Nazi Occupied Europe 1941-1945: Genocide of Roma-Sinti (Parajmos)

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(Last revised March 28, 2005)

Other resources pages: Past Genocides 1901-1950: Hereros 1904 | Armenian 1915  | Holodomor 1933 | Shoah 1941 | Parajmos 1941
Past Genocides 1951-2000: East Bengal 1971 | Burundi 1972  | Cambodia 1975 | Guatemala 1982  | Iraqi Kurds 1988 | Bosnia 1992 | Rwanda 1994

Resources on this website (This page only)

The Porajmos (also Porrajmos, pronounced “paw-rye-mawss”) literally Devouring, is a term coined by the Roma (Gypsy) people to describe attempts by the Nazi regime to exterminate most of the Roma peoples of Europe. The phenomenon has been little studied and largely overshadowed by the Jewish Holocaust, or Shoah. Because the Roma communities of Eastern Europe were less organized than, say, the Jewish communities, it is more difficult to assess the actual number of victims, though it is believed to range from 200,000 to 800,000.

Books and Articles

Philip Friedman, "The Extermination of the Gypsies: Nazi Genocide of an Aryan People." a chapter in Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust, Ed. Ada June Friedman (New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980)

Gypsies During the Second World War: Vol. 1: From "Race Science" to the Camps (Interface Collection Volume 12) by Karola Fings, Herbert Heuss, Frank Sparing; Vol 2: In the shadow of the Swastika (Interface Collection Volume 13) edited by Donald Kenrick; Vol. 3: The Killing Fields Edited by Karola Fings; Vol. 4: Coming to terms with the past This final volume will be edited by Donald Kenrick (University of Hertfordshire Press, 1997-2002)

Ian F. Hancock, The Pariah Syndrome: An account of Gypsy slavery and persecution (Ann Arbor, Mich. 1987)

Donald Kenrick and Grattan Puxon, The Destiny of Europe's Gypsies (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1972)

Gilad Margalit, Germany and its Gypsies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002)

Romani Rose, The Nazi Genocide of the Sinti and Roma (Heidelberg: Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, 1995)

State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Memorial Book: The Gypsies at Auschwitz-Birkenau (New York: K.G. Saur, 1993)

Book Review:

"Downplaying the Porrajmos: The Trend to Minimize the Romani Holocaust" A review of Guenther Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies Oxford University Press, 2000 Journal of Genocide Research, 3(1):79-85 (2001) Review-Essay

"Lewy’s . . .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. . . The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies is a dangerous book. . . .Though stained by its crass insensitivity 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." See

Reports and Reseach

[To be added]


Annual Remembrance:

June 12-18 marks the anniversary of the 1938 "Gypsy Clean-Up Week" ( 'Zigeuneraufrämungswoche' ) when about 1,000 German and Austrian Roma and Sinti were deported to concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Lichtenburg (a camp for women) in Saxony. This event lead what survivors call the Porrajmos ('devouring') the Nazi genocide of Roma people during World War II (see August 2)

August 2, 2004 the 60th anniversary of Roma-Sinti Auschwitz Day, marking the 1944 "liquidation" to the gas chambers of the Roma and Sinti inmates of the Auschwitz's Zigeunerlager (“Gypsy Family Camp”). See also June 12-18.

January 27 - Holocaust Remembrance Day marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some of the Commemorations of January 27th include: Denmark's "Auschwitz-dag 2004: Tilskuer eller redningsmand?" (also:, Estonia's Holokausti päeva, Finland's Holocaustin Muistopäivän, Germany's "Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer Des Nationalsozialismus begangen" (Day of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism), Italy's Giorno della Memoria, Norway's Holocaustdagen, Poland's "59 lat temu wyzwolono KL Auschwitz" (KL Auschwitz Liberated 58 Years Ago) , Sweden's Förintelsens minnesdag, United Kingdom's "Holocaust Memorial Day 2004. The 60th anniversary is in 2005

April 18-19 - Yom HaShoah marking 27 Nisan (April 19, 1943) commemorated in Israel, the United States and around the world. April 19, 1943 was the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising when about 750 ghetto fighters held heavily- armed German police troops for nearly a month to May 16, 1943.

