of his family. As a Holocaust survivor, he participated in numerous events of the Central Council and documented the history of persecution of Sinti and Roma as a contemporary witness.
Peter Höllenreiner was born on 17 March 1939 in Munich. He was deported with his family to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in March 1943, where he arrived one day before his fourth birthday and was registered in the camp log of the so-called “gypsy camp” with the number 3531. In 1944 Peter Höllenreiner was deported from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Ravensbrück and from there to Mauthausen in March 1945.
Peter Höllenreiner had the number tattooed on his forearm in Auschwitz removed in the post-war period – only to have it tattooed again a few years later as a protest against the discrimination against Sinti and Roma that continued uninterruptedly in post-war Germany, not least by the so-called “Landfahrerzentrale” (Travellers’ Centre) at the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation.
In July 2016 Peter Höllenreiner visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp for the first time on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis and the Catholic World Youth Day. Peter Höllenreiner accompanied the Pope as one of 12 survivors during silent prayer on the death wall in the Auschwitz main camp. Afterwards Peter Höllenreiner took part in every 2nd August, the annual commemoration day of the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe. On August 2, 2017, Peter Höllenreiner spoke as a representative of the survivors at the international commemoration ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Romani Rose paid tribute to Peter Höllenreiner as one of the contemporary witnesses who had repeatedly brought the Holocaust of Sinti and Roma in Nazi-occupied Europe into the present as an obligation against oblivion: “The impressive testimony that Peter Höllenreiner left us is a lasting reminder for future generations. His name has become a role model for historical education and active reconciliation far beyond Munich and Bavaria. For this he deserves not only the respect of the German Sinti and Roma, for whose public recognition he has done so much, but also the gratitude of German society as a whole. We will not forget Peter Höllenreiner.