A review of Guenther Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies
, Oxford University Press, 2000
By Ian Hancock
When OUP [Oxford University Press] sent me the manuscript of The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies for evaluation, I returned it in some dudgeon, barely critiqued, saying only that it represented to me another example of the growing body of literature devoted to diminishing the place of the Romani people (“Gypsies”) in the Holocaust, and whatever I had to say in a review of the manuscript would probably go unheeded.
Lewy’s agenda was clearly already in place and the published work has demonstrated that. This is a book which seeks not only to exclude the Nazis’ Romani victims from the Holocaust-which is not anything new-but goes a step further to say that they were not even the targets of attempted genocide. Heavily reliant on Zimmermann (1996), it adds little to that author’s existing documentation but differs considerably in interpretation.
There are two aspects of this work that must come under scrutiny: firstly the claims it makes in support of the author’s case against genocide, and secondly, the biased tone in which those claims are made. I shall summarize the first aspect first. In short, Lewy states
1) That there was no racially-motivated general plan for a Final Solution of the Gypsy Question;
2) That the Nazis made a distinction between sedentary and migratory Romanies in the East and between mixed and unmixed Romanies in Germany, and spared some from death because of this;
3) That as a consequence the estimated number of half a million Romanies murdered is a gross exaggeration, and that “perhaps the majority” of them in Germany actually survived, and weren’t even transported to the East; and
4) Because there was no intent to kill all Romanies, and because policies against them were not motivated by Nazi race theory, their treatment cannot be compared with that of the Jews and therefore they do not qualify for inclusion in the Holocaust-in sum because their treatment did not constitute a genocide and it was not motivated by a policy based on Nazi race theory.
I shall address each point in turn, though only briefly; my arguments can be found in more detail in Hancock (1996). Firstly, that there was no “general plan” is hardly unique to the Romani case; the incarcerations, deportations and gassings took place nevertheless. We lack numbers of documented “general plans” for Nazi actions throughout the entire period, for all categories of victims. In fact “[n]o direct or indirect evidence . . . has been delivered which could prove the existence of a formal written order by Hitler to start the mass extermination of the Jews” (Hornshøy-Møller, 1999:I:313); absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
The statement that Nazi policy towards Romanies was not race-based is patently absurd. The belief that Romani “criminality” was a genetic defect which caused “hereditarily diseased offspring” is racist in itself, and was justification for terminating Romani “lives unworthy of life.” That very term (Lebensunwertesleben) was first used in print by Liebich in 1863 to refer specifically to Romanies; it was used six years later in an essay by Kulemann-once more solely to refer to Romanies-and again in the title of Binding & Hoche’s influential 1920 treatise on euthanasia. And it was used yet again just one year after Hitler came to power as the title of a law ordering sterilization which was directed inter alia at Romanies. Romanies were classified as possessing “alien” (i.e. non-Aryan) blood along with Jews and people of African descent following the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, and in November that year marriage between members of those three groups and Germans was made illegal. Statements against Romanies referring to their being a “racial” problem are numerous and well-documented. Criteria for determining who had Romani ancestry were exactly twice as strict as those determining who was of Jewish descent; the fact that even Gypsy-like people were targeted demonstrates that the Nazis were taking no chances with the possibility of undetected Romani ancestry infecting German citizens. Romanies were never regarded as a political or economic or religious danger to the Third Reich, as were the Jews: individuals of mixed Romani and European ancestry posed the greatest threat, and it was solely a racial one.
Secondly, the fact that some categories of Romanies were exempted from deportation is true; but the same is also true for some categories of Jews. The six thousand Karaim who successfully pleaded to be spared, for example, or the Jews married to non-Jews in the Netherlands. Eichmann himself was prepared to spare the lives of one million Jews in return for ten thousand trucks. This position on Eichmann’s part may be compared with Himmler’s desire to save some “pure” Roma as anthropological specimens; neither was acted upon.
Thirdly, of the estimated ca. 20,000 Romanies in Germany in 1939, fully three quarters had been murdered by 1945. Of the 11,200 in Austria, a half were murdered. Of the 50,000 in Poland, 35,000; In Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Luxembourg, almost the entire Romani populations were eradicated.
Lastly, the claim that the Nazis’ treatment of their Romani victims did not constitute genocide is bizarre to say the least (“The various deportations of Gypsies to the East and their deadly consequences do not constitute acts of genocide”- p. 223). This claim has been made more than once already, most forcefully by Katz:
The only defensible conclusion, the only adequate encompassing judgment . . . is that in comparison to the ruthless, monolithic, meta-political, genocidal design of Nazism vis-à-vis Jews, nothing similar . . . existed in the case of the Gypsies . . . In the end, it was only Jews and the Jews alone who were the victims of a total genocidal onslaught in both intent and practice at the hands of the Nazi murderers (Katz, 1988:213).
