The Pariah Syndrome
IX. German Treatment of Gypsies
in the Twentieth Century

Chakra
"You talked about Auschwitz. My name is Gustav Wexler. I know about Auschwitz. "
"Mr. Morris, my name is Mrs. Hersh. May I say something? Israel was bought and paid for with the blood of six million martyrs ... Why do you think the Jews should be the only people without a homeland?"'
"Do I think that? On the other hand, Mrs. Hersh, where is the homeland of the Gypsies? What did their blood buy and pay for?"
"Gypsies? ", Wexler said. "What's Gypsies got to do with it?"
"Half a million Gypsies also died in the concentration camps, "Adam said. "Doesn't that even earn them a couple of fields? One caravan site with running water? A day trip to a stately home? Nothing?"'
"The Gypsies, " Wexler said, "have no historic homeland.
"Ah. That must be where they made their big mistake. "
"The Gypsies, "Mrs. Hersh said, "what culture have the Gypsies got?"
"No culture?" Adam said. "To hell with them."
"Mr. Speaker, " Wexler said, "may I ask you something? Because can you give me the names of ten famous Gypsies?"  (Raphael, 1977:253-254).

Towards the end of the 19th century, a conference on "The Gypsy Filth" (Der Zigeunerunrat) was held in Swabia, and plans were made to round up all Gypsies throughout the German-controlled territories. A system was proposed whereby bells would be rung in villages as a means of signalling their presence. This led to the later establishment, in Munich in 1899, of the Central Office for Fighting the Gypsy Nuisance (Zentrale zur Bekämpfung des Zigeunerunwesens), under the direction of Alfred Dillman. This bureau was not officially closed down until 1970.
Long before the Nazis came to power, the Gypsies had been treated as social outcasts. Their foreign appearance, their strange customs and language, their nomadic way of life and lack of regular employment had increasingly come to be regarded as an affront to the norms of a modern state and society. They were seen as asocial, a source of crime, culturally inferior, a foreign body within the nation. During the 1920s the police, first in Bavaria and then in Prussia established special offices to keep the Gypsies under constant surveillance. They were photographed and fingerprinted as if they were criminals. With the Nazi takeover, however, a new motive was added to the grounds for persecution: their distinct and allegedly inferior racial character (Noakes, 1985:17).

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, his Nazi administration inherited anti-Gypsy laws which had already been in force in Germany since the Middle Ages. The January 20th edition of Le Temps that same year carried the following story (see also Shoemaker, 1933:158-160):
Gypsy Island
According to the Viennese papers, mayors in the district of Oberwarth, in Burgenland, have today examined the question of the Gypsies who, they claim, have become a veritable plague in the country. They maintain that the Gypsies are multiplying three or four times more rapidly than the indigenous population ... These mayors want to withhold civil rights from the Gypsies, and institute the same kinds of laws against them as exist in Hungary, which include in particular clubbing, in cases of theft. The mayors have endorsed a proposal made by the District Prefect that the Société de Nations be invited to examine the establishment of a Gypsy colony on one of the Polynesian islands.

During the first few months of Nazi rule, an SS study group proposed that all Gypsies then in Germany should be killed by drowning them in ships taken out into mid-ocean and sunk. There were not, at that time, any anti-Jewish laws in effect, and in fact the Weimar Constitution of 1918 had reaffirmed the equality of  Jews with other Germans in that year (Gilbert, 1947:493). Instead, the authorities in the Research Center for Racial Hygiene and Biological Population Studies began a lengthy process of codifying persons of Romani origin (dealt with in the recent novels of the Romani Holocaust by Ramati (1985) and Florence (1985); the novels of Kosinsky (1965) and Kanfer (1978) also deal with the same theme). On September 15th, 1935, Gypsies became subject to the restrictions of the Nuremberg Law for the Protection of Blood and Honor, which forbade intermarriage or sexual intercourse between Aryan and non-Aryan peoples (Noakes, loc. cit.). Criteria for classification as a Gypsy were twice as strict as those later applied to Jews: if two of a person's eight great-grandparents were even part-Gypsy, that person had too much Gypsy ancestry to be allowed, later, to live. The Nuremberg decree on the the other hand defined a Jew as being minimally a person having one Jewish grandparent, i.e. as someone who was one quarter Jewish (Hilberg, 1961). If the criteria applied to the Jews had also been applied to the Gypsies, nearly 20,000 Gypsy victims would have escaped being murdered by the Nazis (Kenrick and Puxon, 1972). The subsequent classificatory treatment of Jews was in fact derived from, and patterned upon, those developed for the Romani population. An article which appeared in the British press on the eve of the Second World War included the prophetic words "In case Hitler is interested, they are pure Aryan" (Sulzberger, 1939:7).

