Gypsy Resistance in World War II
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
There is evidence of resistance among the Gypsies. Gypsies are a tight knit community and they all know each other, but they keep themselves—or at least at that time—particularly sort of separate from the rest of the population. So there was resistance, and even during World War II there were Gypsies who fought in the resistance. I think, you know, that people know that Hemingway even wrote about Gypsies that fought in Spain in the resistance before the Nazis really were in full bloom. So they did get involved with resistance work. On the whole, though, they don’t have—they had no political clout, they had no fixed abode, they were nomadic. So people—the general population didn’t even know when they disappeared. I mean, it wasn’t—there wasn’t even a knowledge that it was going on. The police would come in, move the Gypsies on, and exterminate them, and no one really knows. We’re hoping to find, you know, maybe gravesites on roads, but it’s a long time ago and those kinds of—that kind of information is very, very hard to get. But we do know that there was resistance, and they fled. But they really didn’t know what was happening, and they really didn’t have any place to go. You know, they were really caught in the war, even though they weren’t involved so much in the war, ’cause they weren’t involved in any particular country. They tended to move between borders, so Belgian and Dutch Gypsies would move back and forth into Germany and they just got caught in the war situation. But many of them became refugees and fled to South America, and sometimes to the United States, when they could. Generally Gypsies are very poor—harder for them to flee and get away—and they weren’t as aware, perhaps, of what was happening. No one was, at the time. Because again, they were early targeted group, and really, no one knew what the Nazis had in mind at that point in the early days of the, you know, late ’30s.
The specific ways that Gypsies resisted the Nazis were, I think, primarily to work in communications. That is, because Gypsies were used to moving between countries and moving around the countryside, and their being nomadic people, they were able to get information—again, in the early days of before the war broke out, World War II. The Gypsies had more information, and so they were used by the Allies in some cases to go between lines, and many Gypsies risked their lives to go between lines and do communications work, you know, going behind the lines and slipping in and out. They weren’t as involved in the resistance because they were not politically involved in the state. They were less involved in resistance than many—the larger resistance groups, but individual Gypsies did act in the resistance.