April 25 - Jasenovac Remembrance Day. On April 22, 1945 prisoners in the Jasenovac Concentration Camp held a mass breakout in which a few managed to escape. Jasenovac was run by the Nazi-allied Croatian Ustaša regime and held Serbian, Jewish, Roma and Muslim prisoners. . The breakout is remembered every year on the Sunday closest to April 22.

September 9 - Slovakia's Holocaust Remembrance Day marking the day September 9, 1941 when the Slovakia enacted the ''Zidovsky Kodex' (anti-Jewish code). Ruled by Monsignor Josef Tiso (1887-1947), Slovakia cooperated with Germany in the deportation of Jews. In April 1944 two Slovak Jews, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escaped from Auschwitz and wrote the first detailed report on the death camp, which reached the West in June 1944.
Sept. 23 - Lithuania's Holocaust Remembrance Day (Zydu genocido diena), Liquidation of the Vilna ghetto to Ponar, September 23, 1943)


Feature film:

Porraimos: Europe's Gypsies in the Holocaust (2001, 56 min.) Alexandra M. Isles made many visits to the Museum’s archives to research visual documentation of the experience of Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) under Nazi rule. Much of what she found ultimately became part of her film Porraimos, which means “the devouring” in Romani. Under the Nazis, Roma were forced to settle and were subjected to medical experiments, sterilization, and deportation to concentration camps.

NY Times, Aug. 2, 2003 TV REV IEW | 'PORRAIMOS' Documentary Recalls Half Million Murdered By SCOTT VEALE Among Gypsies it is known as the Porraimos, or "the devouring." From 1938 to 1945, more than half a million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis, along with six million Jews and many others singled out for extermination. The little-examined Gypsy Shoah is the subject of "Porraimos: Europe's Gypsies in the Holocaust," a nightmarish documentary to be shown tomorrow night on PBS. The Gypsies, often called Roma or Sinti, are believed to have migrated westward from India about A.D. 900. Most eventually settled in Europe, especially in the East, where their nomadic ways, dark skin, insular culture and strange customs made them targets for discrimination. (Even today, poverty and prejudice continue to plague Gypsies throughout Europe.) Early in the hourlong film, there are tantalizing glimpses of Gypsy history and culture, but the focus quickly shifts to their oppression by the Nazis. Starting in the mid-1930's, the Nazis began to round up Gypsies, who were often horse traders, musicians, circus performers and street vendors. (One witness describes being sent out at 9 to sell baskets of clothespins.) They were deported to internment camps, which became field laboratories for Nazi eugenicists. The Hitler regime, having determined that Jews, Gypsies and the disabled had "lives unworthy of life," as the documentary puts it, set out to prove that "racially mixed Gypsies were especially prone to asocial and criminal behavior." The Nazi government's Research Center for Racial Hygiene and Population Biology sent its researchers into the Gypsy camps to draw blood, measure body parts, take photographs and create elaborate genealogies for some 30,000 people. The photographs are chilling, as are the choppy film clips of Gypsy children at play in the camp. In the end, the researchers recommended that the Gypsies be forcibly sterilized and deported to concentration camps. Families were arrested, often split apart and sent to camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald, where they were numbered, shaved and forced to strip (an especially painful humiliation in a culture with a strict sexual code that emphasized modesty). The horrors of the camps unfold mainly through the testimonies of a half-dozen Czech, German and Austrian survivors, whose memories are all the more shocking for their matter-of-fact delivery: one woman, describing the group bathing of prisoners in a pond at the camp where she was sent, recalls that children who could not swim were allowed to drown, and that those who survived were later forced to collect firewood for the burning of the corpses. Gypsy children, in addition to the threats posed by starvation, disease and gassing at the camps, were also subjected to ghastly medical experiments. One witness says her pregnant mother was allowed to give birth to her and her twin sister only on the condition that the newborns be signed over to Nazi race biologists and that her mother be sterilized immediately after. The witness recalls losing her sister to grisly testing at a genetics clinic before narrowly escaping herself. (She later suffered blackouts and discovered an unexplained scar on her head.) At the Gypsy camp at Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who was fascinated by Gypsies, himself performed tests on the young, many of them twins. He was said to be obsessed with blue eyes; among other things, Nazi scientists experimented with dyeing Gypsy eyes an Aryan blue. The most gripping testimony comes from Dina Gottliebova, a Jewish artist, who begins by describing her fleeting encounters with Gypsies and their caravans as a young girl in rural Czechoslovakia. She later recalls how she was recruited to paint the Gypsy children's barracks at Auschwitz with cheery scenes of Alpine meadows and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Later an SS doctor ordered her to paint portraits of Gypsy prisoners for Mengele while he measured and tested his subjects. The portraits shown in the film are sad, proud and — especially in one case, that of a very young boy — profoundly angry. That was her last painting, it turns out: the thousands of Gypsies at Auschwitz were exterminated soon after, in August 1944. Ms. Gottliebova was spared, along with 10 sets of twins, a doctor and two nurses, who were all put on a list by Mengele to remain at the camp. All of these personal accounts of struggle and survival are accompanied by stark black-and-white still photography and film clips taken by the Nazis, as well as by piercing, Gypsy-flavored violin music performed by Robert McDuffie. Inevitably, perhaps, the narrative feels overly compressed at times, but as an overview of a monstrous but little-known tragedy, the documentary adds another whole layer to the evil of the Holocaust.