But there is no evidence that Jews or any other targeted group were intended to be eradicated from the face of the earth, however passionate a Nazi vision that might have been. We find instead numerous statements such as that in a letter from Thierack to Martin Bormann dated October 13th, 1939, in which he refers to “the intention of liberating the German area from Poles, Russians, Jews and Gypsies” (emphasis added). Hitler’s own statement, made publicly on January 30th earlier that same year, envisioned “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” (emphasis added). Documents such as that issued on August 14th, 1942 by the Central Security Office’s Department VI-D(7b) asking for information on Romanies living in Britain, and that British POWs be routinely interrogated about the condition and status of Romanies in that country suggest that, had the Nazis won, their anti-Romani policies would have been extended overseas.
Similar fact-finding memos about Jews overseas also existed-but no document has been identified specifically expressing the intent to exterminate every Jew or Gypsy on the planet. That being the case, such statements as Katz’ or the Anti-Defamation League’s or Lewy’s are revisionist and subjective, and cannot be used to distinguish the fate of Jews from the fate of Romanies. What we have as a result are various interpretations based on circumstantial evidence (the “intentionalist” approach, the “semiotic” approach and so on-see Breitman, 1991), and it is his interpretation, not his objective evidence, upon which Lewy rests his case. It is also interpretation which prompts the statement in the Auschwitz Memorial Book that “[t]he final resolution, as formulated by Himmler, in his ‘Decree for Basic Regulations to Resolve the Gypsy Question as Required by the Nature of Race’ of December 8th, 1938, meant that preparations were to begin for the complete extermination of Sinti and Roma” (State Museum, 1993:xiv).
Disqualifying Romanies as victims of genocide is Lewy’s major criterion for also excluding them from the Holocaust itself, for denying, in fact, that there was a Romani Holocaust. The battle over ownership of that word is a latter-day phenomenon, yet it has been a part of the English language for centuries, according to the Oxford English Dictionary first appearing in print around 1250 AD. Its use in a purely religious context dates from 1833, in a book by Leitch Ritchie, in which is described the fate of over a thousand people in 18th century France who were locked inside a church and burned to death at the order of King Louis VII: “Louis VII . . . once made a holocaust of thirteen hundred persons in a church (p. 104).” It has led to a distinction being made between Upper-Case Holocaust and lower-case holocaust, or to the abandonment of the term altogether for Shoah. This at least is specific to the fate of Jews, as Porrajmos (“paw-rye-mawss”) is to the fate of the Romani people.
A widespread interpretation of its meaning is found at “Holocaust” on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, where it states:
The Holocaust was the systematic persecution and annihilation of more than six million Jews as a central act of state by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. Although millions of others, such as Romani, Sinti (sic), homosexuals, the disabled and political opponents of the Nazi regime were also victims of persecution and murder, only the Jews were singled out for total extermination (ADL, 2000).
A more scholarly interpretation, and one which names Romanies correctly, is found in the German government’s handbook on Holocaust education:
Recent historical research in the United States and Germany does not support the conventional argument that the Jews were the only victims of Nazi genocide. True, the murder of Jews by the Nazis differed from the Nazis’ killing of political prisoners and foreign opponents because it was based on the genetic origin of the victims and not on their behavior. The Nazi regime applied a consistent and inclusive policy of extermination-based on heredity-only against three groups of human beings: the handicapped, Jews, and Sinti and Roma (“Gypsies”). The Nazis killed multitudes, including political and religious opponents, members of the resistance, elites of conquered nations, and homosexuals, but always based these murders on the belief, actions and status of those victims. Different criteria applied only to the murder of the handicapped, Jews, and “Gypsies.” Members of these groups could not escape their fate by changing their behavior or belief. They were selected because they existed (Milton, 2000:14)
The second aspect of the book-and the one which concerns me most-is the tone in which it is written. This is a book about Romani people written by someone who does not know any Romani people, and who admits to deliberately not seeking their input in its compilation. No Romanies are credited in the acknowledgments. Lewy has no expertise in Romani Studies, and apart from a couple of recent articles excerpted from the same book, he has never published anything on Romanies before this. It reflects one facet of a disturbing trend which seems to be emerging in Holocaust studies, most recently expressed on an Australian-based Holocaust website which proclaims that “just mentioning Gypsies in the same breath as the Jewish victims is an insult to their memory! (David, 2000).” This statement differs hardly at all from that made by the Darmstadt city mayor who, in an address to the municipal Sinti and Roma Council, said that their request for recognition “insults the honor of the memory of the Holocaust victims” by aspiring to be associated with them (Anon., 1986), evidence that this kind of antigypsyism extends well beyond the confines of Holocaust scholarship. The motive for writing this book, therefore, was evidently not to add to our knowledge of Roma, but to support the Jewish “uniquist” position, Lewy’s swan-song upon his retirement from The University of Massachusetts.
His section on history is flawed and anemic; most of it relies heavily on Fonseca’s journalistic, non-academic book Bury Me Standing. He accepts negative stereotypes without comment, quoting e.g. Martin Block, whose 1936 book was commissioned by the Nazi Party and served as one of their fundamental guides to the “Zigeuner”, and who says Romanies “are masters in the art of lying.” Having made the point once, Lewy then reinforces Block’s statement in a footnote by repeating Fonseca’s similar racist observation that “Gypsies lie. They lie a lot. More often and more inventively than other people.” He unnecessarily quotes the editor of a Roman Catholic magazine who recently wrote that Romanies are “with exceptions, a lazy, lying, thieving and extraordinarily filthy people . . . exceedingly disagreeable people to be around.”
