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The Roma: a Minority in Europe

Roni Stauber
Raphael Vago

Jews, Gypsies and soviet prisoners of war: comparing nazi persecutions*1

Michael Zimmermann

Texte intégral

  • 1 * Translated from the German by Dr. Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool).

1The explicit or implicit focus of most published studies dealing with the image of the Gypsy, or with policies toward Gypsies in Germany, is the Nazi policy of extermination. Avoiding the horror at its center, historians have approached this mass murder, too, with synoptic accounts, research on particular aspects of the Nazi persecution of the Gypsies, and attempts to measure the policy of annihilating the Gypsies against crimes perpetrated against other groups, primarily the Jews, who stand out among Nazi victims in terms of the extent and consistency, as well as the comprehensiveness, of annihilationist intent against them. A further question concerns how far the persecution of the Gypsies can be characterized as ‘genocide.’

  • 2 Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hil (...)

2The political and racial reordering of Europe envisioned by the Nazis involved not only the persecution of Jews and Gypsies, but also the repression of ideological non-conformists and other groups stigmatized as ‘racially inferior’ or ‘alien to the community.’ Communists, socialists and other political opponents were the first to be sent to concentration camps. Then, during the 1930s, persecution was increasingly directed at social outsiders. Homosexuals were harassed by the police and often arrested. Those labeled ‘asocial’ or ‘born criminals’ suffered a similar fate. People considered ‘congenitally diseased’ were subjected to compulsory sterilization and, from the outset of the war, were killed as ‘lives not worthy of living.’2

  • 3 Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden. Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945 ( (...)

3Moreover, during World War II, the non-Jewish and non-Romany populations of Poland and the Soviet Union suffered massively. This affected not only the leadership groups of those countries, but also hundreds of thousands of ordinary people—Byelorussian peasants in areas where the partisans were active, non-Jewish residents of Warsaw at the time of the 1944 uprising, and many others—who were shot to death by SS, police and Wehrmacht units. Above all, however, we need to take into account the millions of Soviet prisoners of war who died in German custody.3

4These victims, in particular, have received too little attention in comparative research on the crimes of the Third Reich, in spite of the enormous numbers who perished. Another reason to consider them is that they might add a new dimension to the comparison between the Nazi persecution of the Jews and that of the Gypsies.

5This essay therefore begins with an outline of Nazi policies toward Jews, Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war, and then goes on to address the following questions, with particular reference to those persecuted as ‘Gypsies’: What common elements and differences can be identified between the active persecution of Jews and Gypsies and the policy of tolerating and facilitating the large-scale death of Soviet prisoners of war? To what extent can the term ‘genocide’ be applied to these three mass crimes?


  • 4 See Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven/London, 2001); Christopher R Browning, The P (...)

6Based on numerous studies of the destruction of European Jewry, the escalation of the Nazi regime’s anti-Jewish policy4 can be described as follows: Once deportation had been used as an instrument of Nazi Jewish policy for the first time, with the expulsion of 17,000 Polish Jews from the Reich in October 1938, the tool of forced emigration, favored by the SS Security Service and the Gestapo since the mid-1930s, was extended from newly-annexed Austria to the Altreich. Measures for the economic and social marginalization of the Jews were simultaneously intensified.

  • 5 Hans Jansen, Der Madagaskar-Plan. Die beabsichtigte Deportation der europäischen Juden nach Madaga (...)

7Since the war made forced emigration more difficult, while at the same time the number of Jews under German control increased considerably, the next step was to attempt their forcible resettlement. As the war situation developed, the Polish territories around Krakow and Lublin were initially considered as possible ‘reservations’ for Jews. When it became clear that this was not viable and, moreover, that France had fallen, attention was turned to the more unrealistic project of deportation to Madagascar; the likelihood that this process would involve a large death toll was viewed with complacency.5

8In parallel, the problems generated by the idea of forced emigration— with the expansion of the German sphere of domination to include millions of Jews and the ‘return’ of German-speaking minorities from eastern and southeastern Europe concluded between the Reich and the Soviet Union—fuelled the notion of creating a balance by forcing Jews and Poles to settle outside the Reich. Moreover, the concept of forced resettlement inspired the Gauleiter in Vienna, Berlin and other urban centers to call for the removal of Jews from their cities, blaming Jewish landlords for the housing shortage or stigmatizing the Jews as ‘social ballast.’