[Illustration with caption]
Document dated December 12th, 1925, calling for a joint conference to discuss the "Gypsy problem"

Eva Justin, one of those concerned with compiling genealogical data of this sort was, after the war, employed as a social worker and never prosecuted. In her treatise on Gypsies, she expressed the hope that her research would prevent any further flow of such "unworthy primitive elements" into the German nation. Her companion during the war, Dr. Hermann Arnold, remains today a respected 'Gypsy expert', and until recently was a consultant on Gypsies with the Ministry of Family Affairs in Bonn.

Some Gypsies were sterilized as early as 1933, though no Jews had yet been; beginning in the same year, camps were being established by the Nazis to contain Gypsies at Dachau, Dieselstrasse, Mahrzan and Vennhausen, although at so early a date, Jewish victims were not being sent en masse to any camps. It is a matter of singular disgrace that, in 1936, the anti-Gypsy campaign became globalized, through the establishment of the International Center for the Fight against the Gypsy Menace by Interpol, in Vienna, which today has branches in 138 countries. Again, this did not happen for the Jews. In effect, the Nazi Party sought, and was given, the cooperation of other European governments in its campaign to locate and identify Gypsies throughout Europe for its later plans for extermination.

In 1938, a Nazi Party proclamation stated that the Gypsy problem was categorically a matter of race ("mit Bestimmtheit eine Frage der Rasse"), and was to be dealt with in that light; a year later, Johannes Behrendt, speaking for the Party, declared that "elimination without hesitation" ("Austossung ohne Zögern") of the entire Gypsy population had to be instigated immediately, although a number of families were to be kept in a compound for future anthropologists to be able to study. Among the many categories of victims in Hitler's Germany, only the Gypsies and the Jews were singled out for annihilation on racial grounds, only Jews and Gypsies being considered genetically so "manifestly tainted" as to pose a threat to German racial purity.

[Illustration with caption]
German police interrogating Gypsies, 1925

[Illustration with caption]
Document entitled "The Fight Against the Gypsy Nuisance" dated July 6th, 1927, dealing with their incarceration

[Illustration with caption]
A Gypsy transport awaiting departure, 1938

[At the U.S. Government War Crimes Tribunal] Ohlendorf ... told Musmanno that he did his duty as best he could at all times. Asked if he killed other than Jews, Ohlendorf admitted he did: Gypsies.

"On what basis did you kill Gypsies?."
"It was the same as for Jews," he replied.
"Racial? blood?."
Ohlendorf shrugged his shoulders. "There was no difference between Gypsies and Jews" (Infield, 1982:61).


In July, 1938, the machinery of the Endlösung or Final Solution was put into effect with the transportation of a group of Gypsies to Berlin. During the following months, transportations to the camps in Poland began, but were later stopped because of the expense involved, and the need to use the trains for moving German weapons and troops to the Eastern Front.  Gypsies in Poland and the Baltic States, Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Hungary and the rest of Nazi-occupied Europe were herded into camps for later extermination, though others were frequently dispatched on the spot. The treatment given to a Gypsy mother and her young daughter by a group of soldiers in northern Jugoslavia is not untypical:
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 (Paris, 1962:62).

The effectiveness of Hitler's campaign of genocide ensured that there were almost no Gypsy writers who survived the War, and because Gypsies have been overlooked since then, it has been hard for chroniclers to piece together this story; they have had largely to rely upon the accounts of Jewish and other survivors for their information.  A man named Grabów who escaped from the death camp at Chelmno was able to get a letter through to his relatives telling of the atrocities being perpetrated against Gypsies there:
... The place where everyone is being put to death is called Chelmno, not far from Dabie; people are kept in the nearby forest of Lochów. People are killed in one of two ways: either by shooting or by poison gas. This is what happened to the towns of Dabie, Izbica Kujawska, and others. Recently, thousands of Gypsies have been brought there from the so-called Gypsy camp in Lodz, and the same is done to them ... (Dobroszycki, 1984:xxi, letter dated January 19th, 1942).

