The genocide on the romani gypsies is an often overlooked part of the Holocaust. Already during the pre-war years the nazi regime enacted law limiting the freedom of gypsies. With the introduction of the nuremberger laws in 1935 they were labeled as sub-humans, together with the Jews. During the period up to the second world war they were forced to stop migrating in Germany. During the second world war many gypsies from both Germany and occupied countries were send to Auschwitz. It is estimated that between 220.000 and 500.000 gypsies died.

Pre-Nazi period

The romani gypsies were already persecuted in the pre-Nazi period. During the years of the Weimar republic the pseudo-science of social Darwinism gained more and more ground. This science stated that you could “rank” different ethnic group in their power for survival. The gypsies were determined to be of an inferior race. Furthermore, the industrialization led to harder living condition for the gypsies, forcing them into illegal activities in order to survive. The reason the industrialization was a problem was because of the diminishing value of craftsmanship, a major economical player in the gypsie economy. Secondly, the industrialization led to a more urbanized surroundings, making it harder for the gypsies to move freely from place to place

The Nazis come to power

When the Nazis came to power the condition worsened for the Gypsy people. The Nazis enacted laws limiting their rights and freedom of movement. In 1934 the Nazis determined that migrating around the country was no longer permitted. Instead, the gypsies had to resort to living in so called “zigeuner lager” gypsy camps. These camps were located outside the urbanized areas. In 1935 the Roma minority had to endure the enactment of the Nuremberg laws. These laws stated that the gypsy people no longer had the right to vote. Furthermore, they lost the right to marry with people which were non gypsy. Basically, making it unable to be part of the german society.

Dr. Robert Ritter

A problem for the Nazis was how to determine which people were gypsy. In the case of the Jews it was easy to establish who was Jewish and who was not. This because of the church registration. However, the gypsies didn’t have such a registration. In order to map the gypsy population the Nazis established the centre for research on recial hygiene and demographic biology. This centre was led by Dr. Robert Ritter. His research focused on mapping the anthropological details of the gypsy people and make classification on how “good”of a race they were. Furthermore, he mapped all the gypsy people in Germany. This made it able for the Nazis to centralize all the gypsies in the zigeuner lagers.

Concentration camps and ghettos

During the 1937-1939 the gypsies were slowly imprisoned in the concentration camps in Germany. After the invasion of Poland the gypsies not yet imprisoned in the concentration camps had to forcefully migrate towars the general gourverment in Poland. In this region the gypsies were locked up the the ghettos together with the Jews. Many of the gypsies were gassed in the chelmno extermination camp. In 1942 Himmler issued the Auschwitz decree. This decree stated that the Gypsy people were to be transported to the zigeuner lager in Auschwitz. Many of the gypsies were gassed upon arrival,as with the other victims of the holocaust. The people selected for labour in the arnaments industry only survived for a few months.

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