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Alan Rosenbaum (ed.)
Is the Holocaust Unique?
Boulder: The Westview Press (1995), pp. 39-64

RESPONSES TO THE PORRAJMOS (THE ROMANI HOLOCAUST)1

Ian Hancock

". . . ignorance and arrogance are in full flower . . . "'Holocaust' has been used to encompass more than the murder of the Jews. From the casualties in our Civil War to the wholesale murder of Romanies in World War II."
(Alexander, 1990:13)

“the [mistaken] notion that not only Jews . . .but  Romanies were chosen by the Nazis for annihilation."
(Safire, 1983:12)

". . . the whole Gypsy 'problem' was for Himmler and most other Nazis only a minor irritant.”  (Bauer, 1994:446)

"Jews were not the only biologically selected target. Alongside Jews, the Nazis murdered European Romanies."
(Friedlander, 1995:xij

Just four years after the fall of the Third Reich, Dora Yates, the Jewish secretary of the Gypsy Lore Society, noted in the pages of Commentary that

It is more than time that civilized men and women were aware of the Nazi crime against the Romanies as well as the Jews.  Both bear witness to the fantastic dynamic of the 20th century racial fanaticism, for these two people shared the horror of martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis for no other reason than that they were – they existed.  The Romanies, like the Jews, stand alone. (Yates, 1949:455).

And in the following year, the Wiener Library Bulletin, organ of what is now the Jewish Institute of Contemporary History in London, published the statement that

Germany had in 1938 a gipsy population of 16,275.  Of these, 85 per cent. were thrown into concentration camps, and no more than 12 per cent. survived (Anon., 1950:18).

Despite these very early observations2, and despite the overwhelming amount of documentation relating to the fate of the Romanies in Nazi Germany which has been examined during the past fourteen years that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council has been in existence, that body, more than any other, rigorously persists in underestimating and under-representing that truth, made plain forty-five years ago, a position reflected in the permanent exhibit in the Memorial Museum--whose staff, it should be said, have on the other hand generally been much more favorably disposed to the Romani case.  In their 1989 book Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications, editors John Roth and Michael Berenbaum ask “[w]hy should the fate of the Jews be treated differently than the fate of the Romanies or the Poles...[t]he answer will be found in these essays” pp. 6-7).  But the answer to that question, at least for the Romani case, appears nowhere in any of the 23 essays the book contains.  More recently still Martin Gilbert, in his foreword to Carrie Supple’s From Prejudice to Genocide: Learning About the Holocaust, published in 1993 for use in British schools, refers to the Holocaust as “the attempt by the Nazis to destroy all the Jews of Europe between 1941 and 1945,” and then mentions the fate of the Romani victims as being among “other attempts at genocide, such as the slaughter of the Armenians . . . ,” placing Romanies with a group outside of the Holocaust altogether, echoing the statement on page 824 of his The Holocaust, that “[i]t was the Jews alone who were marked out to be destroyed in their entirety.”  And while Burleigh & Wippermann (1991) discuss in detail the “Final Solution of the Gypsy Problem” in The Racial State, Antony Polonsky is still moved in his introduction to that book to maintain that “[a]s emerges clearly from the arguments of Burleigh and Wippermann, the mass murder of the Jews was unique in that every Jew, man, woman and child, assimilated or deeply orthodox, was singled out for destruction” (p. xiv).  It is abundantly clear that some historians see only what they want to see, and that a very blind eye is being turned in the direction of Romani history, and that where the Romani genocide in Nazi Germany is acknowledged, it is kept, with a few notable exceptions (e.g. Ehmann, 1981, Milton, 1990, 1991a, 1991b, 1992, 1994a, 1994b, 1995, Thurner, 1987, Young, 1994, Lutz & Lutz, 1995, Friedlander, 1995a and 1995b, Fox, 1988 and 1995 and Stannard, 1996), carefully separated from the Jewish experience.  Both Douglas (1985) and Lagrou (1997) have demonstrated that this ethnic exclusivity is an academic construction which dates only from the 1960s.  It is evident, however, that from an outright rejection of the idea of Romaniessharing the fate of Jews, opinion is slowly moving in the direction of acceptance of the idea, voiced by Margot Strom (Henderson, 1986:5C), that “questions about who the Holocaust belongs to--whether it’s only a Jewish concern--are superficial,” though some writers continue to hover on the fence.  Azriel Eisenberg, in his excellent edited volume Witness to the Holocaust, says in his introduction that

The focus of this book is on the Jews, but in point of fact precious human beings of other nationalities, faiths and ideologies were also annihillated by the millions--among them Romanies, Czechs, Yugoslavs, Poles, Russians and French.  However, it was Jews who were singled out for total destruction (1981:2),

nevertheless in the very next paragraph goes on to say

One people that shared the fate of the Jews were the Romanies.  They, too, had been persecuted through the ages and, like the Jews, the Romanies were isolated and liquidated, country by country.  Unlike the Jews, however, they left almost no records of the atrocities committed against them, which were no less horrible than those recorded in this book.  When the bloodbath was over, only pitiful remnants were left alive.  The world hardly knew of their sufferings, nor is it fully aware today of their disappearance.  Except for the few survivors, a whole people, unique in its life-style, language, culture and art, was wiped off the face of the earth.  There are no memorials to their dead or commem- orations of their tragedy [in 1981].  The death of the Gypsy nation was more than physical; it was total oblivion (loc. cit.)

Others, such as Fackenheim and Meier, seem not yet to have made up their minds about whether to include Romanies or not:

With the possible exception of the Romanies, Jews were the only people killed for the “crime” of existing (Fackenheim, 1982:12).
Why. . . does it seem important to insist on the uniqueness of the Nazi crimes?  Because nowhere else but in Nazi-occupied Europe from 1941 to 1945 was there an apparatus so single-mindedly established to carry out mass murder as a process in its own right.  And not just mass murder, but ethnic extermination—killing—without even a pretext of individual wrongdoing, an entire people (if Romanies (sic) are counted, two peoples) (Meier, 1988:82).

Similarly, Breitman admits that Romanies might eventually also get higher billing once more details become available:

The Nazis did try to wipe out virtually all Jews, whereas their murderous policies for other groups were more selective.  In some cases, for example with the Romanies, further research is needed to show what distinctions were made, why some were killed and others spared (1991:19).

In the preface to one of the most recent treatments of the Nazi genocide, Friedlander (1995:xij-xiv) states that

...historians have categorized the Nazis’ murder of the European Jews as totally different from the murder of other groups...My research convinced me that this definition of Nazi genocide had to be slightly revised, because Jews were not the only biologically selected target.  Alongside Jews, the Nazis murdered the European Romanies.  Defined as a “dark-skinned” racial group, Gypsy men, women and children could not escape their fate as victims of Nazi genocide...I have provided a relatively detailed account of the murder of the Romanies because their annihilation has until now received little attention. [On the other hand] I have not covered the murder of the Jews, which has been the subject of much scrutiny and is relatively well known.

But despite the focus of this 421-page book, the Library of Congress’ Cataloguing-in-Publication data included following its title page categorizes it under the heading “Holocaust: Jewish (1939-1945).”

Acknowledging what does and does not qualify for inclusion in the Holocaust is a profoundly emotionally-charged issue, and one fraught with subjective interpretation and response.  Assumptions are made, and repeated with confidence, by individuals who have no special expertise in Romani Holocaust history, and unqualified statements are reiterated which automatically assume a lesser status for Romanies in the ranking of human abuse.  These take the form of entire articles, such as that by Katz (1988:200-216), which systematically compares the fate of Jews in the Holocaust with (a) the mediaeval witch craze, (b) North American Indians, (c) Black slavery, (d) Romanies under the Nazis, (e) homosexuals during World War II and (f) Polish and Ukrainian losses during World War II, concluding (p. 216) that “all . . . are to be fundamentally distinguished from the Holocaust, even when they reveal horrifyingly large casualty figures.”  The same is found in the writings of Yehuda Bauer, who states with assurance in his entry on “Romanies” in The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Gutman, 1990; see also Gutman & Berenbaum, 1994) that “[t]he fate of the Romanies was in line with Nazi thought as a whole: Romanies were not Jews, and therefore there was no need to kill all of them.”  Then, like Katz, he substantiates this claim by selectively citing sources none of which is more recent than 1979, and makes no comparisons with Jewish populations which were also exempted from death, and for whom there was likewise “no need to kill all.”  More recently Michael Berenbaum told the New York Times that “the Nazis targeted different groups, but singled out Jews for annihilation,” and that

Inclusion is not equivalence—not saying that their fate was equivalent.  All the victims of Nazism are memorialized in the museum.  The distinction between their fate and the fate of the Jews, is preserved” (Sengupta, 1996).

The three and a half page entry for Romanies in the two volume, 2,000-page Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, incidentally, amounts to less than one quarter of one percent of the whole book, despite the enormity of Romani losses by 1945, proportionately at least matching, and possibly exceeding, that of the Jewish victims.  In his more recent book, Katz elaborates upon these comparisons, and expands upon the criterion of “intentionality” which, he says, characterized the fate of Jews in the Holocaust but not that of any other victims of massive-scale murder.  Indeed, he claims that “the Nazi attack on the Jews was the only true genocide in history” (Katz, 1994; see also Nemeth, 1994).

