With the poem ‘Erinnerungen eines Jenischen, anni 38’ [Memories of a Yenish, 1938], Romed Mungenast looks at the history of the Yenich people within the larger context of the history of persecution under National Socialism. The title refers to 1938, the year of the Anschluss, the political unification of Austria and the National Socialist German Reich. The Yenish were persecuted under National Socialism as so-called ‘asocials’ because of their way of life and faced discrimination and oppression. By referring to horses and caravans, the poems emphasise the similarities of the Yenish with Roma and Sinti. The perception of the Yenish as ‘travellers’ is mentioned as one of the reasons for their persecution.
The question regarding the status of the Yenish as a persecuted group under National Socialism remains controversial to this day. They were persecuted and discriminated in the course of being labelled ‘asocial’; however, in contrast with Sinti and Roma, they were considered ‘Germans’, which saved them from genocide and extermination.
At the same time, the poem explains that discrimination and attacks against Yenish by no means emanated from the state alone – in the form of gendarmes and soldiers – but were carried out and supported by ‘peasants and other people’. Even the theft of a few potatoes is regarded as a legitimate reason for murdering a person whose life was in itself considered of little value. Help could not be expected from any quarter, not even from the pastor. His cross is compared to the gun of the gendarme, his sermon contains only empty words, and when the lights are directed at the caravans, he turns his back on the persecuted.
Mungenast, Romedius (ed.) 2001. Jenische Reminiszenzen. Geschichte(n), Gedichte. Landeck: EYE Literaturverlag 2001, p. 142)
Seifert, Oliver. 2005: Roma und Sinti im Gau Tirol-Vorarlberg. Die ‘Zigeunerpolitik’ von 1938 bis 1945. Innsbruck/Wien/Bozen: Studienverlag, pp. 162-166.