Forgotten History-Roma Holocaust Victims

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A group of holocaust victims that are often forgotten are the Roma  Gypsies. Til this day people are still prejudice against them and I am not denying that I also am slightly prejudice towards them without any real reason because I really don’t know that many of them. Maybe it’s because a lot of European citizens dislike the Gypsies and have done so for decades, and I believe we really should start thinking twice about this otherwise we will not have learned from the past.

It is extremely difficult to locate sources about the Roma people in the Holocaust like those widely available about Jewish victims, which may reflect the difference between a literate culture and a largely illiterate one. It is known that perhaps 250,000 to 500,000 Roma were killed and that, proportionately, they suffered greater losses than any other group of victims except Jews.

Romani (commonly but incorrectly called Gypsies) were considered by the Nazis to be social outcasts. Under the Weimar Republic–the German government from 1918 to 1933–anti-Romani laws became widespread. These laws required them to register with officials, prohibited them from traveling freely, and sent them to forced-labor camps. When the Nazis came to power, those laws remained in effect–and were expanded. Under the July 1933 sterilization law, many Romani were sterilized against their will.

In November 1933, the “Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals” was passed. Under this law, the police began arresting Romani along with others labeled “asocial.” Beggars, vagrants, the homeless, and alcoholics were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The Nuremberg racial laws of September 15, 1935, did not specifically mention Romani, but they were included along with Jews and “Negroes” as “racially distinctive” minorities with “alien blood.” As such, their marriage to “Aryans” was prohibited. They were also deprived of their civil rights.

By the summer of 1938, large numbers of German and Austrian Romani were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. There they wore black triangular patches (the symbol for “asocials”) or green patches (the symbol for professional criminals) and sometimes the letter “Z.”

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Between 1933 and 1945, Roma  suffered greatly as victims of Nazi persecution. Building on long-held prejudices, the Nazi regime viewed Gypsies both as “asocials” (outside “normal” society) and as racial “inferiors” believed to threaten the biological purity and strength of the “superior Aryan” race. During World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators killed tens of thousands of Sinti and Roma men, women, and children across German-occupied Europe.

SS chief Himmler’s circular reveals the Nazis’ animosity to Gypsies and, in the final paragraph, their rationale for seeking “a final solution of the Gypsy question.” The document also demonstrates the Nazis’ muddled thinking about “pure” versus “part” and “settled” versus “unsettled” Gypsies. The regime never produced the general “Gypsy Law” of the sort which Himmler envisioned near the end of this circular.

“Experience gained in combating the Gypsy nuisance, and knowledge derived from race-biological research, have shown that the proper method of attacking the Gypsy problem seems to be to treat it as a matter of race. Experience shows that part-Gypsies play the greatest role in Gypsy criminality. On the other hand, it has been shown that efforts to make the Gypsies settle have been unsuccessful, especially in the case of pure Gypsies, on account of their strong compulsion to wander. It has therefore become necessary to distinguish between pure and part-Gypsies in the final solution of the Gypsy question.

To this end, it is necessary to establish the racial affinity of every Gypsy living in Germany and of every vagrant living a Gypsy-like existence.

I therefore decree that all settled and non-settled Gypsies, and also all vagrants living a Gypsy-like existence, are to be registered with the Reich Criminal Police Office-Reich Central Office for Combating the Gypsy Nuisance.

The police authorities will report (via the responsible Criminal Police offices and local offices) to the Reich Criminal Police Office-Reich Central Office for Combating the Gypsy Nuisance all persons who by virtue of their looks and appearance, customs or habits, are to be regarded as Gypsies or part-Gypsies.

Because a person considered to be a Gypsy or part-Gypsy, or a person living like a Gypsy, as a rule confirms the suspicion that marriage (in accordance with clause 6 of the first decree on the implementation of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor… or on the basis of stipulations in the law on Fitness to Marry) must not be contracted, in all cases the public registry officials must demand a testimony of fitness to marry from those who make such an application [to be married].

Treatment of the Gypsy question is part of the National Socialist task of national regeneration. A solution can only be achieved if the philosophical perspectives of National Socialism are observed. Although the principle that the German nation respects the national identity of alien peoples is also assumed in combating the Gypsy nuisance, nonetheless the aim of measures taken by the State to defend the homogeneity of the German nation must be the physical separation of Gypsydom from the German nation, the prevention of miscegenation, and finally, the regulation of the way of life of pure and part-Gypsies. The necessary legal foundation can only be created through a Gypsy Law which prevents further intermingling of blood, and which regulates all the most pressing questions which go together with the existence of Gypsies in the living space of the German nation.”

Nazi police round up Romani  families from Vienna for deportation to Poland. Austria, September-December 1939.

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Deportation of Romani  families from Vienna to Poland. Austria, between September and December 1939.

