Bartoloměj Daniel (born 1924, Šaštín, Senica district - died 2001) was a Romani historian and poet, and a co-founder of the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno. He was born into a large Romani family that had lived in the village for generations, and had seven siblings. His father was a blacksmith who later worked as a municipal employee. Bartoloměj Daniel attended primary and then secondary school. In 1942 his father died unexpectedly of tuberculosis and Daniel had to start supporting his family. After the war he continued his education. In 1946-1948, when he was in Olomouc as a soldier on basic military service, he met a family of teachers who supported him and provided him with literature, among other things. After the war, he started work on a state farm in Prague, where he was selected to study at the evening school in Dejvice – described as a preparatory school for working adolescents before university. He gained his certificate of secondary education in 1950 and subsequently studied Czech history and archival studies at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. After his graduation in 1956 he joined the Ministry of the Interior as an archive officer, but due to a change of attitude to political events he had to leave the state administration and worked, for example, as a librarian and archivist for Česká pojišťovna (Czech Insurance Company). From 1969-1973 he was active in the Union of Gypsies-Roma, and started preparations for the establishment of a museum of Romani culture, for which he collected traditional products and other exhibits. He wrote specialist studies and in 1970 organised a unique exhibition of Romani blacksmithing in what is today the Moravian Museum. After the Gypsy-Roma Union was dissolved, he became a dissident and was employed in various working-class professions during the normalisation period. He returned to work as a historian after 1989 and in 1991 co-founded the Museum of Romani Culture in Brno, where he worked as a historian until his sudden death in 2001. It was not until late in life that he began to write and publish more intensively. In 1994, Palacký University in Olomouc published his book Dějiny Romů (History of the Roma). In addition to his academic studies, he wrote poems in his native West Slovak Romani dialect and illustrated his works himself.
Bartoloměj Daniel described the good coexistence of the Roma with the local Jews and Slovaks in Šaštín pre-war. The local Jews asked the Roma to work for them, so his parents helped in a shop, for example. Daniel recalled that from spring to autumn they did whatever was needed on the church estates and in the fields near the church and the monastery. At the end of the season, they were rewarded in kind by the Salesians - flour, sugar, lard, jam, etc. They celebrated holidays, including Christmas, with other inhabitants of the village and among themselves and felt comfortable there.
They lived separately from the rest of the population, because, since the time of Maria Theresa, the Roma had a place reserved on the outskirts of towns and villages where they could build houses free of charge. This gave rise to Roma settlements called romane héli.
When the Roma saw the Jews being taken away, they became afraid too. Various rumours spread among people, such as that the Fascists and the Hlinka Guard were preparing a new place for the Jews to live, but a paper boat for the Roma to drown at sea. The Roma then became restless and feared for their children.
Their fears were reinforced by the flight of Roma from the Protectorate [of Bohemia and Moravia] to Slovakia - at first they hid them among themselves, but when the repression intensified, the refugees had to go and hide somewhere else.
Mr Daniel's family got their information, for example, from the radio, which they listened to in the Šaštín town square. A neighbour, Mr. Kusalík, used to play it so loudly that ominous speeches by [Adolf] Hitler or [Joseph] Goebbels about plans to take over Europe could be heard through the open window. Daniel also recalled that there was a stall at the annual markets where a trader sold pictures of Nazi leaders and fascist badges. The distressing atmosphere was heightened by people's comments along the lines of: ”Just wait, your turn will come...”
Things took a turn for the worse after the establishment of the Slovak State on 14 March 1939. In Šaštín, this manifested itself in the relations between the Roma and the local population. The local inhabitants began to restrict and control the Roma. The Hlinka Guards would come to check on them sometimes twice a week, looking for missing persons and partisans. Repression also increased - the Roma were not allowed to gather in large numbers, were forbidden to hold parties and were not allowed to speak Romani in public. The border [with the Protectorate] was not far from Šaštín, and so they learned from Moravian Roma, who had managed to escape across the Morava River into Slovakia, about transports to concentration camps and plans for the mass murder of the Roma ethnic group in the Protectorate and, of course, in the Reich.
Mr Daniel credited the government [of the Slovak state] with the fact that there was no mass murder of Romani people in Slovakia and reflects on what possibly caused this. In Slovakia, and in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary in general the Roma had for centuries lived alongside the non-Romani population, earning an honest living, and coexisting with the local population without problems. They were respected everywhere for their musical talent and skill in traditional crafts, and there were also many educated persons among the Roma.
Although there were no transports of Roma to concentration camps, relations with the Slovaks changed during the war. Above all, the Hlinka Guards suddenly felt powerful and began to torment and terrorize the Roma, even though they may have been good friends before. Bartoloměj Daniel recalled a case in the village of Kopčany in which an eighty-year-old Roma man was left standing in the snow for two hours in the winter because he had been in the woods to gather firewood to keep warm. His feet got frostbitten and he never recovered, dying six months later.
-  First name not given.
How to cite abstractAbstract of testimony from: HÜBSCHMANNOVÁ, Milena, ed. “Po židoch cigáni.” Svědectví Romů ze Slovenska 1939–1945.: I. díl (1939–srpen 1944). 1. Praha: Triáda, 2005. ISBN 80-86138-14-3, 593-601 (ces), 602-609 (rom). Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), https://www.romatestimonies.com/testimony/bartolomej-daniel (accessed 11/29/2023)
Origin of Testimony
The interview with Bartoloměj Daniel was recorded in the late 1990s as part of the Milan Šimečka Foundation project entitled The Fate of Holocaust Survivors. It was conducted in Slovak, while Mr. Daniel answered in Czech and was recorded on camera. His entry has been shortened, slightly edited and a translation into Romani is printed alongside the Czech-Slovak original.
Where to find this testimony