Accepting uncritically the opinions of prejudiced non-Romani authors and presenting their statements as fact, and repeating undefended racist venom while calling it merely “intemperate,” suggests that to Lewy such statements are not questionable, and that we are not real people at all, but simply subjects in books written by other non-Romanies. We are not real people with real sensitivities and real aspirations in the real world, and we were not real people in the Holocaust. All in all, in his opening chapter Lewy seems to take delight in documenting the “nasty” aspects of Romanies; he doesn’t seem to like us very much at all. In a blame-the-victim statement (p. ll) he says “prejudice alone, I submit, is not sufficient explanation for the hostility directed at the Gypsies . . . certain characteristics of Gypsy life tend to reinforce or even create hostility.”. He even puts himself in charge of what we should be called, maintaining that “in fact there is nothing pejorative, per se, about the word ‘Zigeuner’” (p. ix). One suggestion I did make before returning the original manuscript to OUP was that the author remove the word “mysterious” in his description of us from his text.
There are dozens of examples of this kind of insensitivity here and in Lewy’s other writings. He repeats for example Yehuda Bauer’s viciously insulting statement that my people were nothing more than a “minor irritant” as far as the Nazis were concerned. Minor irritants are not called Zigeunerplage or Zigeunerbedrohung or Zigeunergeschmeiss as the Nazis referred to us (“Gypsy plague,” “Gypsy menace,” “Gypsy scum”). The Bureau of Gypsy Affairs was not moved from Munich to Hitler’s capital in Berlin in 1936 simply so that the Nazis could keep a close eye on a “minor irritant.” In a paper presented at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s symposium on the Romani Holocaust in September, 2000, he stated that “Gypsies were fortunate in not being the chosen victims of the Holocaust,” heedless of the gross insensitivity evident in using a word such as “fortunate” in the context of the Holocaust.
In the same paper Lewy maintains that Romanies weren’t sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be killed, that other inmates “envied” them there, and that in some camps, they were merely murdered for carrying disease or for taking up space. Throughout his writing, Lewy tempers his prejudices with the requisite sympathetic lip-service presumably lest he be accused of bias, yet he includes no discussion of the ongoing persecution of Romanies since 1945, of how there was no representation at the Nuremberg Trials, or no war crimes reparations forthcoming, of how neo-Nazi violence is directed-today-mainly at the Romani people, of how The New York Times and CNN have both called Romanies “the most persecuted in Europe today.”
As I write, the Greek government is already systematically removing Romanies by force and demolishing their homes at the site of the next Olympic Games, just as Hitler did in Berlin in 1936 and the Spanish government did in 1992 in Barcelona. Romani women were being involuntarily sterilized in Slovakia into the 1980s. These issues, in the context of what the Holocaust must teach us, mean nothing to Mr. Lewy, and it is because he can feel no empathy for a people who remain complete strangers to him.
Having to deal with the same lack of concern is something that confronts Romanies constantly. Representatives in the USA wanting to be included in the disbursement of the Swiss assets looted by the Nazis have certainly been made to feel like “a minor irritant;” while Ward Churchill devoted a lengthy chapter to the unfair treatment of Romanies by Holocaust scholars in his book A Little Matter of Genocide, neither of its two reviewers in the last issue of this journal even mention it. In January, 2000, the Swedish government hosted an international conference on the Holocaust in response to the sharp increase in neo-Nazi activity in eastern Europe. Sinti and Roma were not only Holocaust victims, but they are also the main targets of skinhead violence today-yet not even one session on Romanies was included in the entire Stockholm forum.
The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies is a dangerous book. It is another title in the antiquated tradition of an expert treatise on a people whom the author has never met nor has made any effort to meet. How can you feel compassion for a people you don’t know? We are an abstraction, to be discussed in our absence and, worse, even in our presence, as though we don’t really exist, with no thought for our feelings or our dignity. It will, I am sorry to say, be widely read, and is already being quoted as “evidence” to argue for the exclusion of the Romani people from their rightful place in Holocaust history. Lewy unfairly dismisses Kenrick & Puxon’s groundbreaking 1972 Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies, the first full-length book of the subject in English, as “short of [being] a satisfactory treatment.” But his own agenda-driven effort comes nowhere near replacing it, and my recommendation is that those wanting scholarly, contemporary sources on the Porrajmos rely on the Interface multi-volume series Gypsies During the Second World War from the University of Hertfordshire Press.
ADL, 2000. http://www.adl.org/frames/front_holocaust.html
Anon., 1986. “Tragedy of the Gypsies,” Information Bulletin No. 26. Vienna: Dokumentationszentrum des Bundes Jüdische Verfolgte des Naziregimes.
Binding, Karl, & Alfred Hoche, 1920. Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens. Leipzig: Felix Meiner.
Block, Martin, 1936. Die Zigeuner: Ihr Leben und ihr Seele. Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut.