Typically accompanying these statements and assumptions is the acknowledgement that yes, there were other victims of Nazism, but they belong under a separate heading of non-Jews, and their fate was different.  Berenbaum places the Romani victims in a category we might easily call “unnamed afterthought” in his own definition of the Holocaust: “the systematic state-sponsored murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II; as night descended, millions of others were killed in their wake” (1993:1; see also Shermer, 1994:33).  Berenbaum presumed what the effect of The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum upon the public consciousness would be fully five years before its opening, in Newsday, when he said “[p]eople had to grow.  Jews had to learn to be sensitive to non-Jewish victims, and they, in turn, had to learn to be sensitive to the uniqueness of the Jewish experience” (quoted in Brenna, 1988:3).  The central issue rests squarely upon this notion of “uniqueness,” it was the basis of my presentation at the first Remembering for the Future conference in Oxford, which was published in an expanded version in Without Prejudice (Hancock, 1988b).  Philip Lopate seems to be the only writer to have listed the criteria for “uniqueness” in an unequivocal way:

The position that the Jewish Holocaust was unique tends to rest on the following arguments: (1) scale—the largest number of deaths extracted from one single group; (2) technology--the mechanization of death factories; (3) bureaucracy—the involvement of the state apparatus at previously unheard-of levels; (4) intent--the express purpose being to annihilate every last member of the Jewish people (1989:291-292).

I will enumerate these and other principal challenges to the Romani case that have emerged since the Oxford conference and which argue for categorization separately from the Jewish case, and which thereby support the perceived “uniqueness” of the latter, and comment upon each one in turn: 

1) Jews were targeted to the last man, woman and child for complete extermination, a policy which held true for no other population.

Jack Eisner is just one of many writers on the Holocaust who makes this distinction:

Another misleading idea frequently advanced by those in the public eye is the conclusion that our concept of Holocaust should embrace several million non-Jewish civilians who perished at the hands of the Nazis along with six million Jews . . . yet there is a crucial difference: As non Jews they were not part of a race targeted for total extermination; that is the significance of the Holocaust (Eisner, 1983:153).

There were in fact numbers of categories of Jews who were exempt, and who escaped death.  Hilberg discusses these in detail in the first chapters of his The Destruction of the European Jews (1961).  As early as 1938, the German Reich asked various foreign governments to extend invitations to German Jews as a means of getting them out of the country, but this policy was not extended to include Romanies.    Mention can also be made of the September 1st, 1941 law confining Jews and Romanies to their place of residence which exempted Jews married to non-Jews, but which did not similarly spare Romanies.  Smelser (1991:55-6) discusses the Brand Mission of 1944, when Eichmann himself was prepared to spare the lives of one million Jews in return for ten thousand trucks, and the effort of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which successfully secured the release of 318 Jews from Bergen-Belsen in the same year.  The U.S. War Refugee Board was able to save over 200 thousand Jews, bringing them to America from Europe beginning in 1944, but their program did not even mention the Romani victims of Nazism.  As the Holocaust intensified, most of these exemptions, for both groups, were progressively rescinded.  When making statements of this kind, the year should be specified to incorporate policy changes.  Ultimately, only Jews and Romanies were singled out for complete extermination (with the exception of certain exempted groups within each population) on the basis of race/ethnicity.  No other targeted populations were thus identified, and for this reason Romanies must not be placed in the residual category of “Others.”  By the time that the Nuremberg Laws were fully in place, no other categories existed except “Jews” and Aryans.”  While the latter category was divided into numbers of specific populations, including e.g. Poles, the handicapped, homosexuals, etc. (some of whom also belonged to the former classification), Romanies were placed with “Jews,” and legislation directed at, and naming Jews henceforth automatically included Romanies.

2) Romanies “come closest” to the Jewish situation but, as Messrs. Mais, Bauer, Wiesel, Berenbaum and others have said, close is still a miss.  

In this connection and most recently, Michael Berenbaum has said, in the introduction to The World Must Know, that

At the center of the tragedy of the Holocaust is the murder of European Jews --men, women and children--killed not for the identity they affirmed or the religion they practiced, but because of the blood of their grandparents.  Near that center is the murder of the Romanies.  Historians are still uncertain if there was a single decision for their complete annihilation, an enunciated policy of transcendent meaning to the perpetrators (p. 2).

He further says “Romanies (Romanies) had been subject to official discrimination in Germany long before 1933, but even the Nazi regime never promulgated a comprehensive law against them” (p. 51), a statement which seems to have been paraphrased from Luebke, who wrote that “[n]o comprehensive ‘Gypsy Law’ was ever promulgated” (1990:3).  To this might also be added Breitman’s statement that “Whatever its weaknesses, ‘Final Solution’ at least applies to a single, specific group defined by descent.  The Nazis are not known to have spoken of the Final Solution of the Polish problem or of the gypsy (sic) problem” (1991:20).  In fact the first document referring to “the introduction of the total solution to the Gypsy problem on either a national or an international level” was issued under the direction of State Secretary Hans Pfundtner of the Reichs Ministry of the Interior in March, 1936, while the wording endgültige Lösung der Zigeunerfrage, i.e. the  “final (or “conclusive”) solution of the Gypsy question,” was made by Himmler in May, 1938. What makes a decree calling for racial obliteration “comprehensive” or not isn’t discussed by Berenbaum, but his statement is neither correct nor serves in any way to relegate the fate of the Romanies to some less stringent category.  But, as Keable (1995:24) asserts in her refutation of those who claim that no so-called Gypsy Law ever existed, “while denial threatens... oblivion, facts require repetition if they are to remain facts.”  There are numerous Nazi policy statements available to us calling for the total elimination of the Romani population, several of which I have included in my Chronology, together with references (Hancock, in Crowe & Kolsti, 1991:11-30).  Thus in the Auschwitz Memorial Book we find “The final resolution, as formulated by Himmler, in his ‘Decree for Basic Regulations to Resolve the Gypsy Question as Required by the Nature of Race,’ of December 8th, 1938, meant that preparations were to begin for the complete extermination of the Sinti and Roma” (1993:xiv, emphasis added).  In 1939 Johannes Behrendt of the Office of Racial Hygiene issued a brief stating that “[a]ll Romanies should be treated as hereditarily sick; the only solution is elimination.  The aim should therefore be the elimination without hesitation of this defective element in the population.”  Müller-Hill writes:

. . . Heydrich, who had been entrusted with the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’ on 31st July 1941, shortly after the German invasion of the USSR, also included the Romanies in his ‘final solution’. . . The senior SS officer and Chief of Police for the East, Dr. Landgraf, in Riga, informed Rosenberg’s Reich Commissioner for the East, Lohse, of the inclusion of the Romanies in the ‘final solution.’  Thereupon, Lohse gave the order, on 24th December 1941, that the Romanies “should be given the same treatment as the Jews” (Müller-Hill, 1988:58-59).

Reinhard Heydrich, who was Head of the Reich Main Security Office and the leading organizational architect of the Nazi Final Solution, ordered the Einsatzkommandos “to kill all Jews, Romanies and mental patients” (Müller-Hill, loc. cit.).  While there is no dispute about the Heydrich directive, which is also dealt with in Burleigh & Wippermann, both scholars draw attention to the fact that not all of the documentation regarding its complete details, relating to both Jews and Romanies, has been found:

A conference on racial policy organized by Heydrich took place in Berlin on 21 September 1939, which may have decided upon a ‘Final Solution’ of the ‘Gypsy Question.’  According to the scant minutes which have survived, four issues were decided: the concentration of Jews in towns;  their relocation to Poland; the removal of 30,000 Romanies to Poland, and the systematic deportation of Jews to German incorporated territories using goods trains.  An express letter sent by the Reich Main Security Office on 17th October 1939 to its local agents mentioned that the ‘Gypsy Question will shortly be regulated throughout the territory of the Reich.’ . . . At about this time, Adolf Eichmann made the recommendation that the ‘Gypsy Question’ be solved simultaneously with the ‘Jewish Question,’. . . Himmler signed the order despatching Germany’s Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz on 16th December 1942.  The ‘Final Solution’ of the ‘Gypsy Question’ had begun (1991:121-25).

The Memorial Book for the Romanies who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau interprets this somewhat differently:

The Himmler decree of December 16th, 1942 (Auschwitz-Erlaß), according to which the Romanies should be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, had the same meaning for the Romanies that the conference at Wannsee on January 20th, 1942, had for the Jews.  This decree, and the bulletin that followed on January 29th, 1943, can thus be regarded as a logical consequence of the decision taken at Wannsee.  After it had been decided that the fate of the Jews was to end in mass extermination, it was natural for the other group of racially-persecuted people, the Romanies, to become victims of the same policy, which finally even included soldiers in the Wehrmacht. (State Museum, 1993:3).

In a paper delivered at the March, 1987, conference on the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Dr. Erika Thurner of the Institut für Neuere Geschichte und Zeitgeschichte at the University of Linz stated that

Heinrich Himmler’s infamous Auschwitz decree of December 16th, 1942, can be seen as the final stage of the final solution of the Gypsy Question.  The decree served as the basis for complete extermination. According to the implementation instructions of 1943, all Romanies, irrespective of their racial mix, were to be assigned to concentration camps.  The concentration camp for Gypsy families at Auschwitz-Birkenau was foreseen as their final destination . . . opposed to the fact that the decision to seek a final solution for the Gypsy Question came at a later date than that of the Jewish Question, the first steps taken to exterminate the Romanies were initiated prior to this policy decision; the first gassing operations against Romanies did indeed take place in Chelmno as early as late 1941/early 1942. 