[Illustration with caption]
Families awaiting deportation, 1939

[Illustration with caption]
Document from the Oberbürgermeister of Hannover stating that the city did not want to serve as a Gypsy detention center, April 1st, 1939

[Illustration with caption]
Gypsy families in Auschwitz

Shoshana Kalisch was a survivor of the Lodz concentration camp, and tells of sharing it with Gypsies brought there from Austria:

The Gypsies did not last long. Left without food for days, they were tortured sadistically by their special guards, who often forced them to do gymnastics until they collapsed or died ... The Nazi commander ordered squads of Jews to bury the Gypsies in the Jewish cemetery. Surviving Gypsies were deported to Auschwitz ... when we were deported to Auschwitz, my sister and I were assigned to a barracks of "C" compound at Birkenau, adjacent to the camp in which the Gypsies were detained ... One night in early August, we heard spine-chilling shrieks coming from the Gypsy camp, augmented by the sound of trucks coming and going and the ferocious barking of dogs. The elder in charge of our barracks told us that the Gypsies were being taken away. The sound of the trucks, the barking of the dogs, and the screaming and wailing of the Gypsies permeated our camp throughout the night.

We held onto our shoes, our only possessions aside from the single garment on our bodies, ready to run - which would of course have been useless - expecting in silent terror to be the next ones taken away. Feeling only my sister's and my heartbeats, I made up my mind not to scream when they came for us. The Gypsies, I thought, had been screaming for me too (Kalisch, 1985:87-88).


Shoshana Kalisch (op. cit.) also reproduces a song which was written about the Gypsies in her camp. "Strictly quarantined and isolated from the rest of the ghetto, the Gypsies were easily ignored or forgotten," she says. "Thus it is all the more touching to hear a song describing the Gypsies' plight by the Lodz, ghetto musician David Beigelman." Beigelman died of exhaustion in a slave labor camp just three months before liberation:
Tsigaynerlid

Finster di nakht, vi koyln
shvarts,
Nor trakht un trakht, un
s'klapt mayn harts.
Mir Tsigayner lebn
vi keyner,
Mir laydn noyt, genug
koym oyf broyt.

Dzum dzum dzum,
Mir flien arum vi
di tshaykes,
Dzum dzum dzum,
Mir shpiln oyf di
balalaykes.

Nit vu men togt, nit vu
men nakht;
A yeder zikh plogt,
nor kh'trakht un trakht.
Mir Tsigayner lebn
vi keyner,
Mir laydn noyt, genug
koym oyf broyt.

Dzum dzum dzum,
Mir flien arum vi
di tshaykes,
Dzum dzum dzum,
Mir shpiln oyf di
balalaykes.

Gypsy Song*

Dark is the night, like
blackest coal.
I brood and brood, my
heartbeats toll.
We Gypsies live like no
no others do,
Suffering pain,
and hunger too.

Dzum dzum dzum,
Like seagulls we fly
near and far,
Dzum dzum dzum,
We're strumming our
Gypsy guitar.

Nowhere to stay,
almost no food;
Everyone struggles, but
I just brood.
We Gypsies live like no others do,
Suffering pain,
and hunger too.

Dzum dzum dzum,
Like seagulls we fly
near and far,
Dzum dzum dzum,
We're strumming our
Gypsy guitar.

Rromani Dzhili

Tunjariko e rjat, angar kalo,
Nekezhi' ma, marel o jilo;
Trajin el Rrom sar nisave
Rrevdin e dukh, sa bokhale.

Dzum dzum dzum
Sar macharki pash-dural hurjas,
Dzum dzum dzum
Amare levuci rromane bashas.

Chi beshav katende, kak manaj te xav,
Saorre chingarel, 'ma man te nekezhisavav
Trajin el Rrom sar nisave
Rrevdiv e dukh, sa bokhale.

Dzum dzum dzum
Sar macharki pash-dural hurjas,
Dzum dzum dzum
Amare levuci rromane bashas.

*English translation of the original Yiddish by S. Kalisch, Romani translation by the author. The score for this song may be found in Kalisch, op. cit., pp. 89-90.
[Illustration with caption]
Document dated August 31st, 1938, dealing with the problem of finding locations in which to confine Gypsies

In 1942, information on the Gypsy population of England, Sweden and Spain began to be collected in anticipation of eventual Nazi takeover of those countries. In Germany itself, large-scale roundups were established by February, 1943, and by April over ten thousand Gypsies had arrived in Sachsenhausen where they were put to work. Conditions in these and other concentration camps are painfully described in Kenrick and Puxon (1972), which also recounts the terrible medical experiments which were carried out on Gypsies, especially upon young girls. Twins were also selected for experimentation; the "Angel of Death," Joseph Mengele, used Gypsy children in particular for his research. One Gypsy survivor, Hans Braun, who now lives in Canada remembers Mengele and his experiments at Auschwitz, where on just one day, August 1st, 1944, four thousand Gypsies were dispatched to their deaths. Braun has an especially vivid recollection:

I remember very well how he gave a small Gypsy boy of five or six an injection with a needle about 30 centimetres long. He stuck the needle into the boy's back to extract the spinal fluid; he stuck it up to the neck vertebrae. The needle broke, and 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. This was something I will not forget (Tyrnauer, 1985b:7).

