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The Persecution of the Roma and Sinti
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The persecution of the Roma and Sinti
A Serbian policeman escorts a group of Roma to their execution.

The Roma and the Sinti are the two main branches of people who are often known as "Gypsies." The Roma and Sinti consider the term "Gypsy" offensive, so they do not use that word themselves. The Roma and Sinti were among the first victims of the Nazis. Even before 1933, there were special laws for "Gypsies." They were not allowed to travel freely or live together in camps. Many were sent to forced labor camps.

The Nazi government took special measures against the Roma and Sinti when they came into power. Starting in July 1933, their children were sterilized so they could never have children themselves. According to the Nazis, the Roma and Sinti were "born criminals." In their registration system they were put into the group of "anti-socials" along with prostitutes, beggars, alcoholics and the homeless.

The Nuremberg racial laws of September 15, 1935 did not specifically mention Roma and Sinti. But they were put into the same category as Jews and "Negroes." They were classified as "racially distinctive" minorities with "alien blood." The Nuremberg laws stated that it was illegal for such inferior people to marry "Aryans."

The Olympic Games were held in Berlin a year later. Just before the Games began, all the Roma and Sinti in and around Berlin were rounded up (about 600) and put into a concentration camp. The camp, near a sewage dump and cemetery, had horrible conditions. The Nazis felt that "Gypsies" did not belong in German society. In the years that followed, Roma and Sinti were also imprisoned in other German cities.

In the concentration camps, they were forced to wear black triangular patches (the symbol for "anti-socials") or green patches (the symbol for professional criminals). Sometimes, they had to wear the letter "Z." Nazi scientists often subjected Roma and Sinti people to medical experiments in the death camps.

There was a separate "Gypsy" camp at Auschwitz death camp. It was liquidated during the night of August 2-3, 1944. On this night alone, 2,897 Sinti and Roma men, women, and children were murdered in the gas chamber. It is estimated that the Nazis murdered between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti.

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Photo credit: USHMM, courtesy of Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije.
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Today: 16 August 2017
Then: 17 August 1943

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