On September 14th, 1942, following a meeting in Berlin with Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, Otto Thierack, Reichminister of Justice, wrote that “with respect to the extermination of antisocial forms of life, Dr. Goebbels is of the opinion that the Jews and the Romanies should simply be exterminated.”

Six years earlier, a memorandum was sent to Hans Pfundtner, State Secretary of the Interior, on March 4th, 1936, which addressed the creation of a “Gypsy Law” (the Reichzigeunergesetz), the purpose of which was to deal with the complete registration of the Romani population, their sterilization, the restriction of their movement and means of livelihood, and the expulsion of all foreign-born, stateless Romanies.

3) Another argument, discussed in Fackenheim (1978) and most recently given voice by Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Schach, is that “God used the Holocaust to punish Jews for their sins.” 

This would certainly exclude other groups, and is perhaps the most difficult defense of “uniqueness” to address, from a non-Jewish perspective.  But no doubt speaking for most of the Jewish religious community, Rabbi Yitzak Kagan of the Lubavitch Foundation of Michigan responded that Schach’s statement “borders on heresy” (DeSmet, 1990:B-3); we must wonder how the murder of innocent Jewish babies, thousands even unborn, can possibly be rationalized by this argument.  It is of some significance that some Romanies today have succumbed to survivor’s guilt, and have also wondered, rhetorically, whether the Holocaust was “punishment” for imagined transgressions.  There is also the argument, made e.g. by Vico (and discussed in Keable, forthcoming), that the Jewish experience cannot be compared to that of any other people because Jews alone “dwell inside divine history” (or “outside of history,” as it has also been stated, e.g. by Elie Wiesel).  Such an argument is likewise a difficult one to reconcile with prosaic historical detail.

4) Certain Romani groups sedentary for two or more years were to be exempted from death (Mais, 1988).

This two-year exemption was only a recommendation, and was never actually implemented, being overridden by Himmler’s own directive, viz. that all migratory Romanies be killed, and sedentary Romanies worked to death in labor camps.  In any case, this potential situation would only have applied to the USSR and the Baltic lands, and nowhere else.  A similar situation did, however, operate for Jews in these countries, thus Hilberg (1961:142-144) writes of the Gebietskommissar for northern Lithuania in September, 1941, complaining about the killings, explaining that “the Jews were needed as skilled laborers.”  Hilberg continues “[i]n October 1941, the Reichskommissar forbade the shooting of Jews. . . [and] during the quiet months of the winter and spring of 1942, they began to adjust themselves to their hazardous existence.”  By the end of 1943, “some tens of thousands of Jews were being kept alive at Lida and Minsk in Byelorussia, and looked forward to evacuation, or death.”  Extermination of the Baltic Romanieswas particularly effective, their having been destroyed almost in their entirety by 1945.

5) Some Romanies were even allowed to fight in the German army (Mais, 1988).

Kenrick & Puxon (1972:82) discuss Romanies who served in the armed forces, saying that “Romanies had officially been excluded from the army by law as early as November, 1937. . . on the grounds of racial policy no more Romanies should be called up. . . [t]he release of servicemen took some time and Romanies could still be found in the army as late as 1943.”  The sentence following this, however, reads  “Certain classes of Jews with mixed parentage were retained in the armed forces throughout the war” (emphasis added).

6)  Kenrick and Puxon discuss certain categories of exemptions which applied to Romanies (Mais, 1988).

Kenrick & Puxon do deal with these on page 78 of their book, where they also include the statement that “[t]hese exemptions compare with similar arrangements for Jews.”  If such an argument is to be used to characterize the treatment of Romanies, then it must likewise be used to characterize the treatment of Jews.  And since it does apply to both populations, it cannot be used to support the “unique” treatment of the latter.

Although Kenrick (1994-5 and elsewhere) has stated that anti-Jewish legislation generally preceded anti- Romani legislation, this was not typically the case.  Being far fewer in numbers and more containable, Romanies often served as the test population for directives then later applied to Jews, e.g. attendance in schools, membership in trades union, enlistment in the armed forces, sterilization, Zyklon-B experimentation, salt-water experimentation, genetic determination experimentation, and so on.

7)  It has been claimed, including by the German government itself as a means of avoiding the payment of war crimes reparations, that Romanies were not targeted for racial, but for social, reasons.

Yehuda Bauer has supported this argument also, stating that “[t]he Romanies were not murdered for racial reasons, but as so-called asocials. . . nor was their destruction complete” (Bauer, 1980:45; 1994:441).  But this argument originates in the deliberate and despicable move on the part of the German government to take advantage of the shattered condition of the surviving Romani population which was in no condition to contest it, and for which the Romani population is still suffering today.  In fact in his most recent article (in Gutman & Berenbaum, 1994:446), Bauer maintained that Romanies were murdered by the Nazis because “they were a minor irritant” (a statement he repeated at the Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches in 1996)!

The racial identity of the Romani people, and the genetically-based rationale for their extermination, are abundantly documented and referenced (see e.g. Hancock, Chronology, in Crowe & Kolsti, 1991), and this was recognized in the press forty years ago: “In his report on the matter, the Bonn Correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, 9:i:56, points out that the Supreme Court’s decision ‘is at direct variance with the known facts of Nazi policies for concentrating and later exterminating the Romanies’” (Anon., 1956).  More recently, Professor Bauer has been quoted as saying that Romani claims to the extent of their victimization in the Holocaust are “all lies and fairy-tales” and that “[n]othing happened to them” (Katz (K.), 1995); a statement which, if it were made publicly in Germany today about the Holocaust’s Jewish victims, would result in a fine or a jail sentence.  Indeed, as long ago as 1984, Yehuda Bauer dismissed Romanies from participating in the Holocaust, though without saying why, when he stated that

The destruction of the Armenians and the Jews—but not of the Romanies— which is a different problem again—belongs to the same category of Holocaust situations (Bauer, 1984:20).

At the “task forces” meeting at the January 2000 Stockholm Holocaust conference, Bauer told an official  from the Goethe Institute that “Sybil Milton, Henry Friedlander [and others like them] had not been invited to Stockholm, because they belong to the last few examples of historians who still wrongly maintain that the Gypsies were victims of the Holocaust.”  It is surely why I have not been invited back myself.

It is still the case that Romanies are widely believed to be a population defined by behavior and social criteria rather than by genetic heritage or ethnicity.  Prof. Seymour Siegel, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council questioned, in the pages of the Washington Post, and in the context of their right to full inclusion, whether Romanies did in fact constitute a distinct ethnic people (Grove, 1984:C4), a particularly insensitive remark since Romanies have a far more demonstrable claim to a “racial” identity than do Jews; this latter has been the subject of many studies (e.g.  Coon, 1942, Petersen, 1988, Patai & Patai-Wing, 1989, Pollack, 2003; see also Kohn, 1995).  A report on the health of the Romani American population by a team of Harvard geneticists which appeared in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet concluded that

Analysis of blood groups, haptoglobin phenotypes, and HLA types establish the Romanies as a distinct racial group with origins in the Punjab region of India.  Also supporting this is the worldwide Gypsy language Romani, which is quite similar to Hindi (Thomas, 1977:379).

The fact remains, however, that whether Romanies and Jews are “races” or not doesn’t matter; Hitler believed both populations to constitute a racial threat, and race was his justification for their attempted extermination.  It might be added here, that the oft-repeated argument that Romanies were the “ultimate Aryans,” having come from India, seems to be post-Holocaust folklore.  The Nazis never claimed this, and in fact it was their own scholarship which attempted to demonstrate the Dravidian roots of the population.  Pischel wrote about this as long ago as 1883, and Block repeated it in his 1936 treatise, which had a profound influence on Nazi anti-Romani policy.  The notion seems to have arisen from the linguistic affiliation of the Romani language which (like Yiddish in fact), is an Indo-European (i.e. “Aryan” tongue).  Bauer’s further observation, that “nor was their destruction complete,” is a baseless and peculiar argument, since the same statement applies, mercifully, to Jews, over 300 times as many of whom survived the Holocaust than did Romanies (see No. 11, below).

8)  Jews were a greater threat because they were were responsible for Marxism and Capitalism, while Romanies posed no political or economic threat to the Third Reich (Bauer, 1996).

This latter statement is certainly true, and it might be added parenthetically that Romanies have instigated no wars nor are recognized in the police records as perpetrators of major crimes such as murder or rape.  The determination to eradicate the Romani population, therefore, was based solely on racial arguments, with no other mitigating factors.

9) Some families of “pure” Romanies were to be preserved in special camps for future anthropologists to study (Mais, 1988).

