The memorial mourns the passing of the Auschwitz and Ravensbrück survivor Philomena Franz, who died on 28 December 2022 at the age of 100.
Philomena Franz (née Köhler) was born in 1922 in Biberach, Baden, into a well-respected Sinti family of artists. In 1938, the family was still enjoying success with performances in Paris and Berlin. In the same year, Philomena Franz had to leave the girls' high school in Stuttgart because of the National Socialist racial ideology. The family was registered by the criminal police in 1939 and faced increased repression. In 1943 Franz was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of her family was murdered in the German concentration camps. An estimated 500,000 people fell victim to the Porjamos, the Nazi genocide of the European Sinti and Roma.
At the end of May 1944, Philomena Franz was deported from Auschwitz to Ravensbrück concentration camp. After an unsuccessful escape attempt and several relocations between sub-commandos, she managed to escape in 1945.
After the war, the surviving Sinti and Roma received little help from public authorities and continued to face discrimination. Together with other Sinti musicians, Philomena Franz founded a self-help band that toured Germany to play for the Allied forces.
In the 1970s, Philomena Franz was one of the first Sinti to speak publicly about her experiences in the concentration camps and the crimes against the Sinti and Roma. She also dealt with her experiences in literature: her autobiographical account "Between Love and Hate" was published in 1985. In the following decades, Franz worked tirelessly as an witness and advocate for the commemoration and recognition of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. In 1995 she received the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon. In 2001, the civil society network European Movement named her "Woman of Europe 2001". On the occasion of her 100th birthday, the Minister of State for Culture, Claudia Roth, praised her as a "very important, tireless fighter for remembrance".
Last week, Philomena Franz died at the age of 100. Our thoughts are especially with her family and loved ones. As a legacy, Philomena Franz's words remain: "When we hate, we lose; when we love, we become rich."
Photo: picture alliance
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