HIDDEN VICTIMS: THE UNKNOWN ASSAULT ON EUROPE'S GYPSIES

© Digital Millenium Copyright Act ( DMCA).   ©May, 1995-Present by Daisy Grewal.   Updated 08-13-2013

THE FORGOTTEN HOLOCAUST

         "I want to be able to watch epics such as Schindler's List and learn that Gypsies were a central part of the Holocaust, too; or other films . . . and not hear the word 'Gypsy' except once, and then only as the name of somebody's dog." (Source 10) Ian Hancock's cynical statement reflects a notable controversy: one that concerns itself with not only the manufacturing of our current pop culture but the questioning of our historical records and the challenging of our very perception of truth, which, admittedly, is often at the mercy of blinding ethnocentrism. Recent decades have brought about a heightened awareness and discussion of Holocaust horrors, complete with shining memorials, court settlements , copious literature, and even the occasional debate over whether the colossal event actually occurred. While most social scientists of our time largely agree about the validity of a mass genocide having happened under the Nazi regime of WWII, a great amount of debate and tears pour over the parliaments of today's Europe, in hope of settling disputes concerning the recognition of the persecution of peoples other than the Jews during the Holocaust. Specifically, the doubt of Gypsy persecution still casts a dubious shadow over survivors and recent generations and stands face to face with the collection of Nazi documents which detail how the Gypsies, like the Jews, suffered grotesque experimentation and eventual extermination by the racially motivated orders of Adolf Hitler. However, while the plight of the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust has been for the most part addressed worldwide, the molestation of the Gypsies in Europe has been largely dismissed due to the permanent mistrust for a nomadic people who refuse to comply with society's accepted definition of culture, just for the sake of better treatment.



PRELUDE TO GENOCIDE

N'avlom ke tumende o maro te mangel.
Avlom ke tumende kam man pativ te den.
I did not come to you to beg for bread.
I came to you to demand respect.

             An analysis of the centuries of persecution faced by Gypsies, or more accurately the Roma, show how the Nazi Holocaust was simply a horrendous, yet logical, climax to European-Gypsy relations in history. Certainly, a general disapproval for alien people, especially those who continually travel from place to place, can be attributed to natural human instinct. The Gypsies first appeared along the countryside of Europe in the 1400s. Ian Hancock writes how "As a non-Christian, non-white Asian people possessing no territory in Europe, Roma were outsiders in everybody's country."(Source 10). Hate for Gypsies quickly manifested itself in oldwives' tales and other general myths. For example a Greek Easter carol tells the story of how Gypsies supposedly contributed to Christ's death: "And by a Gypsy smith they passed, a smith who nails was making. 'Thou dog, thou Gypsy dog' - said she, 'What is it thou art making? ''They're going to crucify a man and I the nails am making.'"(Source 6).
A nomadic lifestyle, distrust for outsiders, and the trade of fortune-telling all contributed to early dislike for Gypsies; however, a preference for fair skin seems to have sprouted in Westerners a long time back, as Kenrick & Puxon explains, "The conviction that blackness denotes inferiority and evil was already well-rooted in the western mind. The nearly black skins of many Gypsies  marked them out to be  victims of this prejudice."(Source 6). This prejudice continued on into the relatively recent times in the early 20th century: "They [Gypsies] were seen as asocial, a source of crime, culturally inferior, a foreign body within the nation. During the 1920s the police established special offices to keep the gypsies under constant surveillance." Speculation might conclude that an already present repulsion toward the Gypsy foreigners in Europe subdued any protest from those who witnessed the abuse of the Gypsies by the Third Reich.