9The aims of the leadership, which now became explicit under the rubrics ‘comprehensive measures’ (Gesamtmaßnahmen), ‘final objective’ (Endziel) and ‘final solution’ (Endlösung), found expression in continuously improvised short-term and interim plans for concentrating more and more Jews in the parts of Poland occupied and annexed by Germany. However, this turned out to be impracticable due to the huge scale of the plan. At the same time, the promise of a definitive ‘solution to the Jewish question’ by forced resettlement led to a heightened expectation of, and pressure for, anti-Jewish measures.

10Thus, even the German occupying authorities in Poland regarded the requirement of taking in Jews and creating ghettos for them as a short-term measure, especially since Hitler had also agreed to ‘remove’ Jews from the Generalgouvernement in early 1941. These authorities assumed that, since it was agreed that this would be a temporary phase, it was unnecessary to make more long-term arrangements to ensure the survival of the Jews. Such provisions would even be counterproductive, since the ‘intolerable condition’ of the Jewish settlements and ghettos was a guarantee that they would soon be cleared out. Linked to the construct of ‘intolerable condition’ was the distinction between Jews who were capable of work and those who were not. This division became the formula for later selections in the extermination camps and ghettos.

  • 6 See footnotes 9 and 10 in this article.

11Behind Hitler’s 1941 promise to remove the Jews from Poland lay German plans to attack the Soviet Union, which, simultaneously, would remove obstacles to population transfers to the East and satisfy the pressures of anti- Jewish expectations. At the same time, these plans envisaged a much more extensive ‘final solution to the Jewish question’ for German-dominated Europe, which it was assumed could be easily achieved after the predicted lightning-swift victory over Russia. In a vision analogous to the Madagascar project, the death of masses of Jewish victims was built into the planning, particularly since the war plans against the USSR anticipated the ‘resettlement’ of millions of Soviet citizens in Siberia or on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.6

  • 7 Ulrich Herbert, “Arbeit und Vernichtung. Ökonomisches Interesse und Primat der ‘Weltanschauung’ im (...)

12Alongside other SS formations, Ordungspolizei (‘order police’) and army units, the death squads—Einsatzgruppen—of the SS Security Service, above all, took the step that led from approving mass death to active mass murder. Beginning with the invasion of the USSR in the name of the struggle against the imagined ‘Jewish-Bolshevik arch-enemy,’ these mass shootings many times exceeded the murders of members of Polish leadership groups carried out in 1939. From the late summer of 1941 on, women and children were also targeted. Soon this mass murder ceased to be limited to the USSR. When, in the autumn of 1941, the rapid defeat of the Soviet Union turned out to be a chimera, it also meant that the Nazi leadership had failed to acquire the space in which their racial utopia was to be realized, the territory for the ‘territorial final solution’ of the ‘Jewish question.’ At the same time, the Nazi leadership had agreed with the German authorities in the East that the territories under their jurisdiction would function only as ‘transit camps’ for Jews already there and for those who would be deported there. It was this constellation that paved the way for Aktion Reinhard against the Polish Jews and the mass extermination of the rest of European Jewry. Moreover, the decision in the autumn of 1941 to use the labor of Soviet POWs and civilians undermined economic arguments against the murder of the Jews.7


  • 8 Streit, Keine Kameraden, p. 136.