This has also been noted by Yehuda Bauer (loc. cit.), where he includes “pure” Romanies with yet another category (apparently of his own devising: “racially safe” Romanies--in direct contradiction of his reference in (7), above, to Romanies as a non-racially-targeted population) in his statement that “Romanies who were of pure blood, or who were not considered dangerous on a racial level, could continue to exist, under strict supervision.”  In the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s published Holocaust history (Berenbaum, 1993:51) we find the same argument made by Mais and Bauer repeated in slightly modified form, viz. that “Pure gypsies were not targeted for extermination until 1942” (not true—but one might ask ‘so what?’). The wording here gives the impression that there was an existing policy that was then revoked in 1942, rather than its having been (like point four, above) nothing more than a suggestion, by Himmler, which was mocked by his peers as “one more of Himmler’s hare-brained schemes” (Tyrnauer, 1985:24) and rejected outright by Bormann.  Thus on December 16th that same year, in compliance with this rejection of his idea, Himmler issued the order that “all Romanies are to be deported to the Zigeunerlager at Auschwitz concentration camp, with no regard to their degree of racial impurity.”  This order may even have been the result of a direct decision from Hitler himself (Milton, 1992:10).  SS Officer Percy (“Perry”) Broad, who worked in the political division at Auschwitz, and who participated directly in the murders of several thousand prisoners there, wrote that “. . . it was the will of the all-powerful Reichsführer to have the Gypsies disappear from the face of the earth” (1966:41).  Richard Breitman reproduces the statement made by Security Police Commander Bruno Streckenbach following a policy meeting with Hitler and Heydrich held in Pretsch in June, 1940, viz. that “[t]he Führer has ordered the liquidation of all Jews, Romanies (sic) and communist political functionaries in the entire area of the Soviet Union” (1991:164).  Even if Himmler’s Gypsy Zoo had been a reality, it would only have involved the lives of several dozen individuals, fewer by several hundred percent than the six thousand Karait Jews who were able to argue successfully for their own lives to be spared.  The Karaits were “a community who professed not only to be Jews but to be the authentic Jews since they accept no post-biblical Jewish texts as being authoritative, basing this ... on the words of a rabbinic decision” (Lang, 1997:20).

10)  Romanies received kinder treatment because parents and children were allowed to stay together in special family camps, unlike other prisoners.

Lagnado and Dekel are among those who have referred to this: “The Romanies were allowed to stay together, perhaps because they were faithful Christians.  Despite their inferior racial stock, it was their one privilege. . . the Romanies alone among the inmates had the comfort of being with their loved ones” (1991:82).  Their unqualified reference to Romanies as constituting “inferior racial stock”, their guess at their faithful Christianity, and their stunningly unfeeling description of the Romani camp in Auschwitz as resembling a “vast playground, an ongoing carnival” can only reflect the authors’ stereotypes about Romanies, and it is abundantly obvious that neither one of them ever spoke to a Romani survivor or was there at the camp at Birkenau.  König (1989:129-133) makes it very clear that the “family camps” were not created out of any humanitarian motive, or desire to bestow any “privilege,” but because the Romanies became completely unmanageable when separated from family members.  Zimmermann also discusses this:

The Nazi institutions involved with the persecution of the Romanies knew about the particularly close family ties in this ethnic group.  If these family ties were not taken into account, as happened in part with the deportation of 2,500 Sinti to Poland in 1940, there were certainly difficulties for the police, which were recorded negatively.  To this extent, the RSHA [the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or State Security Office] order of 29 January 1943 to deport the Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz “in families” reflected efforts to keep the friction and resultant bureaucratic problems associated with the deportation and internment as small as possible (1990:107-108).

First Lieutenant Walther of Infantry Regiment 734 and head of the execution squad, wrote in his Report on the Executions of the Jews and the Romanies that “[t]he execution of the Jews is simpler than that of the gypsies.  One must admit that the Jews go to their deaths very composedly; they remain very calm.  The gypsies, however, wail and scream and move about incessantly as soon as they get to the place of execution.”  It was simply more expedient, and caused the guards less problems, to keep families together for processing.  König writes of their sometimes having to smash the hands and feet of the Romanies, who even used loaves of stale bread as weapons, in order to render them docile as they were being herded to the ovens.  Survivor Hermann Diamanski told jurists at a war crimes trial in Frankfurt in 1964 that

thousands of gypsies battled Gestapo guards [who were] driving them into the mass gas chambers of Auschwitz, but in the end they all died . . . the gypsies fought with knives, razor blades and their fists against the Gestapo guards armed with submachine guns and other weapons . . . the gypsies screamed all night; it was awful.  Unlike the Jews, the gypsies fought.  They sold their lives dearly” (Anon., 1964:B5).

König’s book is a monument to Romani heroism and resistance in the camps, and should be required reading for any student of the Porrajmos.  Romani families were not kept together in every camp, incidentally (cf. those shipped to Poland in 1940 referred to above by Zimmermann); this seems to have been a policy enacted at Auschwitz-Birkenau in particular.  Jews transported to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt in September, 1943, for example, were also allowed to remain together with their families.

11) “The denial of the right to live is what singles out the fate of the Jews from all other victims--Romanies, Poles, Russian prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . their fate was different from the fate of the Jews.” (Yitzhak Mais, in the brochure published by the Museums at Yad Vashem).

Michael Berenbaum, in a better position than most to know the details of the Romani Holocaust, repeats these arguments in his book (Roth & Berenbaum, p. 33), where he says “Gypsies shared much, but not all of the horrors assigned to Jews.  Gypsies were killed in some countries but not others . . . Even though the Gypsies were subject to gassing and other forms of extermination, the number of Gypsies was not as vast . . . In contrast, all Jews lived under an imminent death sentence of death (sic).”  Jews were killed in some countries but not others too, and the number of Romanies was “not as vast” because (according to the Nazis’ own census conducted by Behrendt in 1939) there were nine times as many Jews as Romanies to start with at the outbreak of The Second World War, so obviously the numbers were greater.  Steinmetz’ argument that “numbers decide” (1966:00) would only be valid if the number of Jews and the number of Romanies had been equal to begin with.  But when we discuss genocide we must do so in the context of the destruction of entire peoples, and in terms of overall percentage, the losses of the Romanies almost certainly exceeded those of any other group; their percentage was “vaster.”  If there had been seventeen point four million Romanies in 1939 (the government’s estimate of the number of Jews in that year), the Nazis would surely have murdered six million too; if there were only two Wisians on the planet and just one were murdered, that would be half of the Wisian population.

The question of the numbers of Romanies who were killed is a vexed one.  Given the nature of their mode of life, no reliable estimate of the pre-war European Romani population exists.  Similarly, the circumstances of their dispatch at the hands of the Nazis make this a question which can never be fully answered.  I dealt with this in some detail in Hancock (1988b), but rely on König’s statement that

. . . the count of half a million Sinti and Roma murdered between 1939 and 1945 is too low to be tenable; for example in the Soviet Union many of the Romani dead were listed under non-specific labels such as Liquidierungsübrigen [remainder to be liquidated], ‘hangers-on’ and ‘partisans’. . .The final number of the dead Sinti and Roma may never be determined.  We do not know precisely how many were brought into the concentration camps; not every concentration camp produced statistical material; moreover, Sinti and Roma are often listed under the heading of “remainder to be liquidated,” and do not appear in the statistics for Romanies (König, 1989:87-89).

An an article entitled “Dutch World War II deaths higher than recorded” (Dutch News nl for Tuesday 9 October 2007)  reported that

The number of Dutch people who died in World War II is considerably higher than the accepted figure to date according to researchers at Utrecht University, reports ANP news service on Monday.
The researchers say not 210,000 but 280,000 Dutch people died in the war. The discrepancy comes from the statistics of those who were deported. These are recorded as ‘emigrants’ while in reality they were Jews and Gypsies who were transported to the gas chambers in German concentration camps.

In the eastern territories, in Russia especially, Romani deaths were sometimes counted into the records under the heading of Jewish deaths.  The Memorial Book for the Romanies who perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau also discusses the means of killing Romanies:

Unlike the Jews, the overwhelming majority of whom were murdered in the gas chambers at Birkenau, Belzec, Treblinka and all the other mass extermination camps, the Gypsies outside the Reich were massacred at many places, sometimes only a few at a time, and sometimes by the hundreds.  In the Generalgouvernement [the eastern territories] alone, 150 sites of Gypsy massacres are known.  Research on the Jewish Holocaust can rely on comparison of pre- and post-war census data to help determine the numbers of victims in the countries concerned.  However, this is not possible for the Gypsies, as it was only rarely that they were included in national census data.  Therefore it is an impossible task to find the actual number of Gypsy victims in Poland, Yugoslavia, White Ruthenia and the Ukraine, the lands that probably had the greatest numbers of victims (State Museum: 1993:2 [emphasis added]).

This means that statements such as “somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of the entire population of European Romanies was killed by the Nazis” (Berenbaum, 1993:129), and the low figure of 250,000 Romani deaths displayed at the  U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum must be considered underestimations.  Several published estimates (referenced in Hancock, 1988c) put the figure in excess of one million, and even thirty years ago Pauwels & Bergier listed it at 750,000 (1960:430). That perhaps an even higher number of Romanies were murdered in the fields and forests where they lived than were murdered in the camps, has been recognized for some time.  A reference to this appeared in the (London) Financial Times in an article by Tyler, who noted that “between 500,000 and 750,000 were killed in the German death camps during the war, and another million may have been shot outside” (1994:3).  New information is reaching us all the time which is pushing the death toll upwards.  Dr. Paul Polansky of the Iowa-based Czech Historical Research Center recently published a report on his discovery of a hitherto unrecorded concentration camp at Lety in the Czech Republic, which was used for the disposal of Romanies.  Now used as a pig farm, Lety and a chain of other camps processed mainly Roma, killing them on the spot or sending them on to Auschwitz.  Numbers from here, like those from the Romani camps in northern Italy, have not yet been figured into the estimate (Strandberg, 1994:1; Pape, 1997).  We should nevertheless rejoice in the numbers of those who lived, and not glorify those of the dead in some horrible body-count; but if we are obliged to argue with numbers and quantity in this peculiarly American way, then let us look at the situation from the other side, and count the Romani survivors of the Holocaust, only five thousand of whom are listed in the official register of the Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma in Heidelberg, and only four of whom have been located in the United States, where over eighty thousand Jewish survivors live today out of 350,000 still living world-wide.  My respected colleague Donald Kenrick, co-author of The Destiny of Europe’s Romanies, the first full-length treatment of the Porrajmos, has claimed with some gladness that his own research points to the lowest figures for Romani deaths by 1945; in his new Romanies under the swastika (Kenrick, 1995), he estimates that they did not exceed 250,000, and in an article which appeared in The Jewish Quarterly he places it even lower, at 200,000 (Kenrick, 1994-5:47).  In his 1995 book The Holocaust for Beginners, Stuart Justman put it even lower:

In addition to the Jews, the Nazis murdered prisoners of war, innumerable Russian civilians, political prisoners, common criminals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, vagrants and some 100,000 gypsies, among others (1995:11).