Breitman, Richard, 1991. The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution. New York: Knopf.
Charney, Israel, ed., 1999. Encyclopedia of Genocide, Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. In two vols.
Churchill, Ward, 1997. A Little Matter of Genocide. Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present. San Francisco: City Lights Books.
David, L., 2000. http://member.telpacific.com.au/david1/The_Holocaust.htm
- June 14th.
Fonseca, Isabel, 1995. Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and their Journey. New York: Knopf.
Hancock, Ian, 1996. “Responses to the Porrajmos: The Romani Holocaust,” in Rosenbaum, 1996, 39-64.
Heye, Uwe-Karsten, Joachim Sartorius & Ulrich Bopp, eds., 2000. Learning from History: The Nazi Era and the Holocaust in German Education. Berlin: Press and Information Office of the Federal Government.
Hornshøy-Møller, Stig, 1999. “Hitler and the Nazi decision-making process to commit the Holocaust,” in Charney, 1999, vol. I, 313-315.
Katz, Steven, 1988. “Quantity and interpretation: Issues in the comparative historical analysis of the Holocaust,” Remembering for the Future: Papers to be Presented at the Scholars’ Conference, Supplementary Volume, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 200-218.
Kenrick, Donald, & Grattan Puxon, 1972. The Destiny of Europe’s Gypsies. New York: Basic Books.
Liebich, Richard, 1863. Die Zigeuner in ihrem Wesen und ihre Sprache. Leipzig: Brockhaus.
Milton, Sybil, 2000. “Holocaust education in The United States and Germany,” in Heye, 14-20.
Ritchie, Leitch, 1833. Wanderings by the Loire. London: Longman & Co.
Rosenbaum, Alan S., ed., 1996. Is the Holocaust Unique? Boulder & Oxford: The Westview Press.
State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1993. Memorial Book: The Gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Munich: Saur Verlag.
Zimmermann, Michael, 1996. Rassenutopie und Genozid: Die nationalsozialistische ‘Lösung der Zigeunerfrage’ Hamburg: Christians Verlag.
The Romani Archives and Documentation Center
Calhoun Hall 501
The University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712 USA
Reproduced with permission of the author, Ian Hancock.
Posted 23 September 2000.
Read more: http://www.oocities.com/~Patrin/lewy.htm#ixzz0uzcgt1wY
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: July 17, 2010JERUSALEM
— Amid the horrors of the Holocaust, the atrocities perpetrated by a few brutal women have always stood out, like aberrations of nature.
There were notorious camp guards like Ilse Koch and Irma Grese. And lesser known killers like Erna Petri, the wife of an SS officer and a mother who was convicted of shooting to death six Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland; or Johanna Altvater Zelle, a German secretary accused of child murder in the Volodymyr-Volynskyy ghetto in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
The Nazi killing machine was undoubtedly a male-dominated affair. But according to new research, the participation of German women in the genocide, as perpetrators, accomplices or passive witnesses, was far greater than previously thought.
Article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/world/europe/18holocaust.html
By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writer Monika Scislowska, Associated Press Writer – Sun Dec 20, 8:34 pm ET
WARSAW, Poland – Polish police found the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign that was stolen from the gate of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz after an intensive three-day hunt and arrested five suspects, police said early Monday. The sign was found cut into three pieces.
Police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo told The Associated Press that the sign was found Sunday night in northern Poland, the other end of the country from the southern Polish town where the Auschwitz memorial museum is located and where it disappeared before dawn Friday.
Padlo said police detained five men between the ages of 25 and 39 and took them for questioning to Krakow, which is the regional command of the area that includes the Auschwitz museum.
Another police spokesman, Dariusz Nowak, said the 16-foot (5-meter) sign, made of hollow steel, was found cut into three pieces, each containing one of the words. The cruelly ironic phrase means "Work Sets You Free" and ran completely counter to the purpose of Auschwitz, which began as a concentration camp for political prisoners during the Nazi occupation of Poland and evolved into an extermination camp where Jews were gassed to death in factory-like fashion.
The police refused to divulge any details of the circumstances in which the sign was found or to speculate on the motive of the perpetrators. They were expected to disclose more at a news conference in Krakow planned for 0800 GMT (3 a.m. EST) Monday.
The sign that topped the main gate at the Auschwitz memorial site was stolen early Friday, setting off an international outcry at the disappearance of one of the most chilling and best known symbols of the Holocaust. State authorities made finding it a priority and appealed to all Poles for assistance.
Museum authorities welcomed the news with huge relief despite the damage done to the sign. Spokesman Pawel Sawicki said conservation experts will have to determine how best to repair it and that the museum authorities hope to restore it to its place as soon as possible.
Sawicki said the museum staff did not yet know who carried out the theft or why and were themselves waiting for more information from police.
More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, but also Gypsies, Poles and others, died in the gas chambers or from starvation and disease while performing forced labor at Auschwitz, which Nazi Germany built in occupied Poland during World War II. The camp was liberated by the Soviet army on Jan. 27, 1945.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Poland to act to find "these twisted criminals that desecrated the place where over a million Jews were murdered."
