The Forgotten Holocaust of Gypsies
At the beginning of the third millennium, in the 21st century, we could not say that Gypsies in Europe live more comfortably and feel more comfortable. However, based on the optimism typical of the psychology of the Roma ethnic group, we should not deny the number of successes achieved by the EU Member States, supported by the non-governmental sector and civil society.
This philosophy of joy is the most important heritage and treasure of the Gypsies, this national trait can become a major contribution to their integration and full inclusion in society. This is also what the widespread crisis over the situation applied by the governments of some European Union member states to the illegally staying Roma.
It is time to increase the sensitivity to the problems of this ethnic community in society, by promoting and emphasizing their specific features, customs, arts and crafts, as well as recalling difficult moments for this ethnic group in world history.
It would be appropriate to recall the period of World War II with the issuance of the most anti-Gypsy (as well as the most anti-Jewish) laws and persecutions. In 1935, two anti-Gypsy laws were passed in Germany, supplementing the racist laws of 1933 to preserve the purity of the German race. They deprived Gypsies of their civil rights and forbade the marriage of Germans to Jews or Gypsies. This is the infamous “Law for the Preservation of German Blood”. However, the National Socialists did not rely solely on legislation, and in 1937 the castration of Gypsies began. Nazi propaganda proudly notes that 99% of Gypsy boys under the age of 14 have been castrated. In 1938, another anti-Gypsy law was passed, in which a special section was devoted to the “Gypsy threat.” The police were obliged to categorize all gypsies and semi-gypsies from the age of six onwards and to catechize them, which made it much easier for them to be sent to concentration camps later. An amendment to the same law of 1943 de facto and de jure deprived German survivors of German citizenship, on the pretext that they would most likely leave the German Reich after the war. In 1939, 30,000 gypsies were gathered to settle in Poland. These were almost all Roma living in the Third Reich. Only 3,000 Germans left for Poland and approx. 6,000 Austrian gypsies and another 3,000 Austrian gypsies were imprisoned in concentration camps, such as the gypsy camp Laskendbach, whose recruitment began in 1940. In less than two years, between the winter of 1943 and the summer of 1944, 22,258 Gypsies were deported to the Birkenau camp. Large groups of this ethnic group have also been exterminated in Buchenwald and Dachau. They were the preferred material for scientific experiments with poisonous gases and medical experiments. The same was done with the gypsies in Italy, and the most famous specialized concentration camp for them was on the island of Sardinia. More than two-thirds of the Polish Gypsies were exterminated, and the total number before the war was about 35,000. Statistics, accurate in German, show suffocation in the gas chambers of more than a thousand gypsies a day in 1943-44. On September 28, 1944, 800 gypsies alone were killed, including 105 boys between the ages of 9 and 14.
However, the Gypsies – these preachers of optimism – never stopped believing in the future, in life, and even in those monstrous conditions they continued to give birth to children – in 1943 alone in the Birkenau camp 361 gypsies were born, sucked with breast milk and the cruel lesson of history. Authors such as Yonel Rotaru estimate that about 3.5 million people died in the genocide against gypsies during World War II. The numbers are staggering, but let them remind us of the tragedy of the Gypsies, who today are for the most part European citizens but are still considered by some to be the “white negroes of Europe“.
Only Bulgaria (incl. Nazi Germany-allied government of Tsar Boris III and prime minister Bogdan Filov) testified to the strength of civil society and during the Second World War saved from deportation and annihilation in fascist concentration camps, in addition to its subjects of Jewish origin. 48,000) and their Gypsies (ca. 147,000) regardless of whether they profess Islam or Orthodox Christianity, and in both ethnic minorities at the end of the war the statistics showed an increase, instead of a decrease and annihilation, as in other European countries.