13Despite their deployment as forced labor, a means used extensively from 1942 onwards, Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) made up the second largest group of victims of Nazi extermination policies after the Jews. All together some 5.7 million Soviet soldiers fell into German hands between the middle of 1941 and the end of the war. Of these, 930,000 were still in POW camps in January 1945. About a million had been released from the camps and transferred to the Wehrmacht’s armed forces for subordinate tasks. Another 500,000 had escaped or been liberated by the Soviet army. The remaining 3.3 million or so (57.5 percent) had died in German hands.8 There were four main reasons, apart from brutal mass executions, for the massive death toll: hunger, the way in which prisoners were transported, inadequate housing, and the systematic murder of specific categories of prisoners.

  • 9 Aktennotiz, 2. 5. 1941, Document 2718 PS, International Military Tribunal (IMT), Major War Crimina (...)
  • 10 Wirtschaftspolitische Richtlinien für Wirtschaftsorganisation Ost, Gruppe Landwirtschaft vom 23. 5 (...)
  • 11 Streit, Keine Kameraden, p. 136.

14A central German war aim in the East was the control and exploitation of food resources. It was clear to the men who planned the plunder of Russia and the Ukraine that as a result “millions of people would undoubtedly starve to death.”9 “Many tens of millions” in these territories would either “die or have to emigrate to Siberia.”10 Soviet POWs were the first victims of this policy. As a result, over a million people died of hunger in the first months of imprisonment.11

15Tens of thousands of Soviet POWs also died on their way to the camps. Many had to march for hundreds of kilometers behind the front. Wehrmacht guards shot those who became exhausted along the way. Where the prisoners were transported by rail, the Wehrmacht permitted only the use of open freight cars. The cold Russian winter and denial of food, often for days at a time, led to enormous losses.

16Scarcely any preparations had been made for housing the POWs because it had been presumed that the Soviet Union would collapse within several weeks. For the areas intended as camps, nothing more than barbed wire had been provided. The prisoners, worn out by the march and weakened by malnutrition, had few resources with which to counter the cold, contagion and hunger-related diseases in the temporary camps.

  • 12 Einsatzbefehl Nr. 8, 17 July 1941, IMT, NO – 3414, based upon the notorious Kommissarbefehl, OKH, (...)

17Moreover, in mid-July 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, on behalf of the Security Police, and General Hermann Reinecke, the Wehrmacht officer responsible for POWs, had agreed that the SS-Einsatzgruppen should identify and shoot all “politically and racially unacceptable elements” among the Soviet prisoners. These included “all significant functionaries of the state and the Party,” “members of the intelligentsia,” “all fanatical Communists” and “all Jews.”12 The number of victims of these murders was between 140,000 and 150,000. The number of Jewish Red Army soldiers taken prisoner alone is estimated at some 85,000. Without exception, any identified as Jews were killed. The same treatment was meted out to thousands of non-Jewish prisoners who—like the circumcised Muslims—were taken to be Jews in disguise or classified as ‘racially inferior Asiatics.’

  • 13 Ulrich Herbert, Fremdarbeiter. Politik und Praxis des ‘Ausländer-Einsatzes’ in der Kriegswirtschaf (...)

18The fact that the mortality rate declined noticeably in 1942 had nothing to do with considerations of humanity or the rules of war, but was due to recognition by leaders of the regime and the Wehrmacht that German armaments production depended on the labor of those POWs. It had become clear that the Soviet Union would not be as easily beaten as the Germans had hoped. In view of a threatening labor shortage, the German mining industry in particular became the leading advocate of the use of Soviet labor, but the SS and the party leadership rejected this out of hand. A compromise was reached: Soviet POWs and civilians would be used, but under conditions that included maximum exploitation, strict isolation from the German population, miserable treatment and provisioning, and imposition of the death penalty for even minor infractions.13


  • 14 Michael Zimmermann, Rassenutopie und Genozid. Die nationalsozialistische ‘Lösung der Zigeunerfrage (...)
  • 15 Examples: Staatsarchiv Detmold, M 1 JP/1611, Kommandeur der Gendarmerie Minden, 27. 2. 1937; Lande (...)

