Marie belonged to a tribe of Gypsies called the Lowara Roma who traveled in a caravan and made a living as itinerant horse traders. The caravan spent winters in Vienna, Austria’s capital, and summers in the Austrian countryside. When Marie was 18, she married Karl Stojka from the same tribe. Marie’s family was Roman Catholic and her ancestors had lived in Austria for more than 200 years.

1933-39: By 1936 I had six children. We lived with a caravan, and we were used to freedom, travel and hard work. Our wagon was parked for the winter in a Vienna campground when Germany annexed Austria in March 1938. The Germans ordered us to stay put and we lost our civil rights. We had to convert our wagon into a wooden house and I had to learn how to cook in an oven instead of on an open fire.

1940-44: Gypsies were forced to register as members of another “race.” Our campground was fenced off and placed under police guard. A year later, the Germans took my husband away; they returned his ashes a few months later. Grieving, I cut my long hair, and with the help of a priest, secretly buried his remains in consecrated ground. Finally, the Germans deported the rest of us to a Nazi camp in Birkenau for Gypsies. I watched over my children as best I could in that terrible place, but my youngest son died of typhus.

In 1944 Marie was deported to Ravensbrueck, and was eventually liberated in April 1945 in Bergen-Belsen. After the war, she was reunited with her five surviving children.

Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

Author: Roma Center

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