Sidonie 1990, 88 Karin Brandauer and Erich Hackl, the author of the book "Farewell Sidonie,

story of a 15 year old girl who was killed by the Nazis. The Austrian Roma Sidonie Adlersburg (born 1933 in Steyr), killed at Auschwitz in 1943. Credit: Documentation Archives of the Austrian Resistance, Vienna Starring: Hübsch Wolfgang Marin Georg Reisober Micha Sadeghi-Seragi Arghavan Speiser Kitty Soundtrack: Brandauer Christian
On 18 August 1833 the doorman of the hospital of Steyr a Findelkind wrapped in rags discovers 1933. The worker married couple Breitner takes the small Sidonie as a care child to itself. It does not disturb it that it is a gypsy child. Thus the child grows answer despite some meeting with hostility calmly and protects in this family up. 1943 gets the Breitners suddenly that Sidonie was back-demanded by its leiblichen nut/mother. The indulgent friendliness against the "small black one" operates itself in the village to verlogener well-being decentness and "kind-conscious" animosity. The appraisals of teacher and Fuersorgerin adapt to the convicition of the time and its jargon. Offering no prospects the fight of the Breitners. Sidonie is separated by force from its care parents and gezerrt into the course, which brings her after Auschwitz. Actor: Arghavan Sadeghi Seragi , Kitty feeder , George marine , "kleine Schwarze"by Karin Brandauer was premiered, and Erich Hackl, the authorof the book "Farewell Sidonie film, available from the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, 950 Third Avenue, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022

