During the Holocaust, it wasn’t just the Jews who suffered at the hands at the Nazis although they bore the brunt of the racism and extermination at the hands of the Germans and their allies during World War II. The Gypsies were also persecuted during the reign of Hitler and his henchmen.
The Nazis at their death camp at Auschwitz gassed 800 children including over 100 boys between the ages of 9-14 on this day. How did this ever be allowed to happen?
The Gypsy people were hated by the Nazis, the definition of what constituted a Gypsy to the Nazis was often the same as what constituted a Jew in the racist writings of the Third Reich. As early as 1937, the roundup of Gypsies was beginning in Germany.
The Germans did little to conceal their murderous plans. In 1937, Dr. Robert Ritter, a racist with a medical degree gave a presentation in Paris on what would be the racial definition of Gypsies as the Reich considered Gypsies “asocial.” In December of 1937, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree that provided grounds to arrest people, not for committing crimes but for being “asocial.”
The Nazis confined Gypsy (also known as Roma) families at Lackenbach beginning in 1939. Yet, the rest of the world turned a blind eye to what was happening in Germany in the plight of the Jews, the Gypsies, and others. Once they began to acquire more territory, the Jews and Gypsies were quickly targets for elimination by wandering groups of Einsatzgruppen or forced deportation to the camps. In late 1941, over 30,000 German gypsies were deported to Poland. At the same time there were over 5000 Austrian Gypsies deported to the Lodz Ghetto, then the Chelmno death camp where they were all gassed in early 1942.
In Vichy France, the Secretariat for Jewish Affairs rounded up thousands of Gypsies and many were shipped them off to Dachau, Ravensbrück, and Buchenwald. Some 15,500 died in the Nazi camps while 40,000 survived in the French internment camps.
In Croatia, the locals were only too happy to help the German invaders carry out their murderous plans. They targeted the Jews, Serbs, and Gypsies and out of 27,000 that were rounded up, over 26,000 died. Other figures put the number much higher, close to 90,000.
In Italy, the Italians balked at rounding up Gypsies, but after the German occupation some of the Italian Roma were rounded up and sent away, but most however escaped. The Hungarian Roma fared little better. Over 30,000 were sent to the death camps and there, 27,000 were murdered and never returned. A rate of 90 percent.
It was in 1943 that the Germans began moving all of the Gypsies, (Roma and another group called Sinti) from the labor camps to Auschwitz.
In a bizarre twist, in one of the camps in Auschwitz, BIIe the 6000 Roma were allowed to live as families. Inside the Gypsies, despite the deprivation and brutal nature of the guards would play their music, and have circus-like performances. But a disease manifested itself there in the inmates, Noma, which has symptoms similar to leprosy. It was then that the Germans decided to eliminate the entire 6000 Roma in the camp. They separated over 1400 that could work and sent them to labor camps and the remainder were murdered by getting gassed.
Yes, it wasn’t just the Germans who carried out these heinous acts, but the Austrians, Romanians (a German ally), Croatia, Vichy France, and others were just as complicit in helping the Germans deal with their “Gypsy Problem.”
So great was the bias against the Gypsies in Germany, that after the war in 1950, the Gypsies sought reparations from the German government. However, they would get no compensation for their suffering or brutal murderous treatment at the hands of the Nazis like so many other victims of the Holocaust did. Approximately 1.5 million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis and others during the war. And yet their suffering went unheeded.
The German government, in its decision, stated that “Gypsies have been persecuted under the Nazis not for any racial reason but because of an asocial and criminal record.” This slight was not rectified until 1979 which by then had seen many, if not most of the survivors passed away.