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2008: "les enfants de Barbarie"

Coproduction Collectif barbare / Theater Tuchlaube / Tojo Theater Bern

From 1926 to the 1970s, the aid organisation "Kinder der Landstrasse" (Pro Juventute) separated at least 2000 Jenisch, Sinti and Roma children from their families and placed them in orphanages and psychiatric clinics. The Travellers' concept of life was perceived as a threat, and they were considered unable to raise their children. As a result, their custody was taken away from them.

"Les Enfants de Barbarie" takes its inspiration from this drama as a model of perception closed to the other, the consequences of which are invariably fear and intolerance. The evening begins with a circus show, with a young violin virtuoso, acrobatics, and of course a clown. But the scenes soon become more and more uncomfortable and plunge the spectator into a world of memories, visions and nightmares. Astride Schlaefli convinces with her rigorous documentary approach to historical material and her talent to create with musical, visual and choreographic means pictures of great atmospheric density and magical charisma.

Concept, direction: Astride Schlaefli

With: Anna Trauffer, Vera Kardos, Barbara Gasser,  Andreas Thierstein,
Jannine Hafner, oeil extérieur: Jürg Kienberger



The "Enfants de la grand-route" (Children of the highway), a so-called Pro Juventute charity work.

From 1926 to 1972, thowsends of Jenisch, Rromani and Sinti children were separated from their parents, deprived of their custody rights. A priori Travellers, they were considered incapable of bringing them up.

These children were sent to orphanages, reformatories, psychiatric asylums, or taken in by often unscrupulous adoptive parents. Prejudices against them justified all forms of mistreatment, from underpaid farm or factory work to the most recalcitrant elements of electroshock or insulin "therapy". Most of these children never saw their families again.

The novelist Alfred Siegfried, the founder of the campaign, was widely supported by the Confederation, cantons, municipalities, charitable and religious organisations and private patrons. Morally, public opinion was also in favour, and in fifty years there has never been any control or questioning of the merits of this operation. At the time of the rise of Nazism in Europe, it seemed obvious to many that the Children's Roadside Children's Work was a good thing.

Dr. Siegfried's statements leave no doubt as to his political sympathies:

"(...) there are in Switzerland a large number of families who are continually nomadic throughout the country, repairing baskets and various household objects, but also begging or stealing when the opportunity arises, and bringing up many children to become what they are themselves, that is to say vagrants, drunkards or prostitutes. Vagrancy and drunkenness are an integral part of their identity. If we want to fight effectively against these scourges, we must break the ties of these people, and even if it sounds a bit harsh, we must break their family ties. There is no other way..."

In short, the aim of the operation was to train these children in a model of life that responded to the "bürgerlichen Ordnungs- und Sauberkeitsvorstellungen" and to destroy their culture of origin.

As early as the 1980s, under pressure from newspapers and public opinion, which had suddenly become aware of the disastrous consequences of the whole affair, the Confederation discreetly paid compensation to some of the victims. But those responsible for the affair were never worried. In 1998, the Leimgruber-Meier-Sablonier report was finally published, revealing archives that had previously been inaccessible to the public and highlighting all aspects of the case. Both the Confederation and Pro Juventute officially apologised to the communities concerned.