Stellela, Gezicht van het Verleden (1994, 55min) Dutch filmmaker Cherry Duyns

Settela was structured as a quest on the part of an investigative journalist. His quest was to identify the young girl who peers out of an opening in the cattle-car on the train leaving Westerbork (Holland) for Belsen, in an oft-reproduced image of the Holocaust. In the course of the film, he locates the photographer (a Jewish prisoner) and identifies the girl, who turns out to be a Gypsy rather than a Jew. This documentary confined its scope of investigation to a particular case and demonstrated yet again that the disciplined pursuit of the detail can be more rewarding and absorbing than ambitious attempts to cover the big picture. It is a film about "het meisje", "the girl" who for many Dutch symbolizes what the Germans did to the Jews in The Netherlands, when they herded them together in the Westerbork concentration camp, and then transported them to Auschwitz. First discovered in a documentary film shot on the orders of the German commandant to keep a trophy of his exploits and prove to his superiors his flawless efficiency as dispatcher and executors of orders, the single frame has been reproduced a hundred times on book covers and posters, so much so that it has become, paradoxically, almost as common an icon as Churchill's Victory salute, or -dare one say -James Dean. It is indeed an image to haunt the mind, never forgotten, and which the Jewish community, furthermore, is determined not to have forgotten. Pictured in the small opening of a cattle truck, just before the door is shut and bolted. And it turns out that her name is Settela, her origin not Jewish at all, her ethnic identity that of a Sinti, and her fate not Auschwitz, but Bergen Belsen. No doubt, she perished in Bergen Belsen as surely as she would have in Auschwitz, but the difference is not negligeable. One Holocaust, as we have come to learn at our cost, hides others, one image's symbolic force may obscure another reality. To reclaim the truth of the suffering of the European Sinti and Romani is not to make it 'compete' with that of the European Jews, however much the discovery of Settela's identity at first upset the sensibilities of Dutch Jewry. Initially, this image was called "Unidentified Sinti girl peering from a Transport Wagon on its way to Auschwitz, 1943." Hans Vanderwerff from The Netherlands has indicated that she is not an unknown Sinti girl, rather her name is Settela Steinbach. Her name was uncovered by the journalist Aad Wagenaar around 1994, therefore 50 years after her deportation. He documented his research in a book called "Settela. Het meisje heeft haar naam terug - the girl has her name back."
Her Christian name was Anna Maria Steinbach. Settela Steinbach on a transport to Auschwitz, 19 May 1944. The most famous part of it are the seven seconds with her. That train brought 238 Jews to Bergen-Belsen and 208 Jews and 245 Gypsies to Auschwitz. 30 Gypsies returned. Aad Wagenaar described the search for the girl, going from thinking she was a Jewish girl to discovering her true identity in a conversation with Crasa Wagner, a survivor from that car and afterwards in Op zoek naar een naam, (Searching for a name) p.105-119 in Westerbork Cahiers 2: Kinderen in kamp Westerbork. (Children in Camp Westerbork), Westerbork being the Nazi transition camp for people transported to the East. ISBN 90-232-2916-9. This was published in 1994. Settela is one of the four cover children, including Anne Frank. A more detailed description of the analysis of the movie leading to the end of Settelas classification as a Jewish girl, is to be found in Westerbork Cahiers 5: Kamp Westerbork gefilmd, which is all about the movie, p, 51-58. With thanks for detailed information from Theodoor Westerhof, The Netherlands
Aad Wagenaar a book called "Settela. Het meisje heeft haar naam terug - the girl has her name back."

Zeit des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (Time of Darkness and Silence) 1982 Nina Gladitz

a co- production with Channel 4, led to a highly publicised court case with Riefenstahl in the mid-Eighties. It resulted in Gladitz having to cut from the film the reference that Riefenstahl allegedly knew the extras would be sent to Auschwitz on the completion of Tiefland . The allegations go back as far as 1949, when they were made by a German magazine. A Munich court then declared Riefenstahl innocent .

Sing Tony Gatlif France, 2002, 90 minutes In French with English subtitles Max (Oscar Copp) is first seen timidly venturing into the gypsy neighbourhood of a small Alsace town, intent on buying a guitar. He’s staying with his grandmother for the summer, and has fallen for the exuberant jazz played by French gypsies since the 30s, when it was made famous by the guitarist Django Reinhardt. He meets a gypsy girl named Swing (Lou Rech) and falls in love, while taking guitar lessons from her uncle (Tchavolo Schmitt). In some stubborn part, Swing is a documentary, with frequent unscripted jam sessions - including one where gypsy musicians work out a synthesis of their own music with Arab and Yiddish styles, a hopeful note for a French film, where historic guilt over the gypsy genocide of World War Two mingles with the explosive situation with Arab immigration to France today.

