Persecution Captured in Time
From the collection of the Camp Westerbork Memorial Centre
Just a few seconds... that’s how long this girl stared into the camera on 19 May 1944 in the doorway of this boxcar in Westerbork, unaware of her fate. The train was about to depart for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland. It is surmised that she was gassed there during the night of 2 August 1944. Her exact identity was unknown for decades, but as the ‘Girl with the Scarf’ she became a symbol of the persecution of the Jews.
Extensive research conducted by the Dutch journalist Aad Wagenaar revealed in 1995 that the girl was not Jewish but in fact Sinti. Her name was Anna Maria Steinbach. She was born on 23 December 1934 in the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. Her parents gave her the Sinti name Settela. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Roma and Sinti were persecuted and killed during the Second World War in Europe. Around 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. Only 30 of them survived the war. Westerbork’s Camp Commander Albert Gemmeker ordered the Jewish prisoner Rudolf Breslauer to film daily life in the transit camp. This still image, originally from that film, has been included in The Second World War in 100 Objects as a remembrance of this often overlooked group of Nazi victims.