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Communique Concerning The Attack On The A+B Office For Roma And Sinti In Cologne (12 novembre 1989)

Revolutionary Cells Communique Concerning The Attack On The A+B Office For Roma And Sinti In Cologne

Unlimited Residency Rights For Roma And Sinti !

In April 1919, when armed workers from the councilist republic in Munich stormed the police headquarters, not only were files on political prisoners tossed out the windows, but also personal files being kept on so-called "gypsies". Afterwards, everything was set on fire. The revolutionary workers destroyed the files which were kept in the so-called "gypsy center" established in 1889 in Bayern, a place which used the most modern police techniques of that time period, in cooperation with state agencies throughout the whole country, to attempt to achieve its goal of drawing up a complete and centralized listing of all Roma and Sinti living in Germany.

This episode says something about the same tradition which is being carried out some 70 years later by social and judicial institutions in Cologne, which have set up a "gypsy data-base" for all Roma peoples, who have no country, living in Cologne. Since 1986, with the help of this so-called "Cologne model", a large amount of data has been collected regarding all the places where Roma peoples live in the areas surrounding Cologne. Through this cooperation between judicial and social institutions and the police, this material is not only used to carry out a small, day by day war of controls, discrimination, and terror, so as to make survival for the Roma as difficult as it can possibly be. But today, it is also used to provide a foundation for the social institutions to threaten Roma families with expulsion. The scandal, in our eyes, is not simply in the violations of privacy, but rather much more in the normality and continuity of the racist registration processes and the special handling which the Roma are still subjected to. Anyone who examines the history of Germany’s persecution of the Roma and Sinti would be surprised at the unbroken continuity of how the persecuting institutions have continually repackaged their social war against "gypsies", for example through forced assimilation, criminalization, expulsion, and finally outright destruction during the period of national-socialism, all in an effort to ruin their means of existence and their way of life. But all of that was carried out with the same methods and the same intentions, and even with the same personnel. The instruments of total information collection, observation, and social control were always the basis and precondition for all subsequent regulatory measures which were developed for a torment which reached its climax in the genocide of more than half a million Roma and Sinti. The files of the "gypsy center" in Munich, which fell into the hands of revolutionary workers, were quickly recollected after the defeat of the councilist republic. The activities of this "center" continued until the time of national-socialism, when they were handed over by Himmler to the "State Center for the Eradication of the Gypsy Plague", which was a part of the Center for State Research and the Headquarters for State Security. This modernised and restructured "state center" carried out the exact same tasks. The changes brought by national-socialism were a wave of institutional repression which culminated in a wave of destruction, one which landed the Roma and Sinti in the gas chambers and in the sights of the gun barrels of the mobile commandoes which stormed through the occupied territories. `At the same time, national-socialism developed the nationalization of its race theory, and race research provided a "scientific" basis for racist persecution.

The "Research Institute for Race Hygiene and Hereditary Biology" of Dr. Ritter, which carried out and sped up "race research" on selected Roma and Sinti on behalf of the Headquarters for State Security starting in 1937, grew to be one of the most important instruments for the persecution of "gypsies" under national-socialism.

The results of this research and recommendations from the "Institute for Race Hygiene" determined, to a large degree, all administrative regulations for the marginalization, forced housing, deportations, impoverishment, forced sterilizations, and, finally, the genocide against the Roma and Sinti.

The eventual result of the "scientific" registration and race research, and the recommendations thereupon, were the circumstances which laid the foundations for Himmler’s "Auschwitz decree", which gave the go-ahead signal for the systematic deportation of German and European Sinti and Roma to the death-camps. The instruments and personnel of the "gypsy persecution" survived the period of national-socialism virtually unscathed. The push towards annihilation also dictated policy regarding the Roma and Sinti in Germany even after 1945. Already in 1953, the "Center for Vagrants" was established in Bayer as part of the LKA [criminal justice department - trans.] and was headed by Joseph Eichberger, who had been in charge of the deportation of "gypsies" at the Headquarters for State Security. This agency functioned on the legal basis of "regulating vagrants", which allowed special treatment and registration procedures to be applied to Roma and Sinti once again. The allies put an end to this regulation between 1945 and 1953. But some of the "gypsy files" which outlined the plans and execution of genocide against the Roma and Sinti came into the hands of the recently-establish "Center for Vagrants". These were used for the reorganization of the system of control based on the results of the Nazis "gypsy research".

At the same time, the LKA in Munich allowed national-socialist race research files to be used in schools for "scientific" dissertations on the "gypsy problem". From these people, the ministries of internal affairs and health recruited their "advisors" for gypsy questions in the 1970s. Officially, the "Center for Vagrants" in Bayer was closed down in 1970. But the political observation and persecution of Roma and Sinti of the present day still make use of the material and methods of the "gypsy specialists" of that time. Their knowledge will be of even more use to the ruling powers when, as a result of the social and political changes in Europe, the presence of Roma and Sinti in Germany becomes a heated contemporary issue.