A Jewish survivor, Vera Alexander, had the job of supervising fifty sets of Gypsy twins in the same camp. She describes an incident which took place in 1943:
I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Nina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state - they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus.They screamed day and night. Then their parents - I remember their mother's name was Stella - managed to get hold of some morphine, and they killed their children in order to end their suffering. Soon after that, I was taken to another camp, and the Gypsy camp was entirely liquidated (Davis, 1985:23).

[Illustration with caption]
Translation of a letter written by Gauleiter Portschy of Steiermark calling for the enforced sterilization of Gypsies, January 9th, 1938

Nineteen-forty-three was also the year Himmler decided that the Gypsy camps were to be done away with, and so began a program of liquidation which was ultimately to destroy over half a million Romani lives. Gypsies were beaten and clubbed to death, herded into the gas chambers and forced to dig their own graves and jump into them. In Lithuania, a thousand Gypsies were locked inside a synagogue, which was then burnt to the ground killing them all. Children had their heads smashed by being swung by the feet against a wall. One eyewitness account tells of Gypsies screaming through the night in anguish, waiting to be murdered. It is ironic that the Romani word sastipe, the general greeting for health and luck, should have the same Sanskrit root (svastha) from which the word Swastika is also derived.

An account of the punishment meted out to one Gypsy who tried to escape from Dachau, is found in Kogon:

He was locked in a large box with iron bars over the opening. Inside, the prisoner could only hold himself in a crouching position. Koch (the camp commander) then had big nails driven through the planks so that each movement of the prisoner made them stick in his body. Without food or water, he spent two days and three nights in this position. On the morning of the third day, having already gone insane, he was given an injection of poison (1950:102).

[Illustration with caption]
Auschwitz: Gypsies dig their own graves

Manfri Wood, a Gypsy serving with the British Royal Air Force, told of his first impressions as a member of a liberation team entering Belsen after the collapse of the Third Reich:

We faced something terrible. Heaps of unburied bodies, and an unbearable stench. When I saw the surviving Romanies, with young children among them, I was shaken. Then 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 (Kenrick and Puxon, 1972:187).

Since the end of the Second World War, little of benefit has been achieved from the Gypsy point of  view. Not a single Gypsy was called upon to testify at the Nuremberg Trials, or has been to any of the subsequent war crime tribunals.
The downfall of the Third Reich did not halt the devaluation of Gypsy lives. Though West Germany paid nearly $715 million to Israel and various Jewish organizations, Gypsies as a group received nothing ... [although] Gypsy activists have uncovered a case of a woman who received ten dollars for the death of her baby in Auschwitz.

West German officials have rejected the efforts of several thousand Gypsy survivors of the War to establish citizenship in the Federal Republic, even though their families have lived in Germany for Generations (Anon., 1979:67).


Romani Rose, Vice President of the World Romani Union and its most vigorous activist, has been trying, so far without success, to obtain compensation from a number of German companies for their use of  Gypsies as slave labor in Nazi Germany:
Seven companies have paid more than 58 million marks ($29 million) to Jewish forced laborers and their families. Rose, 39, was interviewed in the offices of the Gypsy Central Council in Heidelberg. He said "absolutely none" of the Gypsies have been paid so far ... Rose said 700 German Gypsies have notified him of claims for slave labor, but he added that the number could rise to 1,000. He estimated that up to 15,000 Gypsy survivors of the Nazi forced-labor program are in Germany and Austria alone. One of those, Hugo Franz, said at the press conference: "Prisoners died like flies from breathing in poison gas. Civilian workers and SS guards both beat us. Many of the prisoners went blind from the poison gas; we went for days without sleep." The Gypsies have named 11 companies for which they say members of the Sinti and Roma were forced to work during the Nazi era. Rose said demands had been sent to all of them. Among companies Rose named was the Daimler-Benz car and truck manufacturer (Costelloe, 1986:3A).
* * *
Since the mid-1970s, representatives of various Gypsy organizations have been in conference with Herr Willy Brandt and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in an attempt to claim reparation amounting to $365 million. Stimulated in part by Jewish activists, Gypsies are pressing more and more openly for recognition of their plight. In October, 1979, 2,000 Gypsies marched to Bergen-Belsen where thousands died between 1939 and 1945. Today, there is a growing acknowledgement of the Gypsy situation among German scholars (e.g. Günther, 1985), although prejudice at the popular and governmental levels remains deeply entrenched. German government spokesman Gerold Tandler, as recently as the 1970s, called Gypsy demands for war crimes reparations "unreasonable" and "slander[ous]" (Pond, 1980:B17), while in 1985, the Mayor of the City of Darmstadt Günther Metzger, told the Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma that they had "insulted the honor" of the memory of the Holocaust by wishing to be associated with it (Wiesenthal, 1986:6). German Gypsies are now learning that it is to their advantage to pass as Jews; a recently-documented example is that of a musician who
... changed his Romany name, Kroner, to Rosenberg; with a Gypsy name, he had been out of work for months, but with a new Jewish name, he was highly employable. "The German conscience is very selective," he laughed (Marre and Charlton, 1985:196).

