It is extremely difficult to locate sources about the Roma people (otherwise known as Gypsies) in the Holocaust like those widely available about Jewish victims, which may reflect the difference between a literate culture and a largely illiterate one. It is known that perhaps 250,000 Roma were killed and that, proportionately, they suffered greater losses than any other group of victims except Jews.
Roma Gypsies are an ethnic group originating from India which for unknown reasons took to a wandering lifestyle in the late middle ages. Eventually, the Romas they reached Europe and became part of the ethnic mix of many countries, contributing in areas such a music and the arts.
Although they were "Aryan" according to the Nazi racial typology, they were pursued relentlessly for persecution.
Gypsies in Auschwitz: Part 1
A Gypsy couple at the Belzec concentration camp
resettlement of the Roma was put under Eichmann's jurisdiction along
with that of the Jews. Roma were forbidden to move freely and were
concentrated in encampments with Germany in 1939, later (1941)
transformed into fenced ghettos, from which they would be seized for
transport by the criminal police (aided by dogs) and dispatched to
Auschwitz in February 1943. During May 1940, about 3,100 were sent to
Jewish ghettos in the Government-General: others may have been added
to Jewish transports from Berlin, Vienna, and Prague to Nisko, Poland
(the sight of an aborted reservation to which Jews were deported).
These measures were taken against Roma who had no claim to
exemption because of having an Aryan spouse or having been regularly
employed for five years.
Some evaded the net at first. Despite a 1937 laws
excluding gypsies from army service, many served in the armed forces
until demobilized by special orders between 1940 and 1942. Roma
children were also dismissed from schools beginning in March 1941.
Thus, those who were nominally free and not yet concentrated were
stripped systematically of the status of citizens and segregated. The
legal status of Roma and Jews, determined irrevocably by the
agreement between Justice Minister Thierack and SS Reichsfuehrer
Himmler on 18 September 1942, removing both groups from the
jurisdiction of any German court, confirmed their fate. Thierack
wrote, 'I envisage transferring all criminal proceedings concerning
[these people] to Himmler. I do this because I realize that the
courts can only feebly contribute to the extermination of these
The Citizenship Law of 1943 omitted any mention of
"Gypsies" since they were not expected to exist much longer. Himmler
decreed the transport of Gypsies to Auschwitz on 16 December 1942,
but he did not authorize their extermination until 1944. Most died
there and in other camps of starvation, diseases, and torture from
abuse as live experimental subjects. By the end of the war, 15,000 of
the 20,000 Gypsies who had been in Germany in 1939 had died.
First section: Yitzhak Arad. Belzec,
Sobibor, TreblinkaThe Operation Reinhard Death Camps. IN:
Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 150153.
Second section: Vera Laska, ed. Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses. CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
Third section: Helen Fein. Accounting for Genocide: Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust. NY: Free Press, 1979.
1Raul Hilberg, The
Destruction of the European Jews, (Chicago: Quadrangle
Books, 1961), p.641; quotation by Staatsrat Turner, chief of the
civil administration in Serbia, October 26, 1941, in ibid., p.438
2 Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon, The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies, (New York: Basic Books, 1972), p.72
3 Jan Yoors, Crossing, A Journal of Survival and Resistance in World War II, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971), pp. 3334
4 Hilberg, p. 439
5 Ruzena Bubenickova, et al., "Tabory utrpeni a smrti" (Camps of Martyrdom and Death), (Prague: Svoboda, 1969), pp. 189190
6 Simon Wiesenthal, "The Murderers Among Us," (New York: Bantam, 1967) pp. 237238
7 Kendrick, pp. 8890
8 Hilberg, pp. 602, 608; the doctors were Hornbeck and Werner Fischer
9 ibid., p.489
10 Ota Kraus and Erich Kulka, "Tovarna na smrt" (Death Factory) (Prague: Nase vojsko, 1957), p.200
11 Yoors, p.34; Bubenickova, p. 190
12 Gilbert, Martin. "The Holocaust, Maps and Photographs," (New York : Mayflower Books, 1978. p.22; Kendrick, p. 184