Holocaust’s Invisible Victims
by Toussaint Dileau on 08 Aug 2008 0 Comment

[The post-World War II era has been dominated by the Jewish story, causing near-invisibility of other people. Durban 2001 showed escapism towards ‘Israeli occupation’ of Arab lands, and close-mindedness towards the Roma Holocaust and the truth of 1915 in Western Armenia / Eastern Anatolia – Editor]


Others [read Roma, Gypsies] were the only population besides the Jews who were targeted for extermination on racial grounds in the Final Solution. They arrived in Europe about the year 1300 from India which they had left nearly three centuries before as a military population of mixed, non-Aryan origin assembled to fight the invading Muslims. Their entry into Europe, via the Byzantine Empire, was also the direct result of Islamic expansion.

As a non-Christian, non-white, Asian people possessing no territory in Europe, Roma were outsiders in every country. Other cultures also ensured - still do - that a social distance be kept between Roma and gadje (non-Others), and thus their separateness was further reinforced.

When Nazis came to power in 1933, German laws against them had already been in effect for hundreds of years. The persecution of the Roma people began almost as soon as the first Roma arrived in German-speaking lands, because as outsiders they were breaking many of the Hanseatic laws which made it a punishable offense not to have a permanent home or job, and not to be on the taxpayer's register.


They were also accused of being spies for the Muslims, whom few Germans had ever met but about whom they had heard many frightening stories. The dark complexions and non-Christian behaviour and appearance of the Roma added to the prejudice which was steadily growing. In 1721, Emperor Karl VI ordered the extermination of all Roma everywhere; it was not illegal to murder a Rom, and there were sometimes “Roma hunts” in which Roma were tracked down and killed like wild animals. Forests were set on fire to drive out any Roma who might have been hiding there.


By the nineteenth century, scholars in Germany and elsewhere in Europe were writing about Jews and Roma as being inferior beings and “the excrement of humanity.” This crystallized into specifically racist attitudes in the writing of Knox, Tetzner, Gobineau and others. By the 1890s, Chancellor von Bismarck reinforced some of the discriminatory laws, stating that Roma were to be dealt with “especially severely” if apprehended. In or around 1890, a conference on “The Other Scum” was held in Swabia at which the military was empowered to keep Roma on the move. In 1899, Houston Chamberlain’s work, The Foundations of the 19th Century, was published, which argued for the building of a “newly shaped… and… especially deserving Aryan race.”

It was used to justify the promotion of ideas about German racial superiority and for any oppressive action taken against members of “inferior” populations. In the same year the “Other Information Agency” was set up in Munich under the direction of Alfred Dillmann, which began cataloguing information on all Roma throughout the German lands. The results of this were published in 1905 in Dillmann's Anderer-Buch which laid the foundations for what was to befall Roma in the Holocaust 35 years later.

The Anderer-Buch, nearly 350 pages long, consisted of three parts: first, an introduction stating that Others were a “plague” and “menace” which the German population had to defend itself against using “ruthless punishments,” and which warned of the dangers of mixing the Other and German gene pools. The second part was a register of known Others, giving genealogical details and criminal record if any; and the third part was a collection of photographs of those same people. Dillmann’s “race mixing” later became a central part of the Nuremberg Law in Nazi Germany.

In 1920, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche published their book, The Eradication of Lives Undeserving of Life, using a phrase first coined by Richard Liebich with specific reference to Others nearly sixty years earlier. Among the groups they considered “unworthy of life” were the “incurably mentally ill,” and it was to this group that Roma were considered to belong. Perceived Roma “criminality” was seen as a transmitted genetic disease, though no account was taken of the centuries of exclusion of the Others from German society which made subsistence theft a necessity for survival. A law incorporating the same phrase was put into effect just four months after Hitler became Chancellor of the Third Reich.

During the 1920s, the legal oppression of Others in Germany intensified considerably despite the egalitarian statutes of the Weimar Republic. In 1920 they were forbidden to enter parks and public baths; in 1925 a conference on “The Other Question” was held which resulted in laws requiring unemployed Roma to be sent to concentration camps “for reasons of public security,” and for all Roma to be registered with the police. After 1927, all Roma, even children, had to carry identification cards bearing fingerprints and photographs. In 1929, the Central Office for the Fight Against the Others in Germany was established in Munich, and in 1933, just ten days before the Nazis came to power, government officials in Burgenland called for the withdrawal of all civil rights from the Roma people.

In September 1935, Roma became subject to the restrictions of the Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour, which forbade intermarriage between Germans and “non-Aryans,” specifically Jews, Others and people of African descent. In 1936, the first document to refer to the “Final Solution of the Other Question” was issued, signed by Hans Pfuntner. In 1937, the National Citizenship Law relegated Others and Jews to the status of second class citizens, depriving them of their civil rights. Also in 1937, Heinrich Himmler
issued a decree entitled “The Struggle Against the Other Plague,” which reiterated that Others of mixed blood were the most likely to engage in criminal activity, and which required that all information on Roma  be sent from the regional police departments to the Reich Central Office.

Between June 12 and June 18, 1938, Andereraufräumungswoche, “Other Clean-Up Week” took place throughout Germany which, like Kristallnacht for the Jewish people that same year, marked the beginning of the end. Also in 1938, the second reference to “The Final Solution of the Other Question” appeared in March that year, and again on 8 December in a
document signed by Himmler.

In January 1940, the first mass genocidal action of the Holocaust took place when 250 Roma children were murdered in Buchenwald, where they were used as guinea pigs to test the efficacy of the zyk10n-B crystals, later used in the gas chambers. In June 1940, Hitler ordered
the liquidation of “all Jews, Others and communist political functionaries in the entire Soviet Union.”

On 31 July 1941, Heydrich, chief architect of the details of the Final Solution, issued his directive to the Einsatzkommandos to “kill all Jews, Others and mental patients.” A few days later Himmler issued his criteria for biological and racial evaluation which determined that each Rom's family background was to be investigated going back three generations. On 16 December that same year, Himmler issued the order to have all Roma remaining in Europe dispatched to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination. On 24 December, Lohse gave the
additional order that, “The Others should be given the same treatment as the Jews.” At a party meeting on 14 September 1942, Justice Minister Otto Thierack announced that, “Jews and Others must be unconditionally exterminated.” On 1 August 1944, four thousand Roma  were gassed and cremated in a single action at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in what is remembered as Anderernacht.

Determining the percentage or number of Roma who died in the Holocaust is not easy. Much of Nazi documentation still remains to be analyzed, and many murders were not recorded, since they took place in the fields and forests where Roma were apprehended. There are no accurate figures, either for the pre-war Roma population in Europe, though the Nazi Party's official census of 1939 estimated it to be about two million, certainly an under-representation. The latest (1997) figure from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Research Institute
in Washington puts the number of Roma  lives lost by 1945 at “between a half and one-and-a-half million.” Since the end of the Second World War, Germany's record regarding the Roma people has been less than exemplary. Nobody was called to testify on behalf of the Roma victims at the Nuremberg Trials, and no war crimes reparations have ever been
paid to Roma as a people.

Today, neo-Nazi activity in Germany makes the Roma a prime target of racial violence. The United States too did nothing to assist Roma during or following the Holocaust. Only 10 percent of the hundreds of millions of dollars made available by the United Nations for the survivors, and which the US Government was given the responsibility of disbursing, was set aside for non-Jews, and none of that found its way to the Roma  survivors who number today about 5000. Roma were not mentioned anywhere in the documentation of the US War Refugee Board, which was able to save the lives of over 200,000 Jews.

Translated from the original and reprinted with permission from Roma Virtual Network

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