The Gypsies Of Svinia says: "Misfortune doesn't walk on the earth, but on top of people." Seeing the stark, desperate images of how the people in this film live in the village of Svinia, Slovakia, Credit Winnipeg director-cameraman John Paskievich, who made the film for the National Film Board of Canada, which is releasing it today at the Carlton Cinemas. Paskievich's camera follows the efforts of another Canadian, anthropologist David Scheffel, as he works with the 600-member Gypsy community to try to find ways of improving their living conditions, building new housing and establishing links with the 600 ethnic Slovaks of Svinia. The film chronicles how a system of rigid separation -- really a racially based segregation as horrifying as that in the U.S. before the civil rights movement or in South Africa before Mandela -- keeps the Slovaks and the Gypsies (who are known as the Roma people) living in two solitudes. There is racism shown on both sides. But some Slovaks chill the blood. They openly praise Hitler's holocaust (a million Gypsies died with the Jews) and suggest that this violent 'solution' would end the misery today

Survivor testimonies

See Jakob Müller (b. 1928), Lani Rosenberg, Hugo Franz (n. 1913), Anna P. (b. 1926), Loepoldine Papai (b@ 1930), Maris Kohlberger (b. 1909) in Chapter 6 of Samuel Totten et al., eds., Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views (Garland Reference Library, 1997).

Voices of the Holocaust Interviews conducted in 1946 in displaced persons camps around Europe and transscribed into English. Illinois Institute of Technology website

Click here - For Survivor and Eyewitness Testimonies from other Genocides


Documentation and Culture Centre of German Sinti and Roma Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma, Heidelberg

Gypsies and the Porajmos: Timeline Terese Pencak Schwartz - Publisher Ms. Schwartz is a writer, fine art photographer, speaker and publicist, whose work has been published in books and various periodicals and media around the world. The article that launched was published in January 1997 as Five Million Forgotten. Ms. Schwartz continues to research the non-Jewish victims of the holocaust.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (Panstwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oswiecim, Poland) Est. July 2, 1947 by the Sejm (Parliament)

Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (Copenhagen) see also

Slovak Institute of Nation Remembrance (Est. Jan. 29, 2003) In April 25th, the Slovak National Council elected authorities of the Institute of Nation Remembrance of the Slovak Republic. Mr. Jan Langosz was nominated to the position of the Institute’s President. Mr. Langosz is a former Interior Minister and parliamentarian. The tasks of the Institute are to gather, elaborate and publish analyses concerning all crimes against humanity committed during the existence of the Slovak state during the WWII and the communist regime. The Institute has been placed in the Ministry of Justice. It is estimated by the Slovak Institute’s President that every Slovak citizen will have a possibility to examine his or her records that were accumulated by the former communist services within three months starting from May 2003. In September 2003 lists of names of the former Secret Service collaborators are to be promulgated. Ministerstvo spravodlivosti Slovenskej republiky Župné námestie 13, 813 11 Bratislava

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), 1979, opened 1993, Wash, DC Includes the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies and the Committee on Conscience

Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
(CHGS, est. 1997) University of Minnesota. Website includes a "Virtual Museum of Holocaust and Genocide Arts;" historical narratives and documents; links, bibliographies and educational resources. The website hosts the directory of the Association of Holocaust Organizations (Est. 1985) See also the Univ. of Minnesota Human Rights Library

Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc. (est. 1976, Brookline, MA, USA) "By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of collective violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives." )

Web Genocide Documentation Centre Home Page (Resources on Genocide, War Crimes and Mass Killing by Dr. Stuart Stein of the University of the West of England)


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