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The Romani Holocaust

November 15, 2017

The Romani (once referred to as “Gypsies”) were declared by Heinrich Himmler on this date in 1943 to be “on the same level as Jews and [to be] placed in concentration camps.” This intensified the incarceration and obliteration of Romani people that Himmler had ordered the previous December. Romani losses in the Porajmos (“Devouring” or “Destruction” in the Romani language) are estimated by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to number between 220,000 and half a million. (Other estimates go as high as 1.5 million.) Thousands were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nazi racial “science” considered the Romani people to be “Aryan” in origin since they were descended from migrating peoples from northern India. This slowed their persecution to a degree. But various Nazi studies determined that only 10 percent were of “pure Gypsy blood.” Himmler at first proposed resettling the “pure” Romani on a remote reservation, but in the end all Roma became subject to genocide.

“Without full acknowledgment that Gypsies were victims of the Holocaust, too little attention is paid to the current situation in Europe where Gypsies are frequently victims of prejudice and racially motivated mob attacks.” —Toby F. Sonneman, Shared Sorrows