19After 1933, the police and the ministerial bureaucracy of the Third Reich maintained a Gypsy policy that alternated between the goals of ‘expulsion’ and ‘settlement’ (Sesshaftmachung). Yet the discrimination against and oppression of Gypsies that characterized the first years of National Socialist rule were not merely a continuation of traditional Gypsy policy. In the Länder (states), laws and regulations against Gypsies were often toughened. While some municipalities and lower police authorities used traditional methods such as high rents, substandard living conditions, sudden foreclosures or even the destruction of camping areas, as well as harassing police checks, to control Gypsy groups, others forced the Gypsies into centralized, sometimes fenced and even guarded camps. Moreover, these efforts to move the Gypsies from open sites or private quarters to local camps must be seen in relation to the overall camp system created under the Third Reich almost as soon as the NSDAP came to power. Between 1933 and 1939, it became virtually a trivial matter for mayors, police chiefs, district administrators, and other officials to demand that Gypsies be “admitted to a concentration camp,” that “a general camp be erected,” that they be “concentrated in labor camps” or be “forcibly put in a closed camp.”15

20Oppression of Gypsies intensified on the national level as well. Anti- Gypsy agitation grew in the press and in professional journals, while, as of 1934, some 500 Gypsies were sterilized under the Law to Prevent Genetically Deficient Offspring. They also came under the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor and the ban on marriage between ‘Aryans’ and ‘members of alien (artfremden) races,’ as well as under the 1935 Marital Health Law, which forbade marriage to allegedly ‘inferior’ individuals.

21The unambiguously racist attitude to the ‘Gypsy question’ in German policy after 1933 was linked to the concept of police intervention in society developed in 1937 by the Reich Criminal Police Office, Germany’s central authority for the policing of crime. According to this notion, crime prevention should have the same status as detection. Crime was explained in terms of the antisocial behavior of certain segments of society—the term used was Gemeinschaftsschädlich, or damaging to the community—and this behavior in turn was explained by hereditary factors. It was thus imagined that it was possible to achieve a crime- and criminal-free Volksgemeinschaft (racial/national community) by applying scientific methods. Among other means, over 2,000 Gypsies, branded ‘asocial,’ were sent to concentration camps in the course of this racially motivated ‘preventive crime-fighting’ from 1938 onwards.

22Himmler signed a decree at the end of 1938 calling for a “resolution of the Gypsy question appropriate to the character of this race.” This marked the transition from a Gypsy policy conceived as part of a program to remove ‘aliens’ from the community to one of persecution in its own right. Once the war had begun, this persecution underwent further sharp radicalization. In parallel with the expulsions of Poles and Jews motivated by a Germanizing population policy, policy makers now looked to resettle the Gypsies in occupied Poland. The first to be affected were 2,800 people from the western territories of the Reich. In a second step, 5,000 Roma from the Austrian Burgenland were deported in fall 1941.

  • 16 Antoni Galinski, “Obóz dla Cyganów w Lodzi,” in Biuletyn Okregowej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Hitlero (...)

23The grounds for persecuting the latter group dated back to the extraordinarily fervent local and regional witch-hunts against the Burgenland Roma that had been going on since 1938. Thus, when Himmler, Heydrich, and the criminal police saw an opportunity to deport these Gypsies, and despite the protests of the ghetto administration and the mayor of Lodz, who predicted overcrowding, food shortages and epidemics, they sent the Burgenland Roma to the Lodz ghetto. Shortly after the transports arrived, the housing and food situation indeed became ever more unbearable and epidemics spread. The German officials who had predicted the catastrophe had arranged conditions so that this would actually occur. In the end, those confined to Lodz were so malnourished and sick that the Germans responsible pronounced them ‘subhumans’ who must be eliminated. The Burgenland Gypsies, like the Jews, were suffocated in gas vans in Kulmhof.16

  • 17 Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pp. 628–55, 859–84.