If such estimates can be demonstrated as fact, then surely this is the dialogue we should be striving for, not a competition over whose losses were greater.  Probably the most reliable statement regarding numbers was made at the first U.S. Conference on Romanies in the Holocaust which took place at Drew University in November, 1995, when Sybil Milton, senior historian at the U.S. Holocaust Research Institute in Washington, stated that “[w]e believe that something between half a million and a million and a half Romanies were murdered in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe between 1939 and 1945.”

12)  Only Jews qualify as victims of genocidal action; other victimized groups were casualties of war.

In Sidney Schiffer’s play (see Hancock, 1988:45) a Jewish objection was made to a Romani’s referring to the Romani Holocaust, and a request followed that it be renamed the Romani genocide, since that word had already been taken.  Now the word genocide itself seems to have become privileged property for some Holocaut historians; in their recent book Auschwitz, 1270 to the Present, authors Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt refer to “[t]he genocide of the Jews and the mass murder of gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war” (1996:374) in that camp.  But not only does the treatment of Romanies under the Nazis qualify as genocide (see Israel Charny’s introduction to this volume, and Stannard, this volume and 1996b, and Cornwell, 1996), the treatment today of Romani peoples in parts of Europe qualifies as genocide according to the United Nations’ definition.

13) Although Romanies were likewise singled out for extermination, they weren’t humiliated in the way that Jews were.

This is one of the most recent arguments, and one which almost seems to be grasping to find a way to lessen the Romani experience.  Avishai Margalit and Gabriel Motzkin, both of whom teach at the University of Jerusalem, maintained in an article published in 1996 that

The Nazis had plans for other peoples, and began to apply their programs to the Poles by liquidating the Polish elites. Gypsies and homosexuals also figured high on their list, and the whole process was given a trial run in the partial extermination of the mentally retarded . . . [h]owever, the mentally retarded, who were murdered through operation Euthanasia were not humiliated.  nor were the gypsies, who were also the victims of planned extermination, humiliated in an elaborate structure of humiliation like the one the Nazis created for the Jews (Margalit & Motzkin, 1996:79).

The single source given for this information is Müller-Hill, 1988.  Nothing need be said except that the authors of this statement clearly know nothing of the history of the treatment of Romani peoples in Germany (in e.g. Hancock, 1989), and like so many of those who make such careless statements, they likely believed that no Romanieswould read what they’d written.  Preaching to the converted yields no change.

14)  The “uniqueness” of the Jewish case should be defended at all costs because it justifies the existence of the Jewish homeland, Israel.

On the main mall of the campus at my university, stands a structure some nine feet high erected by the Jewish Students’ Association which is a monument to Israel.  It is covered with photographs and newspaper articles, and in the very middle of it is a yellow placard bearing the words “Israel: The Six Million: Never Forget.”  This is not a new argument, indeed it has been suggested to me by more than one well-disposed USHMC member, and Zygmunt Bauman explicitly refers to the way in which “[t]he Jewish state tries to employ the tragic memories as the certificate of its political legitimacy, a safe-conduct pass for its past and future policies, and above all, as the advance payment for the injustices it might itself commit” (1989:ix)3.  Lagrou has written more recently of the Holocaust’s being “gradually integrated as a cornerstone of Israeli national identity” (1997:221).  But it is a specious argument.  Israel, a Jewish state, should exist under any circumstances; speaking as a member of a people without a country, I can feel very deeply the emotion associated with the possession of a homeland.  To acknowledge that Romanies received the same treatment as Jews, as Miriam Novitch said “for the same reasons using the same methods,” cannot take anything away from the enormity of the Jewish tragedy, or diminish the strength of the right to Israel.  One is reminded of Dermot Mulrony’s words in Where the Day Takes You (Kurt & Rocco, 1992): “What’s mine is mine, and if I share it with you, it becomes less mine!.”  I cannot imagine that the rest of the world would interpret the Romani claim in this way, or see it as a threat to the right to the existence of a Jewish state.

15)  No other group was viewed with such disgust and contempt, or so relentlessly and methodically persecuted, or was selected for total eradication from the face of the earth.  

Romanies don’t match this, I have been told, because Romanies weren’t mentioned in Mein Kampf, or at the Wannsee Conference, and because some Romanies were exempt from the death machine, and because a much higher number of Jews had died by 1945.

Romanies were not mentioned specifically in the documentation of the Wannsee Conference because by that time (January 20th, 1942), policies against Jews, subsequent to the directive of December 24th issued four weeks earlier, automatically included Romanies.  The Wannsee Conference in any case was not a policy or decision making meeting, although it has acquired that interpretation; its purpose was rather to coordinate existing policies.  And no argument was necessary in Mein Kampf because it was totally unnecessary on Hitler’s part to make any case for antigypsyism.  There was simply no need to convince anybody of the subhuman status of Romanies, against whom laws were already firmly entrenched in Germany, despite the guarantees of the National Constitution of the Weimar Republic.  No public conscience ever provoked a defense of the Romani case, a fact Fraser comments upon in his book The Romanies:

From about 1937 onwards, [Nazi] pressures. . . on Gypsies built up swiftly and remorselessly, with no hostile public reaction, abroad or at home, of the kind which had made the Nazis a little more circumspect in their dealings with the Jews, at least in the early days, because of respect for world opinion (Fraser, 1993:261-262).

When the question of this indifference was raised following the war, one French physician commented, rhetorically, that “everyone despises Romanies, so why exercise restraint?  Who will avenge them?  Who will bear witness?” (Bernadec, 1979:34).  Nor can the excuse that the rest of the world was ignorant of what was happening be maintained in the Romani case:

Whatever the real state of knowledge or ignorance among the German civilian population during the Second World War about the transport and the murder of millions of German and non-German Jews in Europe, the initial internment of the Roma was kept secret from no one.  Concentration camps were built on the outskirts of the capital city, and the internment of the Sinti and Roma was not only covered by a number of Berlin newspapers, but was even joked about in their columns.  Psychologists engaged in racial research paid official visits to Marzahn to study and take extensive film footage of the Romani children at play there.  A major trainline ran right past that camp, and its few survivors recall that train passengers who pitied their situation, and who knew or suspected that the interned Roma were surviving on only minimal rations, occasionally threw packages of food down into the camp enclosure as their train passed by (Trumpener, 1992:844).

While German anti-Semitism, like antigypsyism over the centuries, has bordered upon the pathological (see especially Wilson, 1982), there was no one to argue in support of the Romanies, unlike those who defended the Jewish position.  As Burleigh & Wippermann make clear (op. cit., p. 36), anti-Semitism was not an undisputed part of the early [German] racial hygiene movement.  Ploetz and a number of other racial hygienists, such as Wilhelm Schallmayer, fiercely denounced anti-Semitism; indeed, in his 1895 treatise, Ploetz classified Jews as a part of the superior ‘white race.’” (Proctor, 19??:144n.).  On the contrary, in the early 1890s the Swabian Parliament organized a conference on the “Gypsy scum” (Das Zigeunergeschmeiß), and in 1899 Alfred Dillmann established the Gypsy Information Agency (Nachrichtendienst in Bezug auf die Zigeuner) which began to collect data in the form of genealogical information, fingerprints and photographs of Romanies throughout the territory.  This led to the publication in 1905 of Dillmann’s Zigeuner-Buch, which laid the groundwork for what was to come a quarter of a century later.  It consisted of a lengthy argument for controlling Romanies, stressing their inherent criminality, and calling them “a plague against which society must unflaggingly defend itself.”  The bulk of the volume consisted of a register of over 5,000 individuals, which gave date and place of birth, genealogy, criminal record if any, and so on.  The third part of the book consisted of photographs of Romanies taken from police files throughout the German states.  On February 17th, 1906, the Prussian Minister of the Interior issued a directive to “Combat the Gypsy Nuisance” (Die Bekämpfung des Zigeunerunwesens), and established bilateral, anti-Romani agreements with all neighboring countries.  Licenses were required by all Romani people wanting to live and work in Prussia.  In 1909 the Swiss Department of Justice began a national register of Romanies, while in Hungary it was recommended at a “Gypsy Policy Conference” that all Romani people be branded on their bodies for easy identification.  In 1912 France introduced the Carnet Anthropométrique, a document containing personal data (including photograph and fingerprints) which all Romanies were henceforth required to carry.

