January 22nd 2014
STATEMENT TO MS. MANN
For too long, proper recognition of the fate of the Romani victims of the Holocaust has been avoided, both at the national and the international level. At best, we are grouped separately as “other victims”— meaning other than the Jewish victims—thus putting us together with, e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, communists and a number of other populations (not “peoples”) defined by their behavior, politics or religion and not by genetics.
The Holocaust (Shoah, Khurbn, Porrajmos) was a massive program of genocide. Just two peoples, Jews and Romanies, were singled out for obliteration. Just two peoples, Jews and Romanies, were singled out for what they were born. Just two peoples, Jews and Romanies, were singled out as targets of a Final Solution, and by 1945 both had lost approximately the same percentage of their total number in Nazi-occupied Europe.
On March 4th 1936 a Nazi document drafted under the direction of State Secretary Hans Pfundtner of the Reichs Ministry of the Interior addressed the creation of a “Gypsy law” (Reich- zigeunergesetz) and referred to “the introduction of the total solution of the Gypsy problem on either a national or an international level.”
In his 1938 address to The German Association for Racial Research, Dr. Adolph Würth of the Racial Hygiene Research Unit said “the Gypsy question is a racial question for us today. In the same way that the National Socialist state has solved the Jewish question, it will also have to settle the Gypsy question once and for all. The race biological research on Gypsies is an unconditional prerequisite for the Final Solution of the Gypsy Question.”
In March the same year a letter to the “Imperial Leader of the SS” from Dr. Werner Best, Head of the Nazi Security Police, addressed the “initiat[ion of the] Final Solution to the Gypsy problem from a racial point of view.” The first official publicly-posted Party statement to refer to the Final Solution of the Gypsy Question (the endgültige Lösung der Zigeunerfrage) was issued at that time signed by Himmler, who also ordered the Bureau of Romani Affairs to be moved from Munich to Berlin.
In his post-war memoirs, SS Officer Perry Broad of the political division at Auschwitz wrote that “it was the will of the all-powerful Führer to have the Gypsies disappear from the face of the earth” (“es war der Wille des allmächtigen Reichsführers, alle Zigeuner von der Erde verschwinden zu lassen”), and that “the Central Office knew it was Hitler’s aim to wipe out all the Gypsies without exception” (“das Zentralbüro wusste, dass es Hitlers Ziel war, alle Zigeuner ohne Ausnahme auszulöschen”).
“The 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 the Sinti and Roma” (emphasis added). In 1939 Johannes Behrendt of the Office of Racial Hygiene issued a brief stating that “[a]ll Romanies should be treated as hereditarily sick; the only solution is elimination. The aim should therefore be the elimination without hesitation of this defective element in the population.”
A conference on racial policy and to decide, inter alia, upon the Final Solution of the Gypsy Question, was held in Berlin on 21st September 1939 and organized by Reinhard Heydrich, who was Head of the Reich Main Security Office and the leading organizational architect of the Nazis’ Final Solution of the Jewish Question. Four issues were decided: the concentration of Jews in towns, their relocation to Poland, the removal of 30,000 Romanies to Poland, and the systematic deportation of Jews to German-incorporated territories using goods trains. An express letter sent by the Reich Main Security Office on 17th October 1939 to its local agents mentioned that the ‘Gypsy Question will shortly be regulated throughout the territory of the Reich.’ At about this time, Adolf Eichmann made the recommendation that the ‘Gypsy Question’ be solved simultaneously with the ‘Jewish Question.’
On January 24th 1940 a memorandum from Leonardo Conti, Secretary of State for Health in the Ministry of the Interior, which was sent simultaneously to the Main Office of the Security Police, to the Kripo headquarters, and to the Reich Health Department in Berlin, read “It is known that the lives of Romanies and part Romanies are to be regulated by a Gypsy law (Zigeunergesetz) . . . I firmly believe, now as before, that the final solution of the Gypsy problem can only be achieved through the sterilization of full and part Romanies.”
On July 31st 1941 Heydrich also included the Romanies in his ‘final solution’ shortly after the German invasion of the USSR, ordering the Einsatzkommandos “to kill all Jews, Romanies and mental patients.” Complying with this, the senior SS officer and Chief of Police for the East, Dr. Alfred Landgraf, informed the Reich Commissioner for the East, Hinrich Lohse, of this inclusion of the Romanies in the ‘final solution,’ and on December 24th 1941 issued the order that the Romanies “should be given the same treatment as the Jews.”
Himmler signed the order dispatching Germany’s Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz on December 16th 1942. The ‘Final Solution’ of the ‘Gypsy Question’ had begun.
Since the world seems not to have learnt the terrible lesson of the Holocaust, focus is increasingly on genocide, its early warning signs, and its prevention. I am a state commissioner with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, and we have an active program of bringing genocide education to the schools. Indeed, in the late 1970s, the advisory board responsible for detailing the mission of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here in our own country stated that “This museum belongs at the center of American life because America, as a democratic civilization, is the enemy of racism and its ultimate expression, genocide.” UN statements addressing genocide are legion.
My own people were the victims of attempted genocide in the Holocaust, as were Jews, “for the same reasons using the same methods,” as Miriam Novitch of the Ghetto Fighters’ House in Israel wrote in 1968. Despite these facts, we remain woefully under-represented, and continue to be sidelined in Holocaust commemoration. We still wait for an explanation for this imbalance.