Ham & High Newspaper Feature A Berlin Love Song

The Ham & High and Islington Gazette feature Sarah’s latest novel ‘A Berlin Love Story’

masthead-hamandhighwhite blockIslington Gazette Masthead


26 April 2017 by Bridget Galton
Ham and High 

Angela Merkel has called the genocide of the Roma by the Nazis “the forgotten Holocaust”.

Speaking at the 2012 unveiling of a memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten marking the death of 220,000-500,000 Roma and Sinti, the German Chancellor hoped it would now receive “the attention it deserved.”

Mass executions of Roma and Jews in Ukraine between 1941-1944 is the harrowing subject of a forthcoming exhibition at JW3 in Finchley Road.

And Highbury author Sarah Matthias published a novel on April 6 to coincide with International Romani day, about the forbidden relationship between a Hitler Youth member and a Roma girl.

A Berlin Love Song follows teenage trapeze artist Lili Petalo whose circus family go into hiding during the war but end up in the Zigeunerlager (German for gypsy) camp in Auschwitz.

She falls for Max who is initially an enthusiastic Hitler Youth member but later reluctantly joins an SS Panzer division defending Caen after the D Day landings.

“We know about homosexuals and Jews but why is there so little about the Roma and Sinti exterminated by the Nazis,” asks Matthias.

“Why did it only make the footnotes of history books?”

It was a 2011 exhibition at Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum that set Matthias investigating what the Roma called Porajmos. (great devouring) “It was the first time a German museum had looked at how Hitler managed to dupe an entire nation. A small corner was devoted to the persecution of the Roma and Sinti communities.”

Growing up, Matthias’ next door neighbour was a German Jewish refugee who had been in Auschwitz. Her own father had been in the RAF and she was vitally aware of the legacy of the conflict.

“I have always been interested in the Second World War. Our neighbour Mr Adler was a dentist who had fled Germany. I remember when he used to talk about his experiences this respected professional would become very emotional and shake and cry.”

Matthias believes the Roma’s story has been largely untold because of the ongoing marginalisation of a group whose rich culture is largely an oral tradition.

“I’ve thought a lot about this and there isn’t a written linguistic tradition as with other persecuted groups. They are less articulate in writing – there are few Roma diaries or memoirs about their experiences, so it’s not surprising that the more conventionally eloquent Jewish community received more attention.”

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