“The first anti-Jewish law was promulgated in 1933,” (Burleigh & Wippermann, op. cit., p. 4), at a time when scores of anti-Romani laws had already been in effect in Germany for centuries.  In 1920, the Minister of Public Welfare in Düsseldorf forbade Romanies from entering any public washing or recreational facility, such as swimming pools, public baths, spas or parks; this restriction also came to be applied to Jews after 1933 [Burleigh & Wippermann, 1991:77]); more ominously in that same year, Binding & Hoche published their treatise on “Lives undeserving of life” (Lebensunwertes Leben), which argued for the killing of those who were seen to be “dead weight” (Ballastexistenz) within humanity, including Romanies.  This notion of “unworthy life” was incorporated into Nazi law on July 14th, 1933, less than six months after Hitler came to power, in his “Law for the prevention of hereditarily diseased offspring.”  In 1934, Romanies were expelled from the trade unions.  In June, 1935, the main Nazi institution to deal with Romanies, the Racial Hygiene and Criminal Biology and Research Unit was first established, the expressed purpose of which was to determine whether Romanies and Blacks were human or subhuman, groundwork on genetic evaluation which provided the model for the subsequent classification of Jews.  Five months later, on November 26th, the Ministry of the Interior, which partially funded the Research Unit, circulated an order forbidding marriages between Germans and “Gypsies, Negroes, and their bastard offspring.”  On September 15th, 1935, the Nürnberger Gesetze, the “Nuremberg Law for the Protection of Blood and Honor” was passed, making marriage between “Aryan” and “non-Aryan” people illegal.  It stated that “[o]f the foreign blood common in Europe, there are only Jews and Gypsies.”  In 1936, in preparation for the Olympic Games, and for fear of negative world opinion, “anti-Semitic posters and placards were temporarily removed” from the streets of Berlin by the Nazis (Burleigh & Wippermann, op. cit., p. 84), at the same time that Romanies were being cleared from those streets as an eyesore, because visitors had to be “spared the sight of the ‘Gypsy disgrace’” (Zimmermann, 1990:91), just as they were at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.  Just before the Berlin games, 600 Romanies were forcibly detained in a cemetery and next to a sewage dump at Marzahn, which was “particularly offensive to a people hyper-sensitive about cleanliness” (Burleigh & Wippermann, op. cit., p. 117); in Spain fifty-six years later, they were placed in the Campo de la Bota outside of the city.  More significantly, we have now learned that Nazi propaganda encouraging public support for the incarceration of Romanies was widely distributed together with the program for those games in 1936.  In 1938, more stringent criteria came to be applied to the definition of “Gypsy;” if two of an individual’s eight great-grandparents were even part Romani, that individual later was deemed to have too much “Gypsy blood” to be allowed to live--a criterion twice as strict as that defining who was Jewish.  Indeed, if criteria for the latter had applied equally to Romanies, some 18,000 (nine-tenths of the total Romani population of Germany at that time) would have escaped death (Kenrick & Puxon, 1972:68; see also Ehmann, 1981:10).  One could argue, therefore, that Romanies in fact were seen as posing twice the genetic threat to the Herrenvolk that Jews did.

According to eyewitness account, in January or February, 1940, 250 Romani children from Brno in the concentration camp at Buchenwald were used as guinea pigs for testing the Zyklon B cyanide gas crystals, a lethal insecticide which from 1941 onwards was used for the mass murders at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  “At Buchenwald then, for the first time, this gas was used for mass murder, and it was for the murder of innocent Gypsy children” (Proester, 1968).

16)  There is no comparison between the wrath which characterized the Nazis’ determination to destroy the Jews and the way they went about dealing with Romanies (point made by a member of the audience at the “Encounters with the Holocaust” conference held at Texas A&M University in April, 1997).

When questioned, the person making this assumption admitted that she in fact had no actual knowledge of the way in which the Nazis processed Romanies, but just “felt” that it was surely the case that Jews were dispatched with more fury.  If one thing typifies the way in which Hitler’s genocidal policies were put into effect, it was the dispassionate, cold and clinical way in which the “subhumans” were eradicated, both Jew and Romani.  It has been argued that if any anger were evident, it was an anger redirected, originating in the transference of feelings of guilt on the part of the Nazis.

. . . . . . . .

The night of November 9th, 1938, is remembered in the annals of the Jewish Holocaust as Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass,” for it was on this night that, in response to the murder of a German embassy official in Paris by a Jewish teenager, over a thousand synagogues were desecrated and nearly a hundred Jews were killed, while thousands more were arrested.  This blatant, public display of hatred marked the beginning of the open and official sanctioning of the persecution of an “inferior race.”  In effect, it sent a message to the general public that such violence had full State approval.  From this date onwards, anti-Jewish hostility escalated steadily towards the Holocaust.  Nor was this the first massive anti-Jewish outbreak in 20th Century Germany; in November, 1923, a violent attack took place in Berlin against numbers of eastern European Jews who had come there to live (Peukert, 1987:160).  For the Romani victims, there were also mass round-ups and displays of military and police brutality, designed to show them, and the German public, exactly where they stood in the German hierarchy, and how they could be treated by ordinary citizens with the approval and encouragement of the government.  As early as 1927, between November 23rd and November 26th, armed raids were carried out in Romani communities throughout Prussia, to enforce a decree issued on November 3rd that year which required that all Romanies be registered through documentation “in the same manner as individuals being sought by means of wanted posters, witnesses, photographs and fingerprints,” (Hase-Mihalik & Kreuzkamp, 1990:140).  Even infants were fingerprinted, and those over six years of age required to carry identity cards bearing fingerprints and photographs.  Eight thousand Romanies were processed as a result of that raid, more than a third of the entire Romani population in Germany.  The second such action took place between September 18th and September 25th in 1933, when the Reichsminister for the Interior and for Propaganda ordered the apprehension and arrest of Romanies throughout Germany, in accordance with “The Law Against Habitual Criminals.”  Many were sent to concentration camps as a result, where they were forced to do penal labor, and where some underwent sterilization.  The most significant military action, however, occurred during the summer of 1938, between June 12th and June 18th, when Zigeuneraufräumungswoche or “Gypsy Clean-Up Week” was ordered.  Hundreds of Romanies throughout Germany and Austria were rounded up, beaten and imprisoned.  In Mannswörth, Austria, three hundred were arrested in this way in a single night.

Following the collapse of the Third Reich, nothing was done to assist the Romani survivors, no effort made by the liberators to reorient them; instead, the terms of a 1926 pre-Nazi anti-Romani law which was still in effect ensured that those lacking a trade remained out of sight, hiding in the abandoned camps, for fear of arrest and incarceration.  Since that time, all of the programs used by the Nazis to deal with Romanies have been either suggested or implemented by various European nations--sterilizations in Slovakia, recommendations for incineration in a furnace from an Irish government official, forced incarceration and deportation in Germany (Kinzer, 1992).  Today, the Romani population faces its severest crisis since the Holocaust; neo-Nazi race crimes against Romanies have seen rapes, beatings and murders in Germany, Hungary and Slovakia; anti-Romani pogroms in Romania and Bulgaria, including lynchings and home burnings, are increasing.  For my people, the Holocaust is not yet over.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has not yet done enough to educate the world about the Romani experience; there, the “Gypsy” artifacts on display in the “other victims” corner of the Museum’s third floor, consist of a violin, a wagon and a woman’s dress--more Hollywood than Holocaust--and very, very few of the Romani victims and inmates depicted in the photo exhibits (especially those involving Mengele’s experiments with twins) are identified as such.  Most galling of all was the total absence of the key words “Gypsy,” “Rom,” “Sinti,” “Romani,” “Zigeuner,” etc. in the computerized question-and-answer bank provided for the public to consult which led, in June, 1993, to an organized protest at the Museum by a group represented by Ms. Mary Thomas of Adoptive Parents and Friends of Romani Children demanding that more details of the fate of Romanies be included in the Museum.  They argued that, when their newly acquired children grow older and begin to ask about their background and the history of their people, and about the Holocaust in particular, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum would not be the place to go for their answers, that the Romani story had been downplayed to the extent of differently representing historical fact, of revision by omission.  That protest led to the circulation of a petition asking, among other things, that more Romani scholars (rather than non-Romani specialists) be directly involved, that more documentation on the Romani Holocaust be displayed and made available to visitors to the Museum, and has resulted in the inclusion of one or two Gypsy entries in the computerized data bank.

I have been both praised and criticized for bringing attention to these issues.  The director of one Holocaust center referred to me as a trouble-maker; another writer on the Holocaust called my discussion of the Romani case in the Jewish context “loathsome.”  A representative of the Memorial Council, whom I have never met, told a researcher who called to find out how to reach me that I was a “wild man.” while its one-time director told the press that Romani spokespersons were “cranks” and “eccentrics” (Doolittle, 1984:5), and his successor reported to the media that we were “naive” (Hirschberg, 1986:A16).  People have gotten up and walked out when it has been my turn to speak at conferences about the Porrajmos, and one former professor at my own university adamantly refused even to mention Romanies in his regular course on the Holocaust.  Others have intimated that I should not be pursuing this because I am not a historian, and am therefore not qualified to engage in this kind of research.  If you think these things don’t hurt me, they do, deeply.  There are those reading this essay who I’m sure are angered by what is being said in these pages, and who are ready to challenge me.  Why should this be?  I have tried to remain objective, and let the facts argue my case.  If I can be proven wrong, I am happy to acknowledge that.  I am well aware that for some people, insistence upon getting all the facts of the Romani experience properly acknowledged has been regarded as confrontational and even threatening; Yehuda Bauer (1990:1) felt that “anti-Gypsy sentiment” in Europe was, in his words, “in competition” with “radical anti-Semitism” there, the “sentiment” in question having led to the murders and pogroms against Romanies mentioned above, during the same period for which the 1990 Country Report on Human Rights reported “no incidents of anti-Semitic violence” (for an extended discussion in this competitive vein, see Margalit, 1996).  An August, 1993, report issued by the Nemzetközi Cigány Szöveség on the other hand quoted a physician from the Romanian town of Teleorman, who said “our war against the Gypsies will start in the fall.  Until then, preparations will be made to obtain arms; first we are going to acquire chemical sprays.  We will not spare minors, either” (Balogh, 1993).  Events indicating that this persecution began to happen shortly thereafter were described in the December 19th, 1993 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, where the following appeared:

An orgy of mob lynching and house-burning with police collaboration, has turned into something even more sinister for Romania’s hated Gypsies: the beginnings of a nationwide campaign of terror launched by groups modeling themselves on the Ku Klux Klan. . . “We are many, and very determined.  We will skin the Gypsies soon.  We will take their eyeballs out, smash their teeth, and cut off their noses.  The first will be hanged” (Branson, 1993:A1,A15).