"The sign is of the deepest historical importance to the Jewish people and the whole world, and is a tombstone for more than a million Jews," Netanyahu said.
Associated Press Writer Vanessa Gera contributed to this report.
Nazis' cynical slogan disappeared overnight, Polish police say
Herbert Knosowski / AP
Visitors walk under the sign at the entrance gate of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Oswiecim, southern Poland, in this photo taken on Jan. 26, 2005.
WARSAW, Poland - The infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis' cynical slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen before dawn Friday, Polish police said. The wide iron sign — across a gate at the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland where more than 1 million people died during World War II — was removed by being unscrewed on one side and torn off on the other, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said. She said the sign — bearing the German words for "Work Sets You Free" — disappeared from the Auschwitz memorial between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Police have launched an intensive hunt, with criminal investigators and search dogs sent to the grounds of the vast former death camp, whose barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers still stand as testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany on Jews, Gypsies, and others.
Museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki called the theft a "desecration" and said it was shocking that the tragic history of the site did not stop the thieves.
"We believe that the perpetrators will be found soon and the inscription will be returned to its place," Sawicki told The Associated Press.
Padlo said there are currently no suspects but police are pursuing several theories. A 5,000-zloty ($1,700) reward has been offered to anyone who can help track down the perpetrators.
An exact replica of the sign — made by the museum after World War II — was immediately hung in place of the missing original to fill in the empty space, but all visitors were being informed about the theft, Sawicki said. The museum had the replica made to hang when restoration work has been required on the original, Sawicki said.
The original sign was made in the summer of 1940 by non-Jewish Polish inmates of Auschwitz in an iron workshop at the camp, Sawicki said.
‘Physical reminder’ Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said he had trouble imagining who would steal the sign and condemned the theft.
"If they are pranksters, they'd have to be sick pranksters, or someone with a political agenda. But whoever has done it has desecrated world memory," he told the AP.
"Auschwitz has to stand intact because without it, we are without the world's greatest reminder — physical reminder — of what we are capable of doing to each other," Schudrich said.
The slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" was also used at the entrances to other Nazi camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen. The long curving sign at Auschwitz, is, however, perhaps the best known.
1 million deaths Between 1940 and 1945, more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed or died of starvation and disease while carrying out forced labor at the camp, which the Nazis built in occupied Poland.
Today the site is one of the main draws in the region for visitors from abroad and Polish students, with more than 1 million visitors per year.
However, the barracks and other structures, which were not built to last many decades, are in a state of massive disrepair 65 years after the camp was liberated by the Soviet army, and Polish authorities have been struggling to find funds to carry out conservation work. This week, Germany pledged (EURO) 60 million ($87 million) to a new endowment that will fund long-term preservation work — half the estimated amount that officials with the Auschwitz memorial museum say is needed.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
by Michael Paulson March 3, 2009 03:11 PM http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles_of_faith/2009/03/holocaustdenyin.html
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony (right) of Los Angeles today is announcing that he is barring the Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop, Richard Williamson, from entering any church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In an unusual step, Mahony and two Jewish leaders penned a joint op-ed piece that today is being published in both the archdiocesan newspaper, The Tidings, and a local Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Journal.
"Williamson's recent 'apologies' fall far short of satisfying the letter or the spirit of the Vatican's directives. Yet while Williamson seems unwilling or unable to reject his odious positions, many religious and civic leaders have used his situation to acknowledge the Holocaust and to affirm its unique and terrible place in history.
We are heartened by the many leaders around the world who have rejected Williamson's views. In particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Argentine Minister of the Interior Florencio Randazzo, whose country recently expelled Williamson, not to mention nearly 50 Catholic members of the U.S. Congress who wrote to the Vatican to express their concerns.
In the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Williamson is hereby banned from entering any Catholic church, school or other facility, until he and his group comply fully and unequivocally with the Vatican's directives regarding the Holocaust. Later this year, I, Cardinal Mahony, will visit Israel and pay my respects to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem. Holocaust deniers like Williamson will find no sympathetic ear or place of refuge in the Catholic Church, of which he is not --- and may never become --- a member."
Augsburg, WEST GERMANY, 03 July 1980
The world is slowly, very slowly, beginning to acknowledge some of Auschwitz' other victims. Four decades after the notorious camp was closed, a plaque here, a promised cultural center there, a possible investigation of discrimination elsewhere, is all that commemorates the martyrdom of the Roma.
But that's one more plaque, cultural center, and acknowledgment of prejudice than the second-largest group of Hitler's victims -- after the Jews -- could claim a few weeks ago. and Franz Wirbel and his fellow Roma are grateful for that.
As a boy, Franz Wirbel was expelled from school in 1936 for the crime of being born into the wrong race. In 1938 his family was restricted to the west Prussian town where they lived. In 1941 they were deported to Poland and then interned, first in the Stutthof and then in other concentration camps. His mother was separated from him in Auschwitz on Aug. 2, 1944, at 4 p.m. and burned to death at 6. He lost sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, 39 relatives in all, in the Holocaust.