The Gypsies in West Germany, now numbering some 50,000 (no population estimates have been released by the East German government, although they are probably extremely small), live mostly in ghettos and receive minimal schooling and health care. In a recent government survey of German attitudes towards Gastarbeiter and other non-indigenous groups, Gypsies were clearly ranked at the very bottom in terms of their perceived social worth and acceptability. "Owners of almost 90 percent of West Germany's campsites ... have tacked up signs reading GYPSIES FORBIDDEN. Police periodically descend upon camping Gypsies with guard dogs and submachine guns, and force them to move on" (ibid.). In November, 1973, a villager in Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria opened fire upon a group of Gypsy women who had come to buy produce from his farm, killing two and wounding a third. The sympathies of the police were with the farmer (David, 1973:75).

[Illustration with caption]
Wax face masks made from Gypsy prisoners for Nazi anthropological studies

[Illustration with caption]
Gypsy prisoners at Dachau

One of the most pressing issues facing American Rom is the securing of representation on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. This was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to be an enduring memorial to all those who perished in Hitler's Germany. Sixty-five individuals were appointed but, as with Nuremberg, no Gypsies were ever approached. Elie Wiesel claimed in his Report for the Holocaust Memorial Commission to the President of the United States that Jews were "certainly the first" victims of the Holocaust (1979:3), and that the Holocaust was "essentially a Jewish event ... the Jewish people alone were destined to be totally annihilated, they alone were totally alone ... At the same place appears the definition that "The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators." In the entire report, the word Gypsy appears just once, along with Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Frenchmen, Serbs and Slavs as "others," in an appendix. The total number of Romani dead is now estimated to be some 600,000.  While this amounts to a tenth of the number of Jewish victims, in terms of the genocide of an entire people, the proportions are nevertheless similar - a fact which has not escaped a number of Holocaust scholars:

The Nazis killed between a fourth and a third of all Gypsies living in Europe, and as many as 70 percent in those areas where Nazi control had been established longest (Strom and Parsons, 1978: 220).

How many people in Britain and America today are aware that the Gypsies of Europe were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to their death in almost similar proportions to the Jews? (Heger, 1980:15).

... the Gypsies had been murdered [in a proportion] similar to the Jews; about 80 percent of them in the area of the countries which were occupied by the Nazis (part of a letter dated December 14th, 1984, from Simon Wiesenthal to Elie Wiesel, protesting the exclusion of Gypsies from the Holocaust Memorial Council).


Pressure for recognition from Gypsy groups in the United States consistently met with indifference to begin with. When acknowledgement was made at all, it was invariably unkind. Professor Seymour Seigel, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, in an article which appeared in the Washington Post questioned whether Gypsies really did constitute a distinct ethnic population - a particularly insensitive comment when it was because of their ethnicity Gypsies were targeted for extermination - and called attempts to obtain representation on the Council "cockamamie" (Grove, 1984:C4). Other journalists reported that they were told by the Council's liaison staff that Gypsy protesters were "cranks" and "eccentrics" (Doolittle, 1984:5). Clearly, the individuals controlling the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council were as ignorant of the true facts of Gypsy history as any other Americans, and their concern has contrasted very sharply with that demonstrated by Jewish supporters in Europe, for whom the facts are better known. Since the staff in Washington reads the same novels and watches the same films as the rest of the population, their biases were hardly surprising. In July, 1985, a 167-page work by Dr. Marilyn Bonner Feingold entitled Report on the Status of Holocaust Education in the United States was circulated, "to bear witness and to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of others who perished at the hands of the Nazis" (p.1), but once again, one will search in vain for the words Gypsy or Romani in its pages. A report and bibliography on the fate of Gypsies in the Holocaust commissioned by the Council by Tyrnauer (submitted in February, 1985), on the other hand, had still not been publicized or circulated a year and a half later, and according to a letter from the Council's Executive Director Richard Krieger to Dr. Tyrnauer, dated September 26th, 1986, there are still "no immediate plans for its publication." Gypsies either played a bit-part in the Holocaust, apparently, or were not a part of it at all.

