May 16 is marked as Romani Resistance Day. On this day in 1944, Roma prisoners at the Auschwitz-II-Birkenau concentration camp set an example of organized resistance to Nazi plans to physically exterminate the Roma.
On May 15, 1944, after receiving information from underground groups operating in Auschwitz-Birkenau about the administration's plans to “vacate” the premises of Sector B ((the so-called “Zigeuner Lager”), , the prisoners decided to barricade themselves in the barracks and radio. The desperation of the resistance of mostly unarmed people stunned the guards of the camp and forced them to postpone the plan of extermination.
The punishment for the resistance was the deprivation of the camp’s residents of meager food rations. One week later, on May 23, the process of dispersing the Roma from other concentration camps, such as Auschwitz I, Buchenwald, Flossenburg, and Ravensbrück, began. In the summer of 1944, about 3,000 people remained in Auschwitz-II-Birkenau, mostly elderly Roma and children. They were the victims of the murder in the gas chambers on August 2, 1944.
In total, about 23,000 men, women and children were prisoners of the Auschwitz-II-Birkenau “Zigeuner Lager”. Almost 20,000 (i.e. 86.5%) of them ended their lives in gas chambers.