THE RISE OF HITLER AND A GERMAN RACIAL HIERARCHY

          As turmoil in Germany led to an increase of power for the Hitler regime, the existence of Gypsies in the region began to take a turn for the worse. "Long before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, when action against the 'asocial' elements of the German population was undertaken, the internment of Gypsies in concentration camps was begun."(Source 2) Hitler, however, insisted upon
        the preservation of two Gypsy tribes as "he regarded them as the direct descendants of the primitive Indo-Germanic race."(Source 2). Even earlier, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws had already been instated claiming that the Gypsies, along with Jews as "a dangerous Fremdrasse('alien race') whose blood was a mortal threat to German racial purity."(Source 3) Adolf Hitler's deep pathos, possibly born from early rejection from both his family and society, concocted the horrendous ideas concerning a racial hierarchy, on which the Germanic peoples stood on top. The Jewish people, he believed, belonged at the very bottom and the Gypsies somewhere in between. In 1938, the Nazi party had officially proclaimed that "the Gypsy problem was categorically a matter of race('mit Bestimm theit eine Frage der Rasse') and was to be dealt with in that light,"(Source, 5). Like the Jewish people, however, measures against the unwanted Gypsies proceeded slowly, beginning with "Restrictive directives issued against the Gypsy minority which   reduced their status to second-class citizenship"(Source, 8), in the years before the start of WWII. 1938 marked the year in which transportation of Gypsies to concentration camps actually began, but were later temporarily stopped as the trains were needed for moving German weapons and troops to the Eastern Front; nevertheless, a special section had already been created for Gypsies in the Buchenwald concentration camp. (2)
Although Gypsies had been barred from serving in the army since 1937, few part-Gypsy soldiers
         existed and, in 1941, authorities affirmed that "on the grounds of racial policy, no more Gypsies and part-gypsies should be called up." Source 6). Records of Gypsy deaths owe their existence to the work of Hitler's 'racial scientists', especially Robert Ritter and his assistant Eva Justin. Gypsies were carefully categorized with a notation system ranging from Z(for Zigeuner, of pure Gypsy) to ZM+, ZM, and
       ZM-(denoting part Gypsy, the plus and minus signs indicating whether Gypsy blood predominated or not).(3) Ritter quickly took over the activities of the newly founded 'Research Centre for Racial Hygiene and Population Biology' in Berlin4 and began working on the "identification and classification of Gypsies and the investigation of links between heredity and criminality,"(Source 3). He determined that two Gypsy great-grandparents were enough to consider someone racial ly impure, and interestingly enough, this rule
         was far more stringent than the one determining whether to classify someone as Jewish. Professor E. Fischer, Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, praised Ritter's work by stating that "'It is a rare and special good fortune for a theoretical science to flourish at a time when the prevailing ideology welcomes it and its findings can immediately serve the policy of the state.'"(Source 3). Indeed, those wielding power under Hitler at this time were beginning to swell with anti-Gypsy sentiment as a
       result of widespread acceptance of twisted Nazi views. Eva Justin relates twenty years later how "The Reich Security Head Office discussed the possibility of taking the German Gypsies out into the Mediterranean and then bombing the ships."(Source 3) Hitler's brainwashing in full effect, the foundation for extermination had been completed, leaving no room for remorse or second thoughts regarding the torture and murder of thousands of human beings.



THE HOLOCAUST

Andr oda taboris, ay, phares buti keren, mek mariben chuden . . .
Do not hit me, do not beat me, or you will kill me. I have children at home, Who will bring them up? (5)