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For Nazi Germany, the Roma became a racist dilemma. The Roma were Aryans, but in the Nazi mind there were contradictions between what they regarded as the superiority of the Aryan race and their image of the Roma people.

At a conference held in Berlin on January 30, 1940, a decision was taken to expel 30,000 Roma from Germany to the territories of occupied Poland.

The reports of the SS Einsatzgruppen which operated in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union mention the murder of thousands of Romas along with the massive extermination of the Jews in these areas.

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The deportations and executions of the Roma came under Himmler’s authority. On December 16, 1942, Himmler issued an order to send all “Gypsies” to the concentration camps, with a few exceptions…

The deported Romas were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a special Gypsy camp was erected. Over 20,000 Romas from Germany and some other parts of Europe were sent to this camp, and most of them were gassed there.

Wiernik described the arrival of the largest Roma group brought to Treblinka, in the spring of 1943:

One day, while I was working near the gate, I noticed the Germans and Ukrainians making special preparations…meanwhile the gate opened, and about 1,000 Gypsies were brought in (this was the third transport of Gypsies). About 200 of them were men, and the rest women and children…all the Gypsies were taken to the gas chambers and then burned…

Roma from the General Government [Poland] who were not sent to Auschwitz and to the operation Reinhard camps were shot on spot by the local police or gendarmes. In the eastern region of the Cracow district, in the counties of Sanok, Jaslo, and Rzeszow, close to 1,000 Roma were shot.

According to The Institut Fuer Zeitgeschicthe in Munich, at least 4,000 Roma people were murdered by gas at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

One of the survivors was Karl Stojka Born: April 20, 1931 Wampersdorf Austria, died 10 April 2003 in Vienna.

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Karl was the fourth of six children born to Roman Catholic Gypsy parents in the village of Wampersdorf in eastern Austria. The Stojkas belonged to a tribe of Gypsies called the Lowara Roma, who made their living as itinerant horse traders. They lived in a traveling family wagon, and spent winters in Austria’s capital of Vienna. Karl’s ancestors had lived in Austria for more than 200 years.

1933-39: I grew up used to freedom, travel and hard work. In March 1938 our wagon was parked for the winter in a Vienna campground, when Germany annexed Austria just before my seventh birthday. The Germans ordered us to stay put. My parents converted our wagon into a wooden house, but I wasn’t used to having permanent walls around me. My father and oldest sister began working in a factory, and I started grade school.

1940-44: By 1943 my family had been deported to a Nazi camp in Birkenau for thousands of Gypsies. Now we were enclosed by barbed wire. By August 1944 only 2,000 Gypsies were left alive; 918 of us were put on a transport to Buchenwald to do forced labor. There the Germans decided that 200 of us were incapable of working and were to be sent back to Birkenau. I was one of them; they thought I was too young. But my brother and uncle insisted that I was 14 but a dwarf. I got to stay. The rest were returned to be gassed.Karl was later deported to the Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was freed near Roetz, Germany, by American troops on April 24, 1945. After the war, he returned to Vienna.

A group of Romani prisoners, awaiting instructions from their German captors, sit in an open area near the fence in the Belzec concentration camp.

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I don’t know if this boy survived the war but the sadness in his eyes is heartbreaking.

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Romani  survivors in a barracks of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during liberation. Germany, after April 15, 1945

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German military and SS-police units also shot possibly at least 30,000 Roma in the Baltic States and elsewhere in the occupied Soviet Union, where Einsatzgruppen and other mobile killing units killed Roma at the same time that they killed Jews and Communists. In occupied Serbia, the German authorities killed male Roma in shooting operations during 1941 and early 1942; then murdered the women and children in gas vans in 1942. The total number of Roma killed in Serbia will never be known. Estimates range between 1,000 and 12,000.

In France, Vichy French authorities intensified restrictive measures against and harassment of Roma after the establishment of the collaborationist regime in 1940. In 1941 and 1942, French police interned at least 3,000 and possibly as many as 6,000 Roma, residents of both occupied France and unoccupied France. French authorities shipped relatively few of them to camps in Germany, such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Ravensbrück.

While the authorities in Romania, one of Germany’s Axis partners, did not systematically annihilate the Roma population living on Romanian territory, Romanian military and police officials deported around 26,000 Roma, primarily from Bukovina and Bessarabia, but also from Moldavia and Bucharest, the capital, to Transnistria, a section of south western Ukraine placed under Romanian administration, in 1941 and 1942. Thousands of those deported died from disease, starvation, and brutal treatment.

The authorities of the so-called Independent State of Croatia, another Axis partner of Germany and run by the militant separatist and terrorist Ustasa organization, physically annihilated virtually the entire Roma population of the country, around 25,000 people. The concentration camp system of Jasenovac, run by the Ustasa militia and the Croat political police, claimed the lives of between 15,000 and 20,000 Roma.

 

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