Reports by former Trainees

Johannes Boll
June 8 to September 14, 2009

Probably, it is impossible to do the most complete traineeship, with everything being absolutely perfect and unquestionable. Reflecting my time at the Documentation and Cultural Centre, I would say that it was satisfactory to 90 percent. Everything that I had expected before starting my practical training was offered to me – working on my own or in a team, new experiences and the feeling that my projects were really accepted and perceived as being important.

At the beginning of my traineeship, I then did not expect to actually work half a month more that it had been planned originally. In general, the first days at the Documentation Centre got off to a slow start as it was still unclear which projects or kind of work I would do. And of course, some of the work I did during my practical training can not be considered to be the “favourites” of a trainee – packing up the mail, checking lists of addresses or sitting in the museum’s reception room, waiting for potential visitors – but I consider them as being an essential part of a practical training.

However, these works are the only “negative” part I see when I reflect my traineeship at the Documentation and Cultural Centre. All the other projects I worked on were outlined in such a way that I could easily manage them – but that I also was not bored at all. Additionally, I want to emphasise that everybody working at the Centre warmly welcomed me. Without any prejudices. No matter which position the person had in the staff, everyone gave me a warm welcome and I always had the possibility to ask questions or fetch any information for my work.

In this context, I want to emphasise two members of the staff: Anita Awosusi and Andreas Pflock. Being my direct superiors, the two always supported my projects and looked after me in a very friendly and positive way. Furthermore, several conversations with Romani Rose, Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, deeply impressed me.

Therefore, I would really appreciate it when other students of the HIB-Academy would use the opportunity to experience this friendly atmosphere and the staff’s competences as well. All the projects I worked on independently or dealt with in a team were important for my future career as a manager of cultural events. I really hope that my personal contact to the staff at the Documentation Centre will not break up in the future. In addition, I would wish myself that, maybe in one or two terms from now, another student decides for doing a practical training within this institution as working here indeed enables people to see the world with new eyes and from new perspectives. In terms of working together as a team, solving conflicts and simply for a better understanding of one’s country’s history and culture. Then only those who confront the past actively, independently and critically can change the future for a long time.

Sinbad Sejdic
April 20 to Mai 8, 2009

For a long time, I had searched for ways to include the topic "Sinti and Roma" in my school career. So, when I heard that there was the possibility of doing a so-called "Schülerpraktikum" (traineeship for pupils, included in the curriculum), I was convinced that this was the most ideal way to do so. In the town where I live from childhood and go to school, there is a club who officially deals with the interests of Sinti and Roma. Consequently, I applied as a trainee at this club but my application was rejected with the comment that the officials had no time for me. I was very disappointed. Everywhere in Europe, it is seen as very important that young Sinti and Roma should be in schools and that they need support. And then I am rejected – in a town where I live since being a little child and where I go to school. And this after I even brainstormed ideas for structuring school lessons that deal with the topic "Sinti and Roma".

However, I did not want to give up and searched for other institutions outside my hometown where I might could work as a trainee. And indeed – my search was not worthless as in the Documentation and Cultural Centre in Heidelberg, the staff looked forward seeing my papers of application. I could not believe that there were actually people who were happy about my application as trainee and who gave me the possibility to deal with Sinti and Roma in a classroom-situation.

The time I actually spent at the Documentation and Cultural Centre was in every respect very informative and impressing. I was able to work in every department of the Centre. In general, the projects I worked on were easy to work on but I also had the chance to work on a very demanding research. On the whole, I not only did a practical training there but met very great persons as Jacques, Anita, Silvio, Adriana and especially Romani Rose helped me to live proudly and confidently with my cultural identity. For me, the Centre is "the best practise", the best example how the European initiative of supporting young Sinti and Roma can be done in reality. And last but not least: Due to a very good project presentation, my teachers indeed included the topic "Sinti and Roma" in the history and politics classes. It would be very good to hear more about this important subject in schools and at universities.

Ana-Maria Paeffgen
November 3 to December 15, 2008

Through the pedagogy seminar "The Atrocities of the National Socialist Regime as Part of Classroom Instruction" ("Erziehung nach Auschwitz") at the University of Heidelberg, I had had the possibility to visit the Documentation Centre and to meet some of the team’s staff. Within the scope of the seminar, we had also been to the memorial site of the former concentration camp in Natzweiler-Struthof where we had learnt a lot about the work done at memorial sites.

