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Remembering the Romani Holocaust in Slovakia

29 April 2024

BAFF SA, a Slovakian MARIO grantee, recently engaged in dialogue with Ladislav Welward, son of Jewish doctor Rudolf Welward, who was detained in the Roma camp in Dubnice nad Váhom. This sheds light on the plight of Roma during the 1940s, highlighting dire conditions and the resilience of survivors. BAFF SA continues to integrate survivor narratives into educational efforts for youth.

The civic association BAFF SA, a Slovakian grantee of the ‘Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organizational Development‘ (MARIO) programme, recently participated in a profound encounter. During the weekend, as part of the ‘Open Mind’ initiative, they engaged in dialogue with Ladislav Welward, the son of the Jewish doctor Rudolf Welward, who served as a physician in the Roma detention camp in Dubnice nad Váhom, where he, along with his wife and son, was forcefully detained.

The First Slovak State, under the clero-fascist regime of the 1940s, implemented various measures targeting the Roma population, including the establishment of persecutory labor camps. The largest of these camps was situated in Dubnice nad Váhom, where Roma individuals were forcibly relocated solely due to their ethnicity. Here, they endured slave labour, primarily contributing to the construction of a waterworks. In November 1944, this labour camp was converted into a detention camp exclusively for Roma, known as a Zaisťovac camp, the only one of its kind in Slovakia. It functioned as a concentration camp, receiving Roma from across the country, totalling over 700 prisoners.

Conditions within the camp were dire, exacerbated by severe winters and poor hygiene. Children and the elderly suffered disproportionately. Dr. Rudolf Welward, a Jewish doctor from Banská Štiavnica, found himself interned in the camp alongside his family. His duties as a camp physician were arduous, particularly amidst the rampant pneumonia and devastating typhus epidemic. The latter claimed numerous lives, with deceased individuals being haphazardly collected by horse-drawn carriages each morning and laid in mass graves beyond the camp confines. BAFF SA continues to reaching out to Holocaust survivors, diligently documenting their narratives and integrating them into their educational endeavours aimed at children and youth.

Credit: BAFF SA.

This content is a guest post from one of our partner organizations about their work as part of our ‘Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development’ (MARIO) programme. Learn more >

MARIO is funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-27) of the European Union (ref: 101091387).