Few concentration camps existed under Nazi control which did not contain at least some Gypsy prisoners. 6 What follows is merely a very brief account of some of the suffering endured by the Gypsies who were subjugated to Nazi treatment in the veiled camps, hidden from the rest of the world. In general, Gypsies were deported from Germany in order to join the other victims at such as infamous places as Buchenwald, Dachau, Mauthausen, Ravensbruck, and Auschwitz. Mauthausen reportedly had the largest Gypsy death toll of any concentration due to the fact that "most that died were killed or worked to death as part of a Extermination-through-Work policy."(Source 5). At other camps, Gypsies were exterminated mostly by shooting or poison gas (7), although moregraphic tales have been retold by ex-Nazi officer:
"First the girl was forced to dig a ditch, while her mother, seven months
         pregnant, was left tied to a tree. With a knife they opened the belly of the mother, took out the baby, and threw it in the ditch. Then they threw in the mother and the girl after raping her. They covered them with earth while they were still alive."(Source 6). Many people died in the camp slowly, suffering from malnutrition or a variety of diseases, of which typhoid was particularly common. One account shows how children suffered from the disease of Noma, or gangrene of the face: "Their little bodies wasted away with gaping holes in their cheeks big enough for one to see through, a slow putrefaction of the living body. "(Source 6). Such gruesome suffering was not reserved for Gypsies alone; it was common among all those enslaved in Hitler's death camps. More than any other group during WWII, the Gypsies were subjected to indecent medical testing which left many dead, others wounded, and even more unable to have children. At Auschwitz, the nefarious Dr. Mengele set up an experimental barracks in the Gypsy camp for the purpose of research.8 His 'medical experiments' reflected a wide number of goals, as well as "specimens",
 which included twins, dwarfs, children, and women of reproductive age. One ghastly example, as reported by a Gypsy survivor, should give a general impression of Mengele's tactics as well as dementia: "'I remember very well how he gave a small Gypsy boy of five or six an injection with a needle about 30 centimetres long. It didn't take long for the child to die. Behind the building there was a kind of butcher's block with a trough for blood, like a wash basin . . . Mengele cut the child open from the neck to the genitals, dissecting the body, and took out the innards to experiment on them."(Source 5). Another of Mengele's practices was impregnating Gypsy women through artificial insemination and then performing abortions at different stages of fetal development.9 Such experiments continued until Gypsy camps were eventually liquidated entirely upon Hitler's orders. Of the 5000 killed in total at Auschwitz, 4000 constituted Gypsies killed on the basis of Hitler's "Final Solution", August 1944, only a short time before liberation.10
In 1938 the National Socialist German Workers' Party had drafted a memorandum which dealt extensively with the propositions concerning Nazi solutions for dealing with the large Gypsy populations within German borders. Clearly displaying racial prejudices, the memorandum states that Gypsies "have manifestly a heavily tainted heredity, subjecting to great peril the blood purity of the German frontiersmen peasantry, it is fitting to watch them closely, to prevent them from reproducing themselves and to subject them
to the obligation of forced labour . . ."(Source 2). Hitler's intentions to bring to a halt the spreading of Gypsy blood reinvented itself in the mass sterilization of both men and women in the Gypsy concentration camps. Gypsy survivor Eichwald Rose has retold his story for the world to hear: "I had to sign a paper signifying that I submitted voluntarily to sterilization. If I had not done this they would have sent me back to a concentration camp."(Source 6) The sterilization of Gypsies was not merely painful and indecent: it
      also left the most enduring mark on the entire race, as thousands of survivors were left unable to have children, thereby left to die the cruelest death of all. Statistics regarding how many Gypsies were killed exactly during the awful years of WWII vary greatly from a quarter of a million to one million. Regardless, the number of deaths was large enough to tear apart the Gypsy society and leave them scattered, broken, and utterly powerless. Unable to wield enough strength to speak for themselves, the obliteration of the Gypsy race seemed to fade away into forgotten history, and only the victims themselves knew how many pieces were left to pick up.



THE AFTERMATH:   NO EMPATHY FOR THE OUTCASTS

      "I went over to the ovens and found on one of the steel stretchers the half-charred body of a girl and I understood in one awful minute what had been going on there." explains British serviceman Frederick Wood.(Source 6) Psychological scarring and outcast treatment is what followed immediately after what the Gypsies call Porrajmos('The devouring'). Many European countries, such as Czechoslovakia(11) decided it was time to end the wandering of the Gypsies, destroy their social life, and assimilate them into
modern society. Fortunately, none of these attempts have been able to succeed; and, the Gypsies continue on in present- day, carrying out their traditional, ancient lifestyle. However, besides these attempts at assimilation, Gypsies have been virtually ignored by the     governments in Europe, who are reluctant to acknowledge their suffering; only slight improvements have been made in recent years.
       After the dust had settled from WWII, the war crime trials started, and Westerners gazed accusingly across the borders at the remnants of Nazi rule. Unfortunately, the Gypsy survivors were left alone, unheeded, without one cry of mourning for their demolished race.    "During the Nuremberg war crimes trials not one Gypsy was called as a witness by the Allied prosecutors."(Source 6) The Westerners
      had forgotten so quickly the rotten bodies of the dead. Gilad Margalit tries to find reasons for this as she writes "The crimes carried out by the Nazis did not create empathy or compassion among the German public towards Gypsy victims and did not mitigate the manifest dislike of them."(Source 10). Most striking of all, were claims by the German government that Gypsies were entitled to no   compensation, supposedly having not been persecuted on racial motives, despite that numerous documents existed clearly stating that this was not so. 12 Karoly Lendvai, a Gypsy survivor, has offered the suggestion that because his people's history is oral, "there was no one writing about it, or lecturing on it, to make the world aware."(Source 10). However, it could possibly be instead that no one was simply interested; after all, a public opinion poll revealed that two thirds of Germans would detest having Gypsies as neighbors.13 The virtual exclusion of Gypsies from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a travesty not yet to be fully corrected; and, many think that the neglect can be attributed to something deeper than simply gross oversight.
Several historians, eager to support the new rise of Gypsy nationalism, argue against what they call Jewish Exclusivism: the desire to prevent "dilution" or "de-Judanization" of the Holocaust by promoting knowledge about the other victims of Hitler's regime. Ward Churchill writes how "exclusivists have habitually employed every device known to depict the Porrajmos as having been something 'fundamentally different' from the Holocaust itself."(Source 10) Others claim that the West tries deliberately to point out that the suffering of the Jews was proportionately less than that of the Gypsies. A more likely conclusion, as is usually true, lies somewhere in   between the two extremes. Clearly, first-hand witness accounts, Nazi records, and the survivors themselves prove that Gypsy suffering
was similar to that of the Jews: "The sadly familiar names of Auschwitz and Ravensbruck are as much a part of modern Gypsy history as they are of Jewish history."(Source 8). The Jews, having suffered in much greater numbers, are more than entitled to the large movement of nie wieder educational programs and historical preservation of Holocaust accounts; the debate continues only as to whether the Gypsies are too deserving of such notice and if so, why have they not received it? It seems unfair to point fingers at so-called Jewish exclusivists once one understands the fundamental principle that the players perform only what the audience wishes to see.