From that moment of time, my interest in this area of work had been awoken. Therefore, I was very happy to hear that my application as a trainee at the Documentation and Cultural Centre had been accepted. Next to familiarizing myself with groundings of the Sinti and Roma, with a special interest in the National Socialist genocide, my main concern during the practical training was the English version of the Centre’s webpage. On the basis of the English exhibition catalogue "The national socialist genocide of the Sinti and Roma. Catalogue of the permanent exhibition in the State Museum of Auschwitz" and own texts, I could conceptualize and work on it. In this respect, I had the possibility of working creatively and independently as the texts’ length and my choice of pictures from the exhibition catalogue was not restricted in any way.

When I started my traineeship, I did not know what to expect from it. However, my very vague expectations went indeed very beyond my actual experiences as in my work, I actually even had the possibility of concentrating on my two main fields of study, English and history. I really enjoyed the practical training and learnt a lot from it – not only in historical matters or in general topics but also on a technical level as for instance, working on the webpage or with different word processing programmes was later helpful for my studies.

During my traineeship, I was always looked after very friendly and supportive. The friendly atmosphere among the staff immediately made me feel at home. I am especially happy that after my practical training, the contact to the Centre’s staff is still very lively and that I still feel very welcomed. I look back with very positive feelings and emotions. Therefore, I can recommend doing a traineeship at the Documentation and Cultural Centre in Heidelberg every time.

Magdalena Schwarz and the “Geschichtskoffer”

Magdalena Schwarz
December 1, 2006, to December 31, 2007

In autumn 2006, within the scope of a seminar offered at the Institute for Education of the University of Heidelberg, I firstly visited the Documentation Centre. Especially the variety of the pedagogical work of the Department for Dialogue impressed me. When I then had the opportunity to work there as a trainee, I voluntarily accepted.

During my time as a trainee, I was responsible for the concepts for the so-called "Geschichtskoffer" ("History suitcase"), outlining its objectives, and other projects. My task was it to design the working material in the suitcase, based on pedagogical, creative and thematic preliminary considerations. Furthermore, I made the choice and arrangement of the material in the suitcase and reflected the pupils’ question material from educational and journalistic perspectives as well as on a thematic level. Near the end of my traineeship, I then had the possibility of working together twice with pupils, using the "Geschichtskoffer" – a worth experience for me. Additionally, I helped to design the webpage www.elses-geschichte.de which was also very interesting, offering me new insights into pedagogical work.

I especially liked the working atmosphere at the Centre and the opportunity of working independently. During my traineeship, I not only had the chance to learn about the minority’s history – I even had the chance of writing it myself as my ideas to the “Geschichtskoffer” were put into action. I still am in close contact to the Centre’s staff. A traineeship at the Documentation and Culture Centre is highly recommendable.

Gerrit Seebald
February 20 to February 24, 2006

I was the first pupil to do my Bogy ("Berufsorientierung am Gymnasium") special traineeship of pupils going to a grammar school) at the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma. My decision for this institution was based on my desire to gain, besides my school education, insight into cultural and political work. Both aspects are combined in the Centre’s permanent exhibition on the genocide perpetrated on the Sinti and Roma by the National Socialists and its active political commitment against ring-wing politics.

Even if my traineeship was relatively short, I had the chance to work on demanding tasks independently. One of my most intensive projects was the research on the lists of deportation to the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof, trying to find further information on the prisoners’ fate. This offered me a very deep and shocking insight into this dark side of history. Furthermore, I helped making the permanent exhibition in the Centre more interesting for children and adolescents. Additionally, I actively worked on the Centre’s webpage by preparing the content of exhibition’s catalogue so that the material could be used online.

The traineeship at the Documentation and Culture Centre was exceptional pleasurable for me and my expectations went beyond all my experiences as I had insight into working fields and thematic aspects I had normally not had. In addition, as a trainee, I was warmly and very openly welcomed and all my questions were answered very clearly. A very positive aspect of my traineeship was it that I was always looked after so that my tasks were well-chosen and never of boring character.