Because of his youth and hardy constitution he managed to survive Nazi "experiments" in freezing, and was freed by the Americans in 1945. He married, but the couple has no children, for his wife had been sterilized in the camps.
Mr. Wirbel can still remember every stone in Auschwitz. And he still bears the number Z9805 tattooed on his arm. Yet he does not receive the usual monetary restitution for camp survivors, because, he explains, officials told him back in the '60s that he hadn't filed his documentation in time. He lives today by repairing musical instruments. And he thinks the real reason he hasn't gotten reparations is that he is a Roma.
By last spring, Mr. Wirbel had enough of second-class citizenship and the absence even of public recognition that half a million Romanies -- the nonpejorative name for Europe's Roma -- perished in the extermination camps.
He and eleven other Sinti (German Romanies) went on a hunger strike at the Dachau camp memorial near the Bavarian capital, Munich, to demand full "moral rehabilitation."
Among the other hunger strikers were Romani Rose, who lost thirteen relatives in the camps; Jakob Bamberger, who was forced in Dachau to drink nothing except sea water for eighteen days in "survival experiments"; Hans Braun, whose mother, father, and nine sisters and brothers died in Auschwitz, while his sons are still assigned schoolbooks saying that Roma steal chickens, evade work, and eat snake meat and carrion; and Vinzenz Rose, who was awarded the West German Distinguished Service Cross in 1978, but was told a year later that an official dossier states (completely falsely) that the Rose family had been thieves.
The hunger strike was resisted by Bavarian officials, by Jewish spokesmen, and by most Dachau and Munich clergymen. But one Lutheran prodeacon let the Sinti conduct their fast in the Dachau camp memorial chapel.
The eight days without food turned out to be an act of consciousness-raising both for the strikers and for West Germany as a whole. The Bavarian government was shamed into admitting that there had been postwar injustices against Sinti and that the "necessary dismantling of prejudice and discrimination" has yet to be achieved. The Bavarian Roman Catholic cardinal and Lutheran bishop to counteract prejudice against "Roma" in their churches. The West German justice minister telegraphed his personal support for the Sinti Cause.
A joint statement by the Bavarian Interior Ministry state secretary and representatives of the three parties in the Bavarian legislature called for tolerance and understanding of Sinti by the public and even Bavarian Interior Minister Gerold Tandler -- who had previously termed the Sinti complaints "slanders" and called their demands "unreasonable" -- finally agreed to investigate any injustice in "individual" cases.
The hunger strike proved to be a catalyst for other actions. In May, north German government officials offered the Sinti a memorial in the Bergen-Belsen campsite. The Bavarian Cultural Ministry offered to finance a center where young Sinti could study their native language and their people's heritage.
Bureaucrats became more sensitive to the miserly awarding of standard reparations to Sinti, and to the bizarre postwar circulation of anti-Gypsy Nazi records.
The issue of reparations arises from West Germany's unique program of making payments to the victims of Nazi persecution as a gesture of contrition. In the case of Jews this program is well established. But in the case of Sinti, up to ninety percent of those who should receive compensation do not, according to Sinti spokesmen. Vinzenz Rose's humiliating experience in a reparations office in 1979 is repeated many times over every year -- and the documents cited to withhold payments are often as scurrilous as the allegation that the Rose family had been thieves.
The reason for the West German discrimination in compensation -- and the main object of the Sinti hunger strike -- is the long-lived heritage of the Nazi police central office to combat the "Roma Pest" in Munich. This office, which provided the files to round up Roma and deport them to concentration and annihilation camps in the Third Reich, was dissolved after the war.
A euphemistically named "Vagrants Center" was set up in Munich, however, that preserved the old Nazi files and distributed them indiscriminately to local police in West Germany to promote surveillance of the country's 50,000 Sinti.
And under a 1953 Bavarian law "nomadic tribes" had to carry identification documents for their members that included fingerprints -- and they were allowed to move only with permission of the Vagrants' Center.
In 1970, the Vagrants' Center was formally dissolved, and officials of the Bavarian Interior Ministry in Munich say the old files were destroyed over the next four years. Yet they still keep surfacing in cases where reparations are denied Sinti applicants because of alleged criminality.
Thus, one Sinto woman was refused reparations because her own "serious arrest" and prison term in Austria (in Nazi times) were held to disqualify her for compensation. Yet the "serious arrest" and prison term -- in a Nazi concentration camp -- were precisely what she was seeking compensation for.
Similarly, records of Sinti's insulting or accusing the Gestapo have been interpreted as proof of their criminality when they have applied for reparations. and Wirbel and his friends still have not won the full acknowledgment they sought from the Bavarian Interior Ministry -- that the Vagrants' Center practiced racial discrimination and violated the rights of the Sinti in its entire postwar operation.
West Germany is far from the only European country where Romanies encounter difficulties. Throughout Western and Eastern Europe prejudice against and persecution of the five million Romanies have long been a fact of life, various Council of Europe and other studies repeatedly conclude. Yet little has been done to correct the situation.
