And the Violins Stopped Playing is the 1988 film adaptation of the book And the Violins Stopped Playing: A Story of the Gypsy Holocaust by Alexander Ramati. Ramati’s book is a biography of Roman Mirga who plays the accordion while his father played the violin and his mother a sings in a restaurant. The film chronicles the family’s attempts to escape the Nazi’s round-up and extermination of the Roma.
According the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum “between 1933 and 1945 and Roma ("Gypsies") suffered greatly as victims of Nazi persecution genocide. Building on long-held prejudices, the Nazi regime viewed Gypsies both as "asocials" (outside "normal" society) and as racial "inferiors"—believed to threaten the biological purity and strength of the "superior Aryan" race.” “In a decree dated December 16, 1942, Himmler ordered the deportation of Gypsies and part-Gypsies to Auschwitz-Birkenau. At least 23,000 Gypsies were brought there, the first group arriving from Germany in February 1943.”
The distinguished scholar and artist-in-residence at San Diego State University, Yale Strom provided a rich historical and cultural context in which to view the film. You can hear his comments by following this link.
According to psychoanalyst Michael Poff, the story is about memory of different kinds; the ability to remember the time before (the holocaust), a time that was happier. It was also about communication and language and about how music integrates the cognitive aspects of our experience with our unconscious experience. Poff located his remarks in the work of ego psychoanalysts Heinz Hartman. In his book, Ego Psychology and The Problem of Adaptation, Hartman moved psychoanalysis away from drive theory to an analytic focus on the human capacity to adapt. For Poff, the Roma’s lives were about adaptation and sublimation at the highest levels of creativity.
Poff also distinguished between Dymitr who is elected by the “kris” or the clan council and the ousted clan leader. Shero Rom (meaning Big Person) is highly respected and has the last word on clan matters. Unlike the Shero Rom in the film, Dymitr has the capacity to adapt to reality versus the fixation on his position. Poff noted all the things the Roma had to let go to manage the adaptation to reality. Dymitr’s music allowed him to reach out from himself to the people he was leading that allowed him to make choices about group survival that alluded the ability of the Shero Rom.
Poff also contrasted the kind of knowing that the notorious physician, Josef Mengele pursued versus that which Dymitr found most useful. For Mengele, knowledge was all narcissistic and it was not used for the principles of love and reaching higher purposes.
There were so many dimensions to the movie that we did not have a chance to discuss from a psychoanalytic perspective such as, the need for love and the desire to experience sex and sensuality at least once in one’s life in spite of the horrific circumstances; the ability to be in community and coalition with one another; the little girl who is forced to leave her family and run to a total stranger in the hope that she will be taken in and the the emotional and moral compass of the one who is not hunted by the Nazi’s to help the one who is; the ability of rivals to move beyond their differences to work together to enable their own survival and for former foes to willingly give their lives for their past enemies to keep the family/community together – their altruism and selflessness; why women had to be subjugated and not incorporated into the decision-making of the ruling councils and so on.
“The Christian theology of the Witnesses diametrically opposed Nazi ideology on three basic points: The Witnesses rejected racism, ultra-nationalism, and the deification of the State and its führer. The Witnesses obey governmental authority, but they owe prior allegiance to God and his Kingdom. Therefore, if a government demands what God prohibits, or prohibits what God requires, the choice for the individual Witness is clear. This position threw thousands of Witnesses into a pitched spiritual battle with the Nazis.
On the streets, at factories, in schools, and even in homes, the Hitler salute signaled the people’s fidelity to the führer. The calculated messianic symbolism of the Hitler salute, meaning in essence “Salvation comes from Hitler,” was not lost on the Witnesses. They couldn’t heil a mere man. This daily, visible refusal soon led to beatings, firings from jobs, destruction of property, and prison sentences. Out of obedience to God and love of neighbor, Witnesses would not join the Nazi Party, Labor Front, or Hitler Youth, nor would they vote in elections, observe boycotts of Jewish businesses, serve in the military, or perform war-related work.”*
Yale Strom’s comments were instructive on the impact of faith on surviving the despair and torture of being in the camps or confronting the SS. Noting that in the true story of the Kusserow family in which the father was imprisoned, the mother and sister were placed in a concentration camp, one brother was shot to death and another was beheaded, their faith became stronger. Few Jews and other people of faith converted for the sake of saving their lives. Poff noted that faith made them more resilient and allowed them to not get eaten up by anger and drawn down by hate.
Strom recalled that a friend of his who survived the Holocaust and the camps had initially given up. He had become one of the individuals who lost their minds and rocked back and forth near the barb-wire fence. Until one day, he heard the voices of his parents telling him he was not ready to go and then he heard the voice of God also telling him he was not ready to go. He vowed that if he survived he would dedicate his life to teaching tolerance for all people.
Strom reminded the audience that the current genocides of Rawanda and the Sudan were caused because of intolerance and because the world turned a blind eye.
For more information:
For more information on the Roma and the Holocuast visit: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/people/USHMMROM.HTM
*Form more information on the persecution of the Jehovah Witnesses from a doctrinaire perspective visit: http://www.baycrest.org/Spring%202001/article12.htm and read Purple Triangles: A Story of Spiritual Resistance by Jolene Chu
HIMMLER'S CIRCULAR OF DECEMBER 8, 1938:"COMBATTING THE GYPSY NUISANCE"
Experience gained in combating the Gypsy nuisance, and knowledge derived from race-biological research, have shown that the proper method of attacking the Gypsy problem seems to be to treat it as a matter of race. Experience shows that part-Gypsies play the greatest role in Gypsy criminality. On the other hand, it has been shown that efforts to make the Gypsies settle have been unsuccessful, especially in -the case of pure Gypsies, on account of their strong compulsion to wander. It has therefore become neces-sary to distinguish between pure and part-Gypsies in the final solution of the Gypsy question.
To this end, it is necessary to establish the racial affinity of every Gypsy living in Germany and of every vagrant living a Gypsy-like existence.
I therefore decree that all settled and non-settled Gypsies, and also all vagrants living a Gypsy-like existence, are to be registered with the Reich Criminal Police Office-Reich Central Office for Combating the Gypsy Nuisance.
The police authorities will report (via the responsible Criminal Police offices and local offices) to the Reich Criminal Police Office-Reich Central Office for Combating the Gypsy Nuisance all per-sons who by virtue of their looks and appearance, customs or habits, are to be regarded as Gypsies or part-Gypsies.
Because a person considered to be a Gypsy or part-Gypsy, or a person living like a Gypsy, as a rule confirms the suspicion that marriage (in accordance with clause 6 of the first decree on the implementation of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor... or on the basis of stipulations in the law on Fitness to Marry must not be contracted, in all cases the public registry officials must demand a testimony of fitness to marry from those who make such an application [to be married].
Treatment of the Gypsy question is part of the National Socialist task of national regeneration. A solution can only be achieved if the philosophical perspectives of National Socialism are observed. Although the principle that the German nation respects the national identity of alien peoples is also assumed in combating the Gypsy nuisance, nonetheless the aim of measures taken by the State to defend the homogeneity of the German nation must be the physical separation of Gypsydom from the German nation, the prevention of miscegenation, and finally, the regulation of the way of life of pure and part-Gypsies. The necessary legal foundation can only be created through a Gypsy Law which prevents further intermingling of blood, and which regulates all the most pressing questions which go together with the existence of Gypsies in the living space of the German nation.
Translated in Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wipperman, The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945 (New York, 1991), pp. 120-21