Speech by the Holocaust survivor Raymond Gureme and his granddaughter Marine Hageman, 2 August 2016
The following speech was delivered by Raymond Gureme and his granddaughter during the “Dik i na Bistar” Roma Genocide Commemoration Initiative, on August 2, 2016, on the site of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Part 1: Raymond Gureme
I’m 91 years old. I lived the first 15 years of my life in our family circus. l was a clown, an acrobat and a film projectionist. One morning in October 1940, two French police officers dragged away my father, his family, his circus, and his cinema business.
They put us in an internment camp near Rouen, in Darnétal, for two months. Then livestock waggons were used to transport us to another camp, at Linas-Monthléry, in the south of Paris. Cold, hunger, sickness, death, everyone who’s been through the camps know how it was.
I ran away. With the agreement of my parents. And I couldn’t find them again until at least a dozen years later, in Belgium. They passed through the camps of Mulesane and Montreuil-Belay. From all the places where they locked me up, l escaped. Six times during this war: from the camp of Linas, from the camps where l was deported in Germany, from a juvenile detention centre in Angers…. To escape to be free at any cost, that was my way of resisting.
The resistance movement, I came in contact with it on several occasions during my life while on the run during the occupation. First of all, in Angers where l met a hospitalised resistance fighter who confided his mission to me, to steal a truck filled with food destined for the SS and deliver it to the resistance. Arrested, l was deported as a terrorist into a German prison in Troyes and then into two disciplinary work camps near Frankfurt. lt was railway workers who were working for the resistance who helped me to escape from Germany, hidden in the coal fuel compartment of a steam engine.
My duty was to rejoin the resistance to continue the fight. l rubbed shoulders with death on many occasions. I know that my name was on the list with those whose lives ended in Auschwitz.
Today I live next to the camp of Linas-Monthléry. I see it every morning.
My testimony is for young people.
Don’t leave your future to the hands of bloody fools.
You must resist. You must resist the discrimination, racism, violent evictions to which the Roma and Travellers are falling victim across all of Europe.
We, the old ones have lit the flame. Now, it is up to young people to feed it, make it gr and so that we become stronger. Young people, stand up! Stay standing, and never fa your knees!
Part 2: Marine Hageman
My name is Marine, and I am one of the many grandchildren of Raymond Guréme. I am so lucky to be accompanying him today.
I never knew what happened to him during the war before he started talking about it, or what happened to other Roma and Travelers in France and across Europe.
As my grandfather said, and I know as long as he is still here with us, he will never give up.
He speaks, at the age of 91, in schools, institutions, NGOs, and everywhere where he has the opportunity. Whenever it’s possible for me, I also accompany him.
Why didn’t he ever say anything about these things before? Why today, does he speak about his life, his life broken by German orders and the French government?
I think that he said nothing, just like many others did, to protect us, so that we could live well despite what he suffered and so that none of that would ever repeat itself again.
And I believe if he speaks today, it is for the same reasons, to try to protect us from that insanity and brutality that is resurging today.
I am young. I am 20 years old and | work in an establishment for handicapped youth. l learned that people with handicap were also exterminated during the Second World War.
I am very proud of my grandfather because he fought to protect his family. He tried to save it. He didn’t let himself be taken advantage of. He fought. He resisted. Despite all that the Germans and the French did to him, he’s still standing.
And as he says himself, he has lit the flame of courage and strength to pass to us, so that we keep it alive and feed it with this history and when it’s our turn, to transmit it to future generations.