In Eastern Europe, apart from Yugoslavia, forced denomadization and assimilation is the rule. And in Western Europe those Romany who are nomads frequently meet with police harassment when they stop for the night. (In West Germany, moreover, they are explicitly forbidden access to public trailer parks.) Only the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Britain, have begun providing caravan sites for Romanies.
Romanies also find it hard to get jobs, because of their lack of training and the widespread belief that they are thieves. Sweden seems to be the only country to have begun a modest training and placement program for them.
Illiteracy is high, and no European country has come up with an education program that effectively reaches Romany children and gives them decent choices in the adult world. Only a few West German cities like Cologne and Freiburg are beginning even to provide Sinti nurseries and youth clubs.
Franz Wirbel's consciousness-raising, it seems, still has a long way to go.
By Elizabeth Pond
Read more articles about the Roma and the Holocaust at www.pir-mk.blogspot.com/search/label/Forum
Political party for Roma integration-PIR
Dear Ms. Gillet,
It is quite outrageous that there is no inclusion whatsoever of the Romani victims of the Holocaust in the UN event.
Please read the following and circulate amongst the organizers.
The Romani Archives and Documentation Center
The University of Texas at Austin
Recent historical research in the United States and Germany does not support the conventional argument that the Jews were the only victims of Nazi genocide. True, the murder of Jews by the Nazis differed from the Nazis' killing of political prisoners and foreign opponents because it was based on the genetic origin of the victims and not on their behaviour. The Nazi regime applied a consistent and inclusive policy of extermination based on heredity only against three groups of human beings: the handicapped, Jews, and Sinti and Roma ("Gypsies"). The Nazis killed multitudes, including political and religious opponents, members of the resistance, elites of conquered nations, and homosexuals, but always based these murders on the belief, actions and status of those victims. Different criteria applied only to the murder of the handicapped, Jews, and "Gypsies". Members of these groups could not escape their fate by changing their behavior or belief. They were selected because they existed.
Heye, Sartorius & Bopp, 2000: 14( Read moreCollapse )
x-posted to romaandfriends
For those of you who use iTunes, there are several .pdf files available free from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. There are also videos of Holocaust survivors, and multimedia presentations, including a section on Genocide Awareness and Prevention.
If you don't have iTunes, it's free to download it, which you can do here
I highly recommend checking it out.
"A Vanished World" provides unique glimpse of Romani and Sinti life destroyed by Holocaust
This week saw the opening of "A Vanished World" a unique photo exhibition at the National Gallery's Veletrzni Palac in Prague. The show is based solely on never before publicly viewed photographs of Roma and Sinti families who once lived in the Czech lands. The show represents lives and a way of life, destroyed in the Romani Holocaust.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus attended the opening of the show on Wednesday and praised efforts by organisers in mapping Czech Roma history.
President Vaclav Klaus:
"I think that the exhibition is important: this is something that we usually don't see here. To put together all this documentary material is important for the Roma themselves and I am sure it is important for the majority of the population of the Czech Republic. So, I wish for people to come here and see it."
Mr Klaus was far from alone in his praise for the show, which was held partly under the auspices of the president as well as the auspices of Prague city hall. Wednesday also saw attendance by other public figures including the minister for minority rights, Dzamila Stehlikova, former dissident Jiri Dientsbier, and members of the Roma and Sinti communities. Cenek Ruzicka - president of the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust - was critical in his opening speech, saying that a large majority of the Czech population viewed the Roma as an alien element, despite the minority's long roots in the Czech lands.
"The aim of this exhibition is to show to visitors that the Roma and Sinti were always part of the Czech lands. Dear visitors, it is my personal wish that the genocide of the Roma and Sinti and destruction of their culture to make it into the history books. You will find nothing of original Roma and Sinti history in Czech history books."
On many levels the exhibition itself is personal, presenting family photographs of the Roma and Sinti from the early part of the 20th century, now lives almost entirely forgotten. Parents, their children, grandparents, are seen in the pictures sometimes in photographers' studios, sometimes on the road, sometimes in the fields. There is the photo of a young married couple or the young officer in the army, the family gathering bringing together generations, a child recovering in hospital. I spoke to Markus Pape from the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust, who put extensive work into bringing the exhibition together:
"The main issue to show the real world of the Roma and Sinti who lived in this country for 600 years until they were almost entirely exterminated by the Nazis, and whose history and cultures are almost entirely unknown by Czechs today. Unfortunately Czechs don't know what to be proud of. This is kind of a first opportunity for them to see what kind of a rich culture lived here and what was finally destroyed."
Prior to World War II in Czechoslovakia's First Republic many of the Roma in Moravia lived in settlements while Bohemian Roma were more nomadic. Cenek Ruzicka says that even then they were discriminated against:
"Law 117 dating back to 1924 forced Roma to have identity cards. The Roma weren't allowed to enter numerous villages. They had to be constantly registered. That's the kind of discrimination Romanies and Sinti have always had to put up with. Most made them aware they were second-class citizens. But when you look at the photographs you see they weren't. They were normal, well-dressed, educated and intelligent people. A non-problematic people. I don't understand why almost this entire community was killed during the Second World War for reasons of race. For what reason?"