Continuing agitation from Gypsy organizations such as the World Romani Union and the U.S. Romani Council, brought the beginnings of a response; picketing in Washington by members of the latter organization was covered by the press, and while the reports were not always the most objective, public attention has been brought to the situation. The struggle has benefitted from non-Gypsy support also, most of it Jewish. Miriam Novitch has spoken up for the Gypsy cause, and Simon Wiesenthal threatened to make the fact that Gypsies were being excluded from the Council a public issue (1985:3). Perhaps largely because of this intervention, the post of Special Advisor on Holocaust-Related Gypsy Matters to the Council was created in May, 1985, and a representative appointed. But when questioned a year later why that advisor's involvement had never once been sought, the Council's then acting director Micah Naftalin told the Washington Post that it had only ever been an "honorary" position (Hirschberg, 1986:A16).

New appointments to the Council were to be announced in Spring, 1986, and it was expected that one or more Gypsy representative would be included. Naftalin and Wiesel both told the New York Times (for January 14th, 1986, p.B4) that they "bet they would do it."  American Gypsies had been waiting since 1979 for the situation to be redressed, and the names of eight candidates had been submitted in 1985. The announcements were anxiously awaited. The Rornani community was stunned when word came that the Office of Presidential Appointments had voted not to include any Romani representation; once again, Gypsies had been excluded. White House spokesman Linas Kojelis told a World Romani Union representative that Gypsies might have received more acknowledgement if they had been a more powerful people; a classic example of blaming the victims for the crime.

Since then, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council has taken a more active interest in the Gypsy situation. Former acting director Micah Naftalin has gone on record as stating that "the only other ethnic group [besides Jews] marked also as a genocidal target was the Gypsies" (1986:185) - the first time this fact has been acknowledged in print by the Council. A meeting to apprise Gypsy representatives of the Council's plans was held on May 5th, 1986, and was well attended. In June, a representative of the Romani Union was for the first time invited to address the whole assembly. A ceremony to commemorate Gypsy victims of the Nazis was held in September the same year, and a Conference called "The Other Victims" was likewise planned for February, 1987, in which Gypsies were asked to participate. Such separate treatment was not well received by Gypsies, however, who argued that there was after all just one Holocaust: ande jekh than hamisajlo amaro vushar ande'l bova, "our ashes were mingled in the ovens" - why should that be remembered separately today?

The fact that the Rom and Sinti were Hitler's first real victims is gradually becoming better known; but Elie Wiesel, who watched helplessly as his father was beaten by a Gypsy Kapo in Auschwitz (Wiesel, 1982:36-37) still felt it necessary in his address at the Romani Day of Remembrance, to emphasize that the Jews were nevertheless "the supreme victims" of the Third Reich, and in his speech upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in the following month, he made the Point that the Nazi victimization of the Jews was "unique." At the ceremony on September 16th, Professor Wiesel made the following statement:

I confess that I feel somewhat guilty towards our Romani friends. We have not done enough to listen to your voice of anguish. We have not done enough to make other people listen to your voice of sadness. I can promise you we shall do whatever we can from now on to listen better (Anon., 1986b:A23).

At that ceremony, California representative, Congressman Tom Lantos, gave his assurances that he would initiate a letter, signed by members of the Congress and of the Senate, to be sent to Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, Opposition Leader Johannes Rau, and East German Premier Erich Honecker, urging that war crimes reparations be made to Romani survivors in those countries (loc. cit.).

[Illustration with caption]
5,000 Gypsies were transported to this Gypsy camp in Auschwitz from Burgenland (Austria) prior to their extermination

[Illustration with caption]
Gypsy deportation, massacres and revolt, 1939-1945 (Gilbert, 1982)

[Illustration with caption]
American Rom protest outside the Holocaust Memorial Council's offices, Washington, July, 1984



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