24These murders were linked to the elimination of Jews, which the Nazi regime had set in motion after the attack on the Soviet Union. Along with Jews, functionaries of the CPSU, partisans and other ‘undesirable elements,’ Gypsies were indeed among the victims of the Einsatzgruppen and other SS and police units on Soviet soil.17 The activity of the Einsatzgruppen was based on a hierarchically articulated image of the enemy. At its apex were Jews and Communists and their phantasmal conjunction in the form of a ‘Jewish- Bolshevik world conspiracy.’ Gypsies occupied a subordinate, though not insignificant, rung on this ideological pyramid. They figured as ‘racially inferior’ and purportedly ‘asocial,’ and as ‘partisans,’ ‘spies,’ and ‘agents’ of the imaginary ‘Jewish world enemy.’

  • 18 Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 58/217, EM 92, 23 Sept. 1941, p. 299; Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwa (...)

25The Einsatzgruppen, which viewed them as fifth-column informers in the service of ‘Jewish bolshevism,’ targeted traveling Roma in particular whenever the killing units learned of their existence. Regarded only as auxiliaries of the ‘world enemy,’ their liquidation was not given first priority. The Einsatzgruppen murdered the Gypsies who fell into their hands, but did not search for them with the zeal employed in ferreting out Jews and Communists.18 But when the killing units lingered for long in an area, as in the case of Einsatzgruppe D in the Crimea, they also began systematic liquidation of the Gypsy population. As a result of the myth of ‘racially inferior’/‘spying Gypsies,’ Wehrmacht units also handed Roma over to the Einsatzgruppen or shot them themselves.

  • 19 Piotr Kaszyca, “Die Morde an Sinti und Roma im Generalgouvernement, 1939- 1945,” in Waclaw Dlugobo (...)

26In the Generalgouvernement, as in the USSR, more Gypsies were shot by German Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei) and Ordungspolizei than were killed in concentration camps. Based on eyewitness testimony and extensive court investigations, it has often been claimed that the Gypsies were shot in rural police raids that were typically directed against partisans or the Jewish underground. Yet in the Generalgouvernement, Gypsies also risked death when they remained hidden in a village. Moreover, the German police shot many Gypsies—along with Poles, Jews, and Soviet prisoners of war—in retribution for partisan attacks that they had not carried out.19

  • 20 Historical Archives Riga, Fonds 70, Inventory 5, file 15, p. 45; Staatsarchiv Nuremberg, ND, NOKW (...)
  • 21 Special Archives Moscow, 1323-2-292 b, p. 93, Runderlass des Befehlshabers der Ordnungspolizei im (...)

27Himmler himself tried to confine the extermination policy to traveling Polish Gypsies, since he imagined their ‘spying’ to constitute a special danger to the German occupying force. According to a model of persecution instituted by Wehrmacht units in the USSR and the German occupation administration in Latvia in 1941,20 he ordered police in the Generalgouvernement in August 1942 not to proceed against sedentary Gypsies as a rule, meaning as long as they were not criminals or did not collaborate with the partisans.21 Since the local police authorities could interpret this instruction as they saw fit, the conditions for murder remained relatively unchanged.

  • 22 Christopher Browning, Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York, 198 (...)

28An uprising of communist partisans erupted in German-occupied Serbia22 in July of 1941, surprising the Wehrmacht by its magnitude. From the outset, the tactics employed to defeat the partisans included ‘reprisal executions.’ For every German or ‘ethnic German’ soldier killed, 100 hostages would be shot; for every German or ‘ethnic German’ soldier wounded, 50 hostages were to be executed. The designated victims were males aged between 14 and 70. Since the Wehrmacht had too small a reservoir of victims for its ‘reprisal executions,’ the Einsatzgruppe stationed in Belgrade was asked to provide the requisite number of hostages. During summer 1941, the Einsatzgruppe forced the Jews of Belgrade and the Banat into a ‘transit camp’ and placed a large group of Jewish refugees in the overcrowded Sabac concentration camp, where Gypsies were also being held. The commander of the Einsatzgruppe decided on the ‘removal’ of 1,295 Jews from Belgrade, and 805 Jews and Gypsies from the Sabac camp, for the reprisal executions. Thus, Serbian Roma found themselves among the victims of the German ‘retaliation’ measures.

