Maria Barbara Gerste

Maria Barbara Gerste
  • Version 1.0
  • Publication date 1 March 2024

Maria Barbara Blum was born on 11 July 1880 in Klosterfreiheit (Saxony, Germany) and married Adolf Gerste (1872–1943). During the prewar years, the Gerste family operated a travelling puppet theater, travelling with their caravans and performing at fairgrounds in the Rhine area, mainly around Frankfurt am Main. In February 1938, Maria Barbara Blum and her family were identified in Mainz during a racial census conducted by Gerhart Stein (1910–1971), an anthropologist working in the Racial Hygiene Research Unit (RHF). In 1942, a genealogical chart compiled by the RHF and conserved in Berlin listed the members of the Gerste family as ‘Zigeunermischlinge’.

Unable to obtain an itinerant trader’s licence because of their ‘gypsy’ status, the Gerstes moved to Saarlouis, where the regulations and practices were less stringent. They then worked in the vicinity of Saarlouis and even went to Strasbourg. Beginning in the summer of 1942, the Strasbourg criminal police organised a racial census designed to identify Sinti and Roma living in annexed Alsace and Moselle and carried out identity checks on other itinerants. In January 1943, the Gerstes sold their caravans and rented an apartment in Strasbourg. They were registered as residents at 72 Kronenburger Strasse, near the main railway station. In early 1943, Maria Barbara Gerste and her husband Adolf, were arrested with their children Paul (born 1904), Alwine (b. 1907), Robert (b. 1908) and their youngest son, who was also named Robert (b. 1914); they were questioned and photographed by Kripo agents. The biographical and genealogical data collected by the Strasbourg criminal police were compared with the identification files of the RHF held in Berlin.

According to the criteria established by the Reich Criminal Police Office (RKPA) and the RHF during the 15 January 1943 conference on the implementation of the Auschwitz Decree, the Gerste family met the conditions required for deportation. The Strasbourg city housing file indicates that on 19 March 1943 the Gerste family was ‘sent to a labour camp for an indefinite period of time’.1Archives municipales de la ville de Strasbourg (AMS), 624MW, 18, Residential record of Adolf Gerste and Maria Barbara Blum, 1943. On 22 March 1943, 61 people identified as ‘Zigeuner’ from annexed Alsace were registered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The six members of the Gerste family were present in this deportation transport and none of them survived the war. Maria Barbara Gerste died in Auschwitz-Birkenau on 29 August 1943.

The only survivor of the Gerste family was August Gerste (1903–unknown) who escaped police arrest in Strasbourg and fled from Saarlouis to Zagreb (Independent State of Croatia) until the end of the war.


  • 1
    Archives municipales de la ville de Strasbourg (AMS), 624MW, 18, Residential record of Adolf Gerste and Maria Barbara Blum, 1943.


Théophile Leroy: Maria Barbara Gerste, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 1. März 2024. -

27. Juni 1942Die Kriminalpolizei in Straßburg (deutsch besetztes Frankreich) führt eine rassistische Erfassung durch, um „die Zigeunerfrage im Elsass endgültig zu lösen“.
22. März 194361 Personen aus dem Elsass, die von der Kriminalpolizei in Straßburg (deutsch besetztes Frankreich) als „Zigeuner“ verhaftet wurden, werden im Konzentrations- und Vernichtungslager Auschwitz-Birkenau registriert, darunter auch Maria Barbara Gerste mit ihrer Familie.