Antigypsyism is at an all-time high, and it can only begin to be combatted by sensitizing the general public to the details of Romani history and suffering.  My purpose in this paper, as a follow-up to that given at the last conference in Oxford, is to get these issues as they relate to the Holocaust out into the open, to air them publicly, and hope that a more accurate, and more compassionate, attitude will prevail.

Resistance to the Romani case must be due at least in part to the lateness of its arrival on the academic scene; scholarship on the Porrajmos is comparatively new, so much so that it has brought charges of “bandwagoning” from some quarters.  Our people are traditionally not disposed to keeping alive the terrible memories from our history—nostalgia is a luxury for others, and the Porrajmos was not the first, but the second historical attempt to destroy the Romanies as a people, following Charles VI’s extermination order in 1721, and a meeting of European national representatives was held in 1908, to formulate “an international plot legally to expel the gypsies from Europe” (Holroyd, 1975:358).  Romanies in the United States, for example, have obliterated entirely from their collective memories all recollection of the five and a half centuries of slavery in Romania which their great great grandparents came to America to escape during the last century (Hancock, 1988).  Survivors of the Holocaust are today likewise reluctant to speak about their experiences, and so it is that the story is only now beginning to unfold.  The task of those collecting testimonies is made the more difficult because for some groups, the Sinti in particular, there are cultural restrictions upon speaking about the dead.

It has to be said too that there is also an element of racism evident in the Jewish response; after all, Romanies are a “Third World people of color,” as Lopate coins the term in his discussion of the relative value of victimhood (1989:292); Anton Fojn (“Bubili”) wrote of the SS guards’ whipping him and his father off the transport and through the gates of Dachau, and calling them “Congo niggers” on account of their dark skin (Friedman, 1990:18).  I have been told—off the record—that some Council members do not want to be judged by the company they fear they might have to keep.  The then director of the Holocaust Memorial Center in Dallas told me in 1987, apparently without intent to offend, that she believed that Jews did not want to be associated with Romanies in the Holocaust because it would “detract from its solemnity.”  In every single public opinion poll, including that conducted in the United States (and reported in the January 8th, 1992, issue of The New York Times), ‘Gypsies’ are listed as the most discriminated-against minority, the most despised ethnic population, and some of the stereotypes have evidently rubbed off on some Council members.  At one presentation I gave at a Hillel Center, I was interrupted by a woman who leapt to her feet and angrily demanded why I was even comparing the Romani case to the Jewish, when Jews had given so much to the world and Romanies were merely parasites and thieves.  On another occasion a gentleman in the audience stood up and declared that he would never buy a book on the Holocaust written by a Romani.  I learned from James Michael Holmes of Phoenix Productions International that two Hollywood studios have already declined to consider an updated script of the 1947 film Golden Earrings, because it is a screenplay about the Holocaust which does not deal with its Jewish victims.  When research revealed in a book published recently that “Esther,” the girl peering forlornly from a transport wagon leaving for Auschwitz and who was assumed to be Jewish was in fact a twelve-year-old Sinti girl named Settela, the Jewish community in the Netherlands became furious (Wagenaar, 1995).  Jan Morris began her review of a newly published book on Romaniesin the New Europe, with the words “[t]he Jews are tragically conspicuous by their absence, the [G]psies are all to often maddeningly present” (Morris, 1995:4).

Working to alter attitudes of this kind is a mighty task indeed, and was one reason behind my co-founding the Romani-Jewish Alliance some years ago, which works to dispel anti-Jewish and anti-Romani stereotypes, and to educate both populations about the other’s experience.  I should say here, incidentally, in answer to an often-asked question, that there are many Romanies who are Jewish, and many more Romani-Jewish marriages.  During the war such “marriages” characterized one concentration camp in eastern Serbia in particular, where Romanies and Jews were held before transportation.  Even popular attempts to document our story can do more harm than good; an example is the film version of Ramati’s And the Violins Stopped Playing (1988), which is so full of misrepresentation and distortions of the truth that it would have been better left undone; among other things it suggests that Romanies were murdered in Auschwitz, for example, lest they survive as witnesses to the fate of the Jewish prisoners.

It might also be acknowledged that some resistance is grounded simply in disbelief, in the assumption that “if this is true, why haven’t we heard about it before?.”  I must admit that, for a very long time, as I’d search through the “shelves tightly packed,” through the innumerable books on the Holocaust looking for references to Romanies, I would skim right over those sections dealing with the non-Romani victims; I am ashamed to say that they just were not as important to me, so consumed was I with my search.  It was only later that I began to take the time to learn about what happened to other groups, and to be appalled and aggrieved by what I read.  When the existence of one’s entire people is threatened so barbarously, anything else simply gets in the way.  But others have come to do as I did, and are examining the cases of those besides their own without prejudgment, and I am encouraged by the responses forthcoming from those who have made the effort, with an open mind, to examine the details of what Romanies suffered at the hands of the Nazis.  I have said many times that only Jews can really come close to understanding the impact the Porrajmos has had on the Romani population, and I venture to think that only Romanies can come close, on an emotional level, to understanding the Jewish tragedy.  The Holocaust, sadly, just doesn’t seem to mean as much for anyone else.  But neither Jew nor Rom can fully understand the other’s experience, then or now, nor should either begin to presume to interpret for the other.  For this reason I would like to see the individual “uniquenesses,” if you like, emphasized by a greater use of the ethnic terminology: Shoah or Khurbn for the Jewish Holocaust, Porrajmos for the Romani.  The word “Holocaust,” I feel, is used too casually to have the meaning intended for it.

I have been deliberately critical of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and the Museum in this essay, and make no apology for that, for our relationship over the past decade has been a stormy one, and one which has caused me considerable personal frustration.  It is, after all, the national memorial to the victims of Nazism, and an international educational resource.  The 1987 Conference on other victims, for example, included a panel on Romanies, but no Romanies were invited to speak or even participate in its planning.  And on April 23rd, 1996, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum organized a public panel discussion entitled “Sinti and  Roma during the Holocaust and Today,” again in which no Romanies were invited to participate.  The promotional wording in the calendar announcing the discussion stated merely that “Sinti and Roma suffered greatly as victims of Nazi persecution and genocide,” making no mention at all of their being, like Jews, specific targets of the Final Solution.  In 1995, the Education Committee of the Holocaust Council prepared a brochure on the Romani victims of the Holocaust, which it distributed in its education package at the 23rd Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches in March, 1996; this was the first time that William Duna, the former and only Romani representative on the Council and member of the education committee, learned of the existence of the new publication. It is this assumption that we can be “discussed” in our absence, and having non-Romani scholars talk about us rather than to us, which is the most hurtful and demeaning.  I could not imagine that the Jewish academic establishment would tolerate for one moment a “panel discussion” on the fate of Jews in the Holocaust conducted with no Jewish presence or input.  I cannot imagine a Holocaust Memorial center with no Jewish participation.  But we must bear this indignity, as though we are incapable of representing ourselves, of being in charge of our own history.  On 21 September 2000, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a symposium entitled Roma and Sinti: Under-Studied Victims of Nazism.  Not of the Holocaust, notice.  I was asked to find the invited speakers—which I did—but the organizers insisted, against my very strenuous protests, that Guenther Lewy also be included on the program.  Lewy is a revisionist who not only denies that Romanies were a part of the Holocaust, but that they were not even the victims of genocide (see Hancock, 2001 for my review of his book).  He said as much in Washington, but the closing speaker at the same symposium was Raul Hilberg, generally considered to be the preeminent scholar of the Holocaust.  In his talk he not only pointed out the weakness of Lewy’s position, he also emphasized the special relationship which exists between Jews and Romanies and their shared experience in the Holocaust.  I sat on the stage and wept at his words.  But when the Proceedings were published (Shapiro & Ehrenreich, 2002), Lewy’s paper was included but Hilberg’s was left out.

Many factors, many personalities, have been involved in the misunderstandings and anger generated by the dialogue between Romanies and the Council (see e.g. Wiesenthal, 1989:218-220 and Linnenthal, 1995:228-247).  Speaking at the Council’s 1987 conference on non-Jewish victims in Washington mentioned above, Erika Thurner drew attention to the evident lack of concern for the Holocaust’s Romani victims:

Gypsies have generally been forgotten or been reserved for the footnotes of historical investigation. . . this very position, as a fringe social group with negligible social status, is responsible for the fact that, after 1945, the Gypsy Holocaust was not acknowledged for so many years, and continues to be neglected to a certain degree to this very day.  Ignorance as to the fate of the Sinti and Roma in the Third Reich has made historical reconstruction especially difficult.  It has led to further discrimination against Gypsies, and to the refusal to recognize their right to restitution of both a material and ideal nature (1987:7).

