Roma in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp

Locating sources about Roma people in the Holocaust proved to be rather difficult, unlike those
available about Jewish victims. The difficulty might be reflected in the difference between the
literate culture of the sedentary way of life of Jewish people, and the manly illiterate one of
Roma people due to their wandering lifestyle. Even though Roma was ‘’an Aryan’’ according to
the Nazi racial typology, they were relentlessly pursued and exterminated by the Nazi

Roma became a racist dilemma for Nazi Germany. Although the Roma were Aryans, the image
Roma people held in Nazi mind were in contradiction with what they described as Aryan racial
superiority. They were officially defined as non-Aryan by the Nuremberg laws in 1935, which
also first defined Jews. Later, Roma people were labeled as asocial by the 1937 Laws against
Crime, regardless of them committing crimes or not. SS Reichsfuehrer Himmler established the
Central Office for Fighting the Gypsy (Roma) Menace in 1938.
On January 30, 1940, a conference was held in Berlin, and a decision was made to expel 30,000
Roma from Germany to German-occupied Poland. Not only was Roma expelled from Germany,
the reports of the SS Einsatzgruppen which operated in occupied territories of the Soviet Union
mentioned the murder of thousands of Roma along with the extermination of the Jews.
The Roma deportations and executions fell under Himmler’s authority. Order to send Roma to
concentration camps was issued on December 16, 1942, by Himmler with few exceptions. This
order marked the establishment of a special Roma camp (Roma Family Camp) in the Auschwitz-
Birkenau concentration camp where the Roma people from Germany and other parts of Europe
were to be sent and gassed.

Roma or Gypsy family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp operated differently
than the rest of the camp. Roma people were allowed to keep their civilian clothes and families
were allowed to live together. Around 23,000 Roma were deported to Auschwitz. Conditions in
the Gypsy family camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau contributed to the spread of infectious diseases
and epidemics, severely reducing the camp population due to the overcrowding of Roma

Roma people in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp also served for SS quasi-medical
research under SS Captain Dr. Josef Mengele as test subjects for his pseudo-scientific research.
Dr. Mengele chose twins and dwarves for his genetic and anthropological experiments.
Transport carrying around 1700 Roma prisoners that came in March 1944 were all murdered
few days after arrival to the camp because some were ill. In May of 1944, the camp leadership
decided to execute the prisoners of the Gypsy camp. Roma tried to resist, SS decided not to
fight directly and transfer around 3,000 Roma to Auschwitz I and other concentration camps

around Germany. After the transfer was complete SS moved against Roma prisoners and killed
between 4,200 and 4,300 prisoners.
Almost all the gypsy prisoners were killed in the gas chambers of Birkenau. It is estimated that
at least 19,000 of 23,000 Roma sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau died there. As for the total number
of Roma victims in World War II, the exact number cannot be ascertained. The number of
victims of Nazi Germany prosecution of Roma people is between 250,000 and 500,000.

Our trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau

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