Given the tragic history that followed, there's no way of viewing the exhibition without the Holocaust at the back of one's mind. The terrible impact of the Nazis' final solution is felt even though the camps and the gas chambers are for the most part not explicitly mentioned. Markus Pape says that not discussing the Holocaust until the last stage of the exhibit was an important decision.
"It's a very unusual exhibition about the Holocaust because it doesn't focus on the perpetrators nor on the horrible pictures we've known for decades from Auschwitz and other concentration camps or documents of persecution. This new exhibit tries to show their own view of the Roma and Sinti themselves: they went to a photographer's studio and asked him to photograph them. This is their view: not what some policeman or racist thought about them. Not someone who tried to make them look like criminals and deform their image. We believe that this way the Holocaust and its results and tragedy will be better understood.
"During the last decade we collected lots of historical materials in state archives but the photographs that are seen here today are only from family archives. We travelled all over the country and persuaded survivors or families of survivors that it makes sense to show - for the first time - their world."
The glimpse into their lives is nevertheless not "fully" complete: in all of the photos, the subjects and their stories remain anonymous. Says Markus Pape, for good reason:
"For centuries these people were taught by their parents to take care of their privacy and not to talk. Not to let anybody know who they are. This is a kind of survival strategy which is valid up to today. Also, you don't see all the photos we found: there are still certain moments in the live or the Roma that they don't want the public to see. Funerals and so on. They say 'we still want to retain some of the taboos'. A special quality of this exhibition is that you don't see the names. "
It is inevitable that some images - even the most ordinary portraits - will stick in the viewer's mind: there is a father's proud expression as he stands next to his small son, there is fear in the eyes of a young accordionist sitting in a studio chair flanked by a lying dog; there are the smiling faces of sisters and friends. One can only guess at their personal stories and fates. One of the most enduring images is then a drawing by a Sinti boy at Auschwitz, a drawing which brings the scope of the Romani tragedy full circle. The drawing could be of a Roma caravan or it could be the gas chambers: there are many possible interpretations.
It has been estimated that 5,000 Czech Romanies were transported to Auschwitz. Only 583 ever returned. As a consequence only a few thousand Roma originally of Czech descent live in the Czech Republic today. The rest of the Roma minority in the country, estimated at 250,000, originally had roots in Slovakia.
Final Call for Papers:
Beyond camps and forced labour: current international research on survivors of Nazi persecution.
Third international multidisciplinary conference, to be held at the Imperial War Museum, London, 7-9 January 2009
CALL FOR PAPERS
This conference is planned as a follow-up to the two successful conferences,
which took place at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2003 and 2006. It will
continue to build on areas previously investigated, and also open up new fields
of academic enquiry.
The aim is to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines who are
engaged in research on all groups of survivors of Nazi persecution. These will
include - but are not limited to - Jews, Gypsies and Slavonic people, Jehovah's
Witnesses, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents, members
of underground movements, the disabled, the so-called 'racially impure', and
forced labourers. For the purpose of the conference, a 'survivor' is defined as
anyone who suffered any form of persecution by the Nazis or their allies as a
result of the Nazis' racial, political, ideological or ethnic policies from
1933 to 1945, and who survived the Second World War.
The organisers welcome proposals, which focus on topics and themes of the 'life
after', ranging from the experience of liberation to the trans-generational
impact of persecution, individual and collective memory and consciousness, and
questions of theory and methodology. We are also interested in comparative
papers that discuss the experience of victims of forced population transfers
during the war and in the immediate post-war years, including the
historiographical development from polemical and memoirist approaches to
empirical, analytical, and critical studies.
Specific conference themes anticipated are:
* DPs in post-war Europe
* Reception and resettlement
* Survivors in Eastern Europe
* Exiles and refugees in the reconstruction process
* Rescuers and liberators
* Child survivors
* Women survivors and gender issues
* Trials and justice
* Testimony and memory
* Film and photography
* Psychological approaches: trauma, amnesia, intergenerational transmission
* Educational issues
* Remembrance and memorials
* Museums and archives
The Advisory Board consists of: Dan Bar-On (Ben Gurion University of the Negev),
Wolfgang Benz (Technical University Berlin), Gerhard Botz (University of
Vienna), Helga Embacher (University of Salzburg), Evelyn Friedlander (Hidden
Legacy Foundation, London), Atina Grossmann (Cooper Union, New York), Wolfgang
Jacobmeyer (University of M�nster), Yosefa Loshitzky (University of East
London), Hanna Ulatowska (University of Texas at Dallas), Inge Weber-Newth
(London Metropolitan University).
Fees: No more than GBP135 for speakers. The fee includes admission to all panels
and evening events, lunches, coffees and teas. Further information and
registration details will be made available in 2008.
It is intended to publish the conference proceedings. The conference is being organised by:
Suzanne Bardgett, Imperial War Museum, London
David Cesarani, Royal Holloway, University of London
Jessica Reinisch, Birkbeck College London
Johannes-Dieter Steinert, University of Wolverhampton*source: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roma_Daily_News/message/7290