In the years since Erika Thurner made those observations, there has been a steadily growing acknowledgement of the Romani tragedy, and an acceptance of the fact that the Jews and the Romanies were equally victim to the techniques and policies of the Nazi death machine.  But along with this recognition at the academic and historical level, so efforts to singularize the Jewish experience have gained, at least for some of its champions, an almost desperate impetus (for example Katz, 1994).  Perhaps we should be examining not what the challenges are to the procedural and historical details with which scholars attempt to make their case, but why it is so vitally important to some of them to privatize the Holocaust--why they strive so passionately to do so.

This is beginning to attract the attention of the outside world. There is a growing reaction in print to the Jewish exclusivist position (Fox, 1995, and Rosen, 1995), and in an essay in Z Magazine in which he makes the case that uniquist scholars such as Deborah Lipstadt and Stephen Katz are as guilty of re-working the historical record by failing to acknowledge Roma, as revisionists are in denying that the Holocaust even happened, Ward Churchill goes so far as to suggest that Jews are directly responsible for keeping the details of the Romani Holocaust away from the public:

Nothing at all was done to save the Gypsies from their identical fate, and in this connection international Jewish organizations have no better record than do the governments of the United States, Great Britain and Canada.  To the contrary, it was arguably Jewish organizations that served as the vanguard in obscuring what was happening to the Gypsies even as it happened, a posture they’ve never abandoned (1997a:44).

These words were edited out of the same essay reprinted in A Little Matter of Genocide (Churchill, 1997b), and the original title of the present chapter, “Jewish Responses to the Romani Holocaust” was similarly modified to its present wording.

I said in the earlier published version of this paper that I was confident that open recognition of the Romani position will continue to grow in Washington.  I said that we have gone from having no representation at all on the Council, to having one member; but I spoke too soon.  That member’s term has expired, and the President has declined to reappoint him--or any Rom.  This decision came in the same week that Mr. Clinton assured the nation of his commitment to bring non-white minorities into the American mainstream, and to deal with issues of racial inequality in society. The Council did formally protested against antigypsyism in Europe at the administrative level (Meyerhoff, 1992), but it will be a long time before my hope that we will eventually be moved out of the category of “other victims,” and be fully recognised as the only population, together with Jews, which was slated for its eventual complete eradication, will be realized.  Now, without even representation, we are back to square one.

I want to be able to thumb through any of the many published treatments of the Holocaust at my local bookstore and find comprehensive information in them about what happened to my people--at present, we’re usually not listed in their indexes at all.  One of my most recent purchases was Louis Snyder’s Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, but not only does it contain not one single reference to Romanies, neither do Robert Ritter or Eva Justin or Gerhard Stein or Sophie Erhardt find a place in its list of entries.  This is true also for Wheal, Pope & Taylor’s Encyclopedia of the Second World War, Wistrich’s Who’s Who in Nazi Germany, and Keegan’s Who Was Who in World War II, as well as for most other books on the Holocaust.  On the same page that he writes of Himmler’s “conclusive solution to the Gypsy question” (the sole mention of Romanies in the book), Lang discusses the Endlösung only in terms of its being “the term by which the Nazis chose designate their genocidal war against the Jews” (Lang, 1990).  It is an eerie and disheartening feeling to pick up such books, and find the attempted genocide of one’s people written completely out of the historical record.  Perhaps worse, in the English-language translation of at least one book, that by Lucjan Dobroszycki of The Chronicle of the Lodz Ghetto, the entire reference to the liquidation of the Romani camp there (entry No. 22 for April 29th and 30th, 1942, in the original work), has been deleted deliberately.  I have been told, but have not yet verified, that translations of other works on the Holocaust have also had entries on Romanies removed.  Furthermore, I do not want to read references to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in the national press and learn only that it is a monument to “the plight of European Jews,” as the New York Times told its readers in its December 23rd, 1993, issue.  I want to be able to watch epics such as Schindler’s List and learn that Romanies were a central part of the Holocaust too; or other films, such as Escape from Sobibor, a Polish camp where, according to its Kommandant Franz Stangl in his memoirs thousands of Romanies were murdered, and not to hear the word “Gypsy” except once, and then as the name of somebody’s dog.  This latter example is not merely offensive, it is cruel and callous.  Camp survivor B. Stawska (in Fickowski, 1989:43) is one who has described the transportation of Romanies to Sobibor:

In November, 1942, the pogrom against the Jews and Gypsies began, and they were shot on a mass scale in street executions.  The Gypsies were driven into the square at the fore of the crowd, and after them the Jews.  It was cold, and the Gypsy women were weeping loudly.  They had all their possessions on their backs, including eiderdowns; everything that they had, but all of that was taken away from them later.  The Jews behaved very calmly, but the Gypsies cried a lot—you could hear one loud sobbing.  They were taken to the station and loaded into goods wagons, which were sealed and taken to stations beyond Chelm, to Sobibór, where they were burnt in the ovens.

National Public Radio in Washington, DC, covered the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 26th, 1995, extensively, though Romanies were never once mentioned, despite being well represented at the commemoration, at least outside the camp.  In his closing report on NPR’s Weekend Edition on January 28th, Michael Goldfarb described how “candles were placed along the tracks that delivered Jews and Poles to their death.”  But it is little wonder that Romanies weren’t mentioned; they were not allowed to participate.  An article on the Auschwitz commemoration in the British (but not the American) press dated January 28th included a photograph of a group of Romanies staring mournfully through a wire fence, with a caption reading “Cold-shouldered: Gipsies, whose ancestors were among Auschwitz victims, are forced to watch the ceremony from outside the compound” (Stapinska, 1995:5).  In a speech given at that ceremony, Elie Wiesel said that the Jewish people “were singled out for destruction during the Holocaust.”  Nor was that the first time; in a New York Times article five years before that entitled “At a death camp, Gypsies confront indifference,” writer Marlise Simons wrote of the Romani victims at Mauthausen being treated as a “dismissive afterthought” in a commemorative ceremony that year (Simons, 1990), quoting one Holocaust historian who said that “prejudice against Gypsies has permeated all levels of our society, the academic world, the bureaucracy.”  British coverage of the present volume in the Times Higher Education Supplement focused entirely upon the Romani issue (Cornwell, 1996), while the three-page review in the U.S. equivalent, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Romanies are referred to just once in a nine-line paragraph (Shea, 1996).  In a CNN news feature on the Romani suit against the Swiss banks televised on June 9th, 1997, based upon numerous information-seeking phone calls to the Romani Union office, the number of Romanies murdered in the Holocaust was announced as “two hundred and fifty thousand,” despite the U.S. Holocaust Research Institute’s current estimate of “between a half and one and a half million” being provided to them.  The BBC’s World at War segment entitled “Genocide” mentions the 1935 law forbidding Aryans from marrying Jews, but fails to say that the very same law also referred to Romanies; it mentions the Polish victims repeatedly, but remains completely silent about Romanies, against whom—unlike Poles—the Final Solution did operate.  The first group of concentration camp inmates pictured in that documentary is of Sinti prisoners at Buchenwald, but the viewer isn’t told this.  But as Reimer & Reimer point out, “considering that the Gypsies are still discriminated against throughout Europe, including Germany, it is perhaps not surprising that they have been virtually excluded from films on the Holocaust” (1992:165).  And in Germany, where it all began, Romanies have even yet to be included in the national Holocaust memorial, an omission which attracted the international media (Anon., 1992), even though the Chairman of the Jewish community in Berlin, Heinz Galinski, speaking at a ceremony commemorating the Romani victims of the Porrajmos fifteen years ago, acknowledged publicly that “Jews and Gypsies were both singled out as ‘lives unworthy of life’” (1980:77).  Surely genocide of the magnitude suffered by the Romani people deserves acknowledgement far beyond that which it now receives.

That attitudes are beginning to change and that awareness is beginning to grow, was evidenced at the 26th Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches held in Minneapolis in March, 1996, entitled “A Mandate for the 21st Century.”  Here, Yehuda Bauer initiated a public statement in the name of the Conference, issued to the media accompanied by twelve pages of signatures supporting it, and officially deploring the antigypsyism which is escalating throughout Europe.  It read:

Fifty years after the end of World War II, one of the most terrible genocide acts of the Nazi regime, the mass destruction of the Romani (Gypsy) people, is still being ignored.  Their continued victification, discrimination and persecution on racist grounds, reminiscent of Nazi attitudes, has not ceased, especially in the countries of Europe.  It is the sense of the following scholars who participated at the 26th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, that it is appropriate for democratic governments, religious organizations, academic and civil bodies, to call upon governments and political parties in the countries mentioned to act forcefully against anti-Romani policies which, if continued, may well create another political genocidal situation.

Notes

1. First presented at the Remembering for the Future International Conference on the Holocaust, Berlin, 13th-17th March, 1994.   I have been told that this essay is probably what caused me to be dropped, sar tati kolompiri, from the Project on Ethnic Relations’ Romani Advisory Council and to be similarly distanced from a number of other Roma Rights organizations.  My experiences with such bodies will be expanded upon in my forthcoming book Danger! Educated Gypsy!  This is a somewhat updated version of the essay first published in 1995.

2. Earlier references to the situation of Romanies in Nazi Germany are Sultzberger (1939), Max (1946), Kochanowski (1946), Maximoff (1946) and Molitor (1947).

3. Timothy Luke has discussed this issue in connection with the construction of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the exhibits throughout which “stress the plight of Jews under Nazi persecution as well as reemphasize the necessity for Israel’s sovreign autonomy as a nation State after World War  II” (1996:125).

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