Holocaust of the Romani (Gypsies) History

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On Gypsies

Holocaust of the Romani
Monument to the Memory of the Holocaust of the Romani (Gypsies), Borzęcin village, Brzesko County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland

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Holocaust of the Romani (Gypsies)

“Like the Jews, Gypsies were singled out by the Nazis for racial persecution and annihilation. They were `nonpersons,’ of `foreign blood,’ `labor-shy,’ and as such were termed asocials.

To a degree, they shared the fate of the Jews in their ghettos, in the extermination camps, before firing squads, as medical guinea pigs, and being injected with lethal substances. Ironically, the German writer Johann Christof Wagenseil claimed in 1697 that Gypsies stemmed from German Jews.

A more contemporary Nazi theorist believed that `the Gypsy cannot, by reason of his inner and outer makeup ( Konstruktion), be a useful member of the human community.’

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 aimed at the Jews were soon amended to include the Gypsies. In 1937, they were classified as asocials, second-class citizens, subject to concentration camp imprisonment. As early as 1936, some had been sent to camps.

After 1939, Gypsies from Germany and from the German-occupied territories were shipped by the thousands first to Jewish ghettos in Poland at Warsaw, Lublin, Kielce, Rabka, Zary, Siedlce and others.

It is not known how many were killed by the Einsatzgruppen charged with speedy extermination by shooting. For the sake of efficiency Gypsies were also shot naked, facing their pre-dug graves. According to the Nazi experts, shooting Jews was easier, they stood still, `while the Gypsies cry out, howl, and move constantly, even when they are already standing on the shooting ground.

Some of them even jumped into the ditch before the volley and pretended to be dead.’ The first to go were the German Gypsies; 30,000 were deported East in three waves in 1939, 1941 and 1943.

Those married to Germans were exempted but were sterilized, as were their children after the age of twelve. Just how were the Gypsies of Europe `expedited’? Adolf Eichmann, chief strategist of these diabolical logistics, supplied the answer in a telegram from Vienna to the Gestapo:

Regarding transport of Gypsies be informed that on Friday, October 20, 1939, the first transport of Jews will depart Vienna. To this transport 3-4 cars of Gypsies are to be attached. Subsequent trains will depart from Vienna, Mahrisch-Ostrau and Katowice [Poland]. The simplest method is to attach some carloads of Gypsies to each transport. Because these transports must follow schedule, a smooth execution of this matter is expected. Concerning a start in the Altreich [Germany proper] be informed that this will be coming in 3-4 weeks. Eichmann.

Open season was declared on the Gypsies, too. For a while Himmler wished to exempt two tribes and `only’ sterilize them, but by 1942 he signed the decree for all Gypsies to be shipped to Auschwitz. There they were subjected to all that Auschwitz meant, including the medical experiments, before they were exterminated.

Gypsies perished in Dachau, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck and other camps. At Sachsenhausen they were subjected to special experiments that were to prove scientifically that their blood was different from that of the Germans. The doctors in charge of this `research’ were the same ones who had practiced previously on black prisoners of war. Yet, for `racial reasons’ they were found unsuitable for sea water experiments.

Gypsies were often accused of atrocities committed by others; they were blamed, for instance, for the looting of gold teeth from a hundred dead Jews abandoned on a Rumanian road. Gypsy women were forced to become guinea pigs in the hands of Nazi physicians.

Among others they were sterilized as `unworthy of human reproduction’ (fortpflanzungsunwuerdig), only to be ultimately annihilated as not worthy of living. … At that, the Gypsies were the luckier ones; in Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark and Finland they were spared.

For a while there was a Gypsy Family Camp in Auschwitz, but on August 6,1944, it was liquidated. Some men and women were shipped to German factories as slave labor; the rest, about 3,000 women, children and old people, were gassed. No precise statistics exist about the extermination of European Gypsies.

Some estimates place the number between 500,000 and 600,000, most of them gassed in Auschwitz. Others indicated a more conservative 200,000 Gypsy victims of the Holocaust.”

Raul Hilberg, “The Destruction of the European Jews” (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1961), p.641; quotation by Staatsrat Turner, chief of the civil administration in Serbia, October 26, 1941, in ibid., p.438

Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon, “Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies” (New York: Basic Books, 1972), p.72

Jan Yoors, “Crossing, A Journal of Survival and Resistance in World War II” (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), pp. 33-34

Hilberg, p. 439

Ruzena Bubenickova, et al., “Tabory utrpeni a smrti” (Camps of Martyrdom and Death) (Prague: Svoboda, 1969), pp. 189-190

Simon Wiesenthal, “The Murderers Among Us” (New York: Bantam, 1967) pp. 237-238

Kendrick, pp. 88-90

Hilberg, pp. 602, 608; the doctors were Hornbeck and Werner Fischer

ibid., p.489

Julian E. Kulski, “Dying We Live” (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979), p.200

Kenrick, p.100

Ota Kraus and Erich Kulka, “Tovarna na smrt” (Death Factory) (Prague: Nase vojsko, 1957), p.200

Yoors, p.34; Bubenickova, p. 190

Gilbert, Martin. “The Holocaust, Maps and Photographs” (New York: Mayflower Books, 1978. p.22;

Kendrick, p. 184

Extracted from – “WOMEN IN THE RESISTANCE AND IN THE HOLOCAUST: THE VOICES OF EYEWITNESSES” Edited (and with introduction) by Vera Laska.


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