Over the past few years, they have mostly migrated from southeastern Europe, fleeing from poverty, persecution, discrimination, and expulsion, which were either caused, or at least tolerated, by the state. For the next few years, social and population planners expect an increasing number of "gypsies" to migrate from the southern regions of the European Community as one result of European unification. These so-called planners believe that in the "gypsies" they have discovered the one European population group that will most increase its numbers here, due to its high degree of mobility. Fleeing from poverty and unemployment, they will be the first to penetrate the wealthy regions of the North. That’s why the policies for deporting southeastern European Roma and Sinti are so clear, based on the fear of the arrival of thousands of others, who would come if residency permits were granted to those already living here. And no matter how racist the treatment of Roma and Sinti was in the countries of real-existing socialism, also here in the so-called "free West", there is no end in sight to the vicious circle of poverty and flight. Very few of these people have actually been able to obtain a legal residency permit. For the overwhelming majority, the reality is as follows :

A life in camps guarded by police, or camping in a parking lot beside the road, miserable living conditions, continual harassment from authorities and the population, and continual uncertainty about the future.

Away from the gaze of public opinion, the state agencies that deal with foreigners have been trying for years now to get rid of the Roma and Sinti that have made it here. The deportations, for example those in Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, have only ever been delayed for short periods of time, thanks to the pressure and resistance applied by supporters, whereas the deportations would otherwise have gone through as normal.

Caught between a rock and hard place, having to choose between forced assimilation or deportation, the state enacts special regulations to deal with Roma and Sinti, based on a social-pedagogical foundation, where the treatment usually consists of police assistance in carrying out deportation orders. It’s already assumed from the beginning that only a few will be granted residency permits. The granting of a residency permit is based on certain preconditions which hardly anyone can satisfy and which are determined by the state agencies themselves and whose criteria are based on forced assimilation and integration. In other words, those in charge have control over an instrument of selection and a indifferent system of control which decides who will get a residency permit and who will not. In the knowledge that files collected long ago can remain kept for long periods of time (for example, NS-files were still being utilized in the 1980s), we decided to take up the matter of the existence of files at the "Ethnic Minorities Drop-In and Advice Center" in Cologne. At the same time, we took up the demand of the Roma and their supporters, that the "Cologne model" project be closed down, by burning the offices and all of the files contained therein.

The "A+B Office", which is a subdivision of the Cologne police department, and which is responsible for deciding whether or not to grant residency permits, is one of the two projects where research into the Roma was organized. Approximately 80 files here contain social data concerning living addresses, persons, and family structures of Roma peoples living around Cologne. Police and the foreigner administration divisions have used this material and the information contained within it to carry out their small-scale war against the Roma. Since the beginning of August, a real threat of deportation by the foreigner administration has existed in Cologne ; motivated and legitimized by the knowledge of the "A+B Office".

It is actually superfluous to point out that the right to asylum functions as a part of the arsenal of instruments used to marginalize and exclude the Sinti and Roma : without concern for the effects and ignorant of the real reasons and causes which forced them to flee from their countries of origin, the Sinti and Roma are denied the status of being politically persecuted peoples. Their right to stay here is entirely in the hands of the administrative agencies concerned. If the deportations of Sinti and Roma resume in the coming weeks, then an eerie scenario will become reality : the "trains of freedom", which landed citizens of the DDR in West Germany, will cross over the borders of Eastern Europe, carrying the deported Sinti and Roma to the poorest regions of Europe.

The restrictive right to asylum and the ethnically legitimized criteria for residency permits based on citizenship seem once again to be a selection instrument in the hands of the ruling powers for the control of immigrants, an instrument which divides refugees along racist and nationalist lines, and which decides who will be granted the blessings of "freedom and democracy" and who will not. What does freedom of residency mean to migrants from non-EEC countries, for the Kurds fleeing from poison gas, or for those fighting for mere survival in lands ravaged by starvation and civil war ?

The exclusionary policies drafted for refugees fleeing from misery, compared to the increasingly looser restrictions for citizens coming from the DDR, are just one contradiction : Both masses are mere objects to be moved around by the state and capital in order to protect the wealth of the imperialist metropoles from the aspirations of the poor, while at the same time producing this wealth by placing these people in the hierarchical order of exploitation.

According to the social- and population-policy calculations of the ruling powers, the well-trained workers from the DDR, whom capitalists have been advertising for in the Bild-Zeitung [a right-wing daily newspaper - trans.] for years now, are better suited for the rehabilitation of the social welfare system and pensions than the poor people from the suffering regions of the world, who are accused of merely seeking to profit from Germany’s generous welfare system. The fact that refugees from the Third World, who, despite all the difficulties, manage to make it here, are exposed to the pressures of having to find work on the black market and to the state’s newest plans to utilize those people at the very lowest level of the hierarchy of exploitation, does not stand in contradiction to this.

In a situation of nationalist jubilation and drunkenness, in which the dreams of Great German - that means, imperialist - solutions are once again taken seriously, it is necessary to reconstruct the social resistance. A resistance against the restructuring measures by which social planners seek to make global class contradictions invisible. The goal of this restructuring is to turn Europe into a fortress to ward off economic refugees, as is also the case with the racist hierarchy and selection of refugees and migrants, for example through the rationing of housing, jobs, and social services. It will become necessary to counter-balance the racist and nationalist mobilization by the state and right-radical populists around the themes of refugees and foreigners by means of actions which speak to those people whose existence and survival, both here and in the Third World, are in doubt.

Borders don’t divide countries, but rather they separate the upper class from the lower class !

Revolutionary Cells - November 12, 1989

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