Nazi Beliefs About the Gypsies
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
The Nazis targeted the Gypsies for extermination even before they targeted the Jews. That was—so that was the earliest group they focused on. They saw the Gypsies—or Roma, as as we call them more commonly—as parasites on society, useless people, people that didn’t contribute anything, and lesser human beings, a lower class race. And so they were targeted very early, and because Gypsies are nomadic and were on roads and so on, actually the population didn’t realize that Gypsies were being exterminated on the sides of roads—in other words, before concentration camps really got going. So, they were one of the earliest groups targeted, as well as homosexuals and Communists.
You know, it’s hard to say why the Nazis wanted to exterminate the Gypsies, except that, of course, they thought of them as inferior and useless people. They also—Gypsies had been targeted in Europe for a long time as a kind of pariah group, a group that people agreed was undesirable, an undesirable group. They were viewed as thieves and not—they didn’t have regular jobs, and so they were viewed as people that were a menace to society. With the notions of purity of race, I think that exacerbated what their—the Gypsies’ situation in Europe, in that they were viewed as an impure group and so were targeted for extermination. They were also targeted for experiments. And actually, Hitler had some romantic notions of the Gypsies. He actually thought there were pure Gypsies and impure Gypsies, and he kept some Gypsies alive and actually sort of had a breeding program for them if they were pure Gypsies, in a sort of romantic sense with the bandana and the earring and all that. But the large majority were exterminated, particularly all the German Gypsies. But even in Poland and other places like that, they were wiped out.