Table of Contents


1 Persecution of the Gypsies
1.1 Romani before 1933
1.2 The Gypsies under the Nazi Herrschaft
1.2.1 First discriminatory measures
1.2.2 The “Gypsy problem” as a racial one
1.2.3 Zigeunerlager and concentration camps
1.2.4 “Combating the Gypsy Plague”
1.2.5 Deportations to the East
1.2.6 Campaign of annihilation
1.2.7 The Auschwitz decree
1.2.8 Gypsy Family Camp at Auschwitz
1.2.9 The death toll

2 The treatment of Gypsies and Jews compared
2.1 Nazi perception of both groups
2.2 Decision making process
2.3 Discrimination because of behaviour or because of race?
2.4 The treatment of Mischlinge
2.4.1 Migratory and sedentary Gypsies
2.5 Gypsy Family Camp at Auschwitz
2.6 Question of Genocide




The 20th century is sometimes called the “centrury of genocide”. Never before have people been killing each other on such a scale, with so sophisticated methods and techniques, for so many reasons and seemingly without any scrupules or mercy. Untold masses of humans fell victims to these massacres. From South West Africa and Armenia to Cambodia and Rwanda, there were a number of genocides. A number of genocides, but just one Holocaust.

Or, was there just one?

Most of the scholarly attention devoted to the subject of Holocaust has, not surprisingly, been focused on the Jewish experience during the Nazi period. The study of the Gypsy[1] experience during the same period has been largely underrepresented in the historiography discussions. Therefore, in this paper I will concentrate on the Porrajmos[2]. The main aim of this work is to find out if and eventually to what extent the Shoah and the Porrajmos are comparable.

In the first half I deal with the persecution of the Gypsies solely. I describe the main characteristics of the treatment of the Gypsies by the Nazis as well as mention the main laws and decrees that dealt with the issue. I tried to approach the subject as objectively as possible.

In the second part of this paper my own believes become much more pronounced. I discuss and compare the Nazi treatment of Jews and Gypsies; touch upon the most debated and controversial issues and above all analyze the main differences in the treatment of these two groups.

Based on the facts from the first chapter and deriving from the discussion in the second chapter I shall then try to draw conclusions concerning Yehuda Bauer’s thesis.

1 Persecution of the Gypsies

1.1 Romani before 1933

Practically ever since their migration to Europe in the 13th century, the Gypsies had faced number of prejudices. “Their appearance, language, customs, and itinerant way of life”[3] made them quite distinct from the majority of the society. Perceived stereotypically in negative terms as vagabonds, asocials, criminals or fortune tellers, they were often discriminated against. During the Wilhelmian and the Weimar Republic periods a number of German states, such as Baden, Bavaria and Prussia introduced discriminatory legislation aimed at controlling and regulating the Gypsy way of life.[4]

Although there was widespread discrimination against Gypsies prior to Hitler’s ascendance to power, it had never reached the proportion it was about to reach under the Nazi domination.

1.2 The Gypsies under the Nazi Herrschaft

1.2.1 First discriminatory measures

The ascendance of Hitler and his party to power meant tighter regulations and ordinances in many spheres of life and increasing Gleichschalltung of the population. By these, the German Gypsy population of about 26,000[5] (about 0.05 percent of the German population) was affected as any other part of German population. In a number of these measures the Gypsies were included – on the basis of their behaviour - in one group with beggars, asocials or the Jenische, the so-called white Gypsies (Germans behaving as Gypsies). Soon, however, the Gypsies were targeted for their ethnic or racial affiliation only.

Although some of the laws did not specifically target the Gypsies, they were used against them nevertheless. Moreover, a number of measures were derived from legislation used against the Jews. Thus, for example – although aimed primarily against Ostjuden - the Denaturalization Law of 14 July 1933 and the Expulsion Law of 23 March 1934 were used for removing stateless and foreign Gypsies from Germany. The April 1933 Law to Prevent Genetically Deficient Offspring, used for the most part against handicapped, affected the Gypsy population as well. It is estimated that some 500 Gypsies[6] were sterilized before the outbreak of the war in accordance with this law.

The Nuremberg Laws enacted in 1935 did not specifically mention the Gypsies and only referred to the Jews.[7] However, their scope was broadened by the first implementing decree of 16 November 1935 and by Frick’s decree of 26 November 1935, which among other “polluters of German blood” named “Gypsies, Negroes and their bastards.”[8]

Generally speaking, the first years of the Nazi rule in respect to the Gypsies were marked by increased and intensified persecution, closer surveillance and intentional exclusion from the rest of the society. A substantial change in Nazi policy occurred in 1936.


[1] The term “Gypsy” is used throughout this work and refers to both Sinti and Roma without distinction. It is, by no means, used as a pejorative. Occasionally terms as “Romani”, “Roma”, “Roma People” are used interchangeably with “Gypsy”.

[2] The term “Porrajmos” (meaning “devouring”) was introduced by the controversial Roma scholar and activist Ian Hancock at the beginning of the 1990s to be used for the Gypsy experience during the Nazi era. Hancock himself did not invent this word. It was suggested to him at a conference in Rumanian Snagov in 1993 by an unknown Kalderash Romani. (Hancock, 2005) Rarely the word “Samudaripen” meaning “murder of all” has been used as well.

[3] Burleigh, Wippermann, 1991, 113

[4] A rather typical example of this kind of legislation was the Prussian decree of 3 November 1927, which introduced special identity cards for Gypsies. Every Gypsy above the age of six had to be photographed and fingerprinted. This measure affected some 8,000 people. (Hancock, 2001, 83)

[5] Lewy, 2000, 15

[6] Zimmermann, 2001, 423

[7] Arad, Y., Gutman, I., Margaliot, A., 1999, 76 - 79

[8] Lewy, 2000, 42


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Roma Holocaust




Title: Roma Holocaust