International Roma Holocaust Rembrance Day
Today is Roma Genocide Remembrance Day. #OnThisDay in 1944, the 'Gypsy Family Camp' at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liquidated.
75 years ago today, German authorities murdered up to 5,000 Roma and Sinti imprisoned in the so-called “Gypsy Family Camp” in Auschwitz-Birkenau by gassing them in a single night. The liquidation of the camp marked a closing chapter in Nazi Germany’s deadly persecution of Roma—whom they deemed to be “racially inferior”—which began shortly after the Nazi Party assumed power in 1933. The marginalization, persecution, and eventual mass murder of Roma often relied on the support or acquiescence of Germans who did not hold pro-Nazi views, as anti-Roma prejudice was widespread. From The Florida Holocaust Museum
“some secrets were given to the Gypsies to preserve against centrifugal History, and some to the Kabbalists, the Templars, the Rosicrucians” - Gravity’s Rainbow
"Bury me standing. I've been on my knees all my life." - Roma proverb
An autodidactic corner selection
On November 26, 1937 the Neurnburg Laws of Germany were amended to classify the Roma as "enemies of the race based state", the same status given to Jews. Estimates of death vary quite a bit from a low of 250,000 to 1.5 million. In part this disperity arose as many Gypsies (I will alternate terms but as of now "Roma" is the politically correct term) were listed by their killers as idolers, mentally ill, or habitual criminals. More Gypsies were killed in Romania than elsewhere. There was strong support for eradication of Roma throughout The portions of Europe controlled by the Germans. They were seen as vermin, thieves, prostitutes, con artists. The history of discrimination, as detailed by Fonesca goes back at least a 1000 years.
There are now an estimated 14 million people of Roma ancestory world wide, eleven million are in Europe, with the largest numbers in Romania. The USA has around one million Roma people.
The term "gypsy" originated in the 1600s based on the false idea they originated in Egypt. DNA and linguistic research has established that the ancestors of the Roma left Northern India around 550 C. E. Bury me standing : the Gypsies and their journey talks about various theories about why they left and traces their migration.
About twenty years ago I read Bury me standing : the Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonseca . From this I went on to read as many books on the Gypsies as I could find. In Poland in 2011 August 2 was designated as Roma Holocaust Memotial Day. Since then the European Union has adapted this day.
I recently reread Bury me standing : the Gypsies and their journey by Isabel Fonseca. I have since the first read increased my knowledge of the history of the Gypsies but the reread brought a lot of things back and helped me see the Roma as even more an outsider community than were European Jews.
The author spent four years with Roma people, travelling from Albania to Poland. Mostly through contacts with other women,she learns their customs, their taboos and saw the discrimination they Face. She learned their marriage and funeral rites. Mensurating women are considered impure.
Foneseca goes into what we can learn about Roma history from linguistics.
With no King of The Gypsies they live in clan structures, rarely marrying outsiders. Fonseca tells us what is accepted as true about the history of the Roma. They never have had a homeland, they have no Torah. She tells us what knowledge they have of their past comes from stories of their elders. They do not trust government schools and there Is a high rate of illiteracy.
Watch The series on Netflix Peaky Blinders makes extensive use of Roma characters, called gypsies.
An account of Cher's greatest hit, Gypsys, Tramps and thieves, from 1971
In my post linked above on Jane Eyre I talk about the treatment of an old Roma woman.
If you are at all interested in Roma culture and history I suggest you start with Bury me standing : the Gypsies and Their Journey by Isabel Fonseca .
Isabel Fonseca grew up on New York City. She went to Barnard College and Oxford University before settling in London, where she worked as an editor at the Times Literary Supplement. She has written for the Times, The Guardian, The Economist, Harper’s Bazaar, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The American Scholar, among other publications. Since its appearance in 1995, the national bestseller Bury Me Standing has been published in twenty-two countries. Fonseca is also the author of a novel, Attachment. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, Martin Amis.. from Random House.
I highly recommend her interview with Charlie Rose
In my opinion a knowledge of the history of the Roma should be on all serious autodidactics list.