A Century of Genocide: Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts

By Samuel Totten; William S. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Holocaust: The Gypsies

SYBIL MILTON

The mass murder of between one-quarter and one-half million Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) during the Holocaust has been under-represented in current historiography about Nazi genocide. Instead, suspicion, prejudice, and stereotypes have continued to dominate historical literature about this subject. 1 Thus, Yehuda Bauer's suggestion that "the Nazis simply did not have a policy regarding the Gypsies" and that therefore Nazi persecution of Gypsies was fundamentally different from that of Jews is erroneous. Similarly, Hans-Joachim Döring's contention that Nazi policy was motivated by a combination of crime control and military security considerations, or Bernhard Streck's classification of the killing of Roma and Sinti in Auschwitz-Birkenau for epidemiological and public health reasons is equally fallacious. 2 To be sure, the "Jewish Question" loomed larger than the "Gypsy Plague" in Nazi ideology, since Roma and Sinti were socially marginal, whereas Jews were increasingly assimilated in German society and culture; the Gypsies were also far fewer in number, representing about 0.05 percent of the 1933 German population. Nevertheless, there is a striking parallelism between the ideology and process of extermination for Jews and Gypsies. Despite the similarity and simultaneity of persecution, the disparity between the vast quantity of secondary literature about Nazi Judeophobia and the limited number of studies about the fate of Roma and Sinti has inevitably influenced current historical analyses, in which Gypsies are at most an afterthought. 3

It is clear that the persecution of Roma and Sinti on racial grounds preceded the Nazi assumption of power. Under the Second Empire and the

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