[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]

Holocaust Resource Newsletter
Gypsies and the Holocaust

Never a Perpetrator.
      Never a Victim.
        Never a Bystander.
          Never Again.

Definitions of Terms

Einsatzgruppen: Mobile killing units; German special duty squads composed mainly of SS and police personnel, assigned to kill Jews, Gysies, and others, following the invasion of Poland and the Soviet Union.

Extermination camps: Concentration camps equipped with facilities used to kill with poisonous gas. They were also called killing centers. These camps (Belzec, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Majdanek) were all located in Poland.

Gypsies: Popular term for Roma and Sinti, nomadic people believed to have originally come from northwest India. Gypsies usuallyed traveled in small caravans. They first appeared in Western Europe in the 1400s and eventually spread to every country of Europe. Prejudice toward Gypsies was, and is, widespread.

Nazi: An acronym formed from the first syllable of National and the second syllable of Sozialist -- for National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP), a right wing, nationalistic, and antisemitic political party formed in 1919 and headed by Adolf Hitler from 1921-1945.

Nuremburg (Nürnburg) Race Laws: Laws which were enacted in 1935 by the Nazis "for the protection of German blood and German honor." The laws were special legislation which mandated, in part, the following:

  • Marriage between Jews and German citizens was forbidden.
  • Jews could not be German citizens, could not vote, and could not have an official occupation.

SS (Schutzstaffel or "Elite Guard"): The defense squad headed by Heinrich Himmler and given the task of implementing the "Final Solution." (Die Endlösung).

Did You Know? The mass murder of the Gypsies closely paralleled that of the Jews?

What Happened

1926: Bavarian law outline measures for "combating Gypsies, vagabonds, and the workshy," and required the registration of all Sinti and Roma (Gypsies).

1933: The "Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Defects" was enacted. Physicians sterilized an unknown number of Gypsies, part-Gypsies, and Gpsies in mixed marriages.

1933: The "Law Against Dangerous Habitual Criminals" was enacted. Police arrested many Gypsies and imprisoned them in concentration camps.

1935: The Nuremberg Race and Citizenship Laws were enacted.

1936: The Nuremburg Laws were interpreted to include Gypsies as "racially distinctive" minorities with alien blood. They were deprived of their civil rights.

1936: A central office to "Combat the Gypsy Nuisance" opened in Munich. It oversaw a national data bank of Gypsies and authorized Berlin police to conduct raids against Gypsies to remove them from that city during the Olympics. Six hundred Gypsies were placed in a Gypsy internment camp and forced to live in crowded, unsanitary conditions.

1937-38: A decree on "crime prevention" provided the pretext for police to round up Gypsies. Ten thousand Roma and Sinti people from Germany and Austria were deported to concentration camps.

1938: Heinrich Himmler recommended "the resolution of the Gypsy question based on its essentially racial nature." All Gypsies in the Reich were registered and classified.

1939: A German conference on racial policy discussed the removeal of 30,000 German and Austrian Gypsies to occupied Poland with the deportation of Jews.

1939: Several thousand more Gypsies from Germany and Austria were sent to concentration camps.

1939-1940: Two internment camps for Gypsies were set up as forced labor camps and assembly centers for Nazi extermination and concentration camps.

1939-1944: Throughout German-occupied Europe, Gypsies were interned, killed, or deported to camps in Germany or eastern Europe.

1941: Gypsies were excluded from public schools.

1941: Special SS squads, Einsatzgruppen, and units of the regular army and police began shooting Gypsies in Russia, Poland, and the Balkans at the same time they were killing Jews and Communists.

More Facts

In concentration camps, Gypsies wore black triangular patches, the symbol for "asocials"; green triangles, the symbol for "professional criminals"; and, sometimes the letter Z.

Scholarly estimates of deaths of the Sinti and Roma genocide range from 220,000 to 500,000.

Discrimination against Sinti and Roma in Europe has continued to the present day.

Where You Can Learn More

  • Burleigh, Michael, and Wipperman, Wolfgang. The Racial State: German, 1933-1945. (London, 1991.)

  • Crow, David, and Kolsti, John. The Gypsies. (Cambridge, MA, 1992.)

  • Kenrick, Donald, and Puxon, Grattan. The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies. (New York, 1972.

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Story of Karl Stojka: A Childhood in Birkenau. (Washington, DC, 1992.)


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sinti and Roma ("Gypsies"): Victims of the Nazi Era. (Washington, DC, 1996.)

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