  • 23 ZS, V 503, AR-Z 36/76, Vol. 1, Supplementary File of the State Commission Serbia on Establishing C (...)

29At the same time, the German authorities were faced with a new question: what was to be done with Jewish women, children and the elderly and Roma women and children whose husbands and fathers had been shot? At the end of October 1941, they decided on a temporary solution: the construction of a camp in Semlin (Zemun) on the bank of the Sava River opposite Belgrade. On 8 December 1941, the Jews, and most probably the Gypsies as well, were transported to Semlin, now under the command of the German Security Police. Yugoslav historians have estimated the number of Jews incarcerated there at 7,500, along with 292 Roma women and children.23

  • 24 Staatsarchiv Nuremberg, ND, NOKW 1221, Ten-Day Report, 31 March 1942, fol. 4; NOKW 1444, Ten-Day R (...)
  • 25 Manoschek, ‘Serbien ist judenfrei,’ p. 178; Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 256–7.
  • 26 Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42. Bearbeitet, kommentiert und eingeleitet von Peter Wi (...)

30In the spring of 1942, the Jewish prisoners were gassed in an extermination van brought in especially from Germany for that purpose.24 By contrast, the Roma women and children were released from Semlin. The exact date of their release remains unclear. In his 1967 trial, former Semlin commandant Herbert Andorfer recalled that the Roma were released immediately prior to the commencement of the murder of Jewish women and children, hence in March 1942.25 However, since memory can often be deceptive when it comes to time, it is also conceivable that the decision to spare Roma women and children was linked to a discussion between Himmler and Heydrich held on 20 April 1942 and recorded in Himmler’s service diary as: “No extermination of the Gypsies.”26

  • 27 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 297–304; Gilad Margalit, “Rassismus zwischen Romantik und Völkermord (...)
  • 28 There is no evidence of a fundamental discussion or of a basic decision-making process on Gypsy po (...)

31This entry by the Reichsführer-SS could help to explain the release of Roma from Semlin, an action whose motives have remained to date obscure. In 1942, Himmler had begun to develop an interest in the Indian origin of the Gypsies. This led him to the notion that among the Roma were a small group of ‘racially pure’ Gypsies who, because they had originated in India, were bona fide ‘Aryans.’27 Although Himmler’s diary entry does not have the force of a basic policy decision,28 seen from this vantage point, his brief note points to differences in the SS leadership regarding extermination policy vis-à-vis Jews and Gypsies.

32At the end of 1942 a further order signed by Himmler brought a degree of coherence into the diffuse and unsystematic persecution of the Gypsies. This order and the subsidiary decrees that followed it provided for the deportation of Gypsies from Germany, Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Later, they were also deported from Poland, Russia and Lithuania. The guidelines for deportation, which were progressively radicalized in practice, established a hierarchy of three groups, defined in racial terms. Of these, only the first small group—the ‘pure blooded’ and ‘Mischlinge [mongrels], who were good by Gypsy standards’—were to be permitted to reproduce themselves. The second group of ‘socially integrated Gypsy Mischlinge’ were to be forcibly sterilized. Those deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau counted as the third group, at the bottom of the list in terms of their purported ‘inferiority.’ These ‘Gypsy Mischlinge,’ branded as ‘socially not integrated’ were never to be released from the camp system. This was a death sentence—but one that was never made explicit and which allowed the responsible authorities to maintain the pretence that, since in Auschwitz the camp commandant was in charge, they were not answerable for the predictable death of the Gypsies.

33Over