CONCLUSIONS

        The Gypsies, long feared and disliked by the Europeans they lived side by side with, endured the natural conclusion of genocide during WWII under the Nazi persecution. The treatment of the Gypsies
was certainly no less severe than that of Hitler's other victims, such as the Jews; however, less appreciation has been given for their suffering. Can we truly blame the public for ignoring a people who, having a seemingly anti-social strategy for living, share almost nothing in common with the rest of the world? After all, as Thomas Acton once poignantly wrote, "One may judge that all people are ethnocentric in virtue of the limits of human experience,"(Source 1). We have, however, made one mistake in that the Gypsies do have at least one trait shared with the rest of the "civilized" world: they are human beings. The question then should be isolated of how we can we appear guiltless for acknowledging the suffering of only those we can relate to, or supposedly care about. We cannot shut ourselves out from what we find frightening, and measure modernization according to how closely development starts to mirror our own illusory standards of creation. Wherever the fault may originate from, the responsibility lies upon our own heads in trying to strive for greater fairness in our continual processing of history. Perhaps we should start with a suggestion from Acton, stating that only when "we cease a vain search for true moderns, true Englishmen, or true Gypsies, can we begin to find ourselves as true men" and thus discover, that none of stands alone or separated among the vast waves of humanity.
SOURCES
1. Acton, Thomas. Gypsies and Social Change. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. Boston, 1974.
2. Clebert[AC1], Jean-Paul. The Gypsies. Vista Books. London, 1963.
3. Fraser, Angus. The Gypsies. Blackwell Publishers. Oxford, 1995.
4. Greenfield, Howard. Gypsies. Crown Publishers, Inc. Chicago, 1973
5. Hancock, Ian. Pariah Syndrome. Karoma Publishers, Inc. Michigan, 1988.
6. Kenrick & Puxon, The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books, Inc. New York, 1972.
7. Kolsti, John. The Gypsies of Eastern Europe. M.E. Sharpe, Inc. New York, 1991.
8. Sway, Marlene. Familiar Strangers. University of Illinois Press. Chicago, 1988.
9. Yoors, Jan. The Gypsies. Simon and Schuster. New York, 1967.
10. http://www.christusrex.org/www2/gypsies.net/,Microsoft, Netscape, 1998.


Endnotes
1. Kenrick & Puxon. The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books, Inc. New York, 1972; pg. 74.
2. Hancock, Ian. Pariah Syndrome. Karoma Publishers, Inc. Michigan, 1988; pg. 67.
3. Fraser, Angus. The Gypsies. Blackwell Publishers. Oxford, 1995; pg. 259.
4. Fraser, Angus. The Gypsies. Blackwell Publishers. Oxford, 1995; pg. 257.
5. Czech Gypsy song(Ficowski, 1964, pg. 215)
6. Kenrick & Puxon. The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books, Inc. New York, 1972; pg. 151.
7. Hancock, Ian. Pariah Syndrome. Karoma Publishers, Inc. Michigan, 1988; pg. 68.
8. Kenrick & Puxon. The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books, Inc. New York. 1972; pg. 157.
9 Clebert, Jean-Paul. The Gypsies. Vista Books. London, 1963; pg. 89.
10. Kenrick & Puxon. The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. Basic Books, Inc. New York, 1972; pg. 167.
11. Hancock, Ian. Pariah Syndrome. Karoma Publishers, Inc. Michigan, 1988; pg. 97.
12. Sway, Marlene. Familiar Strangers. University of Illinois Press. Chicago, 1988; pg. 54.
13. Margalit, Gilad, "Forty Years for German Recognition of Persecution to Gypsies" , courtesy
http://www.christisrex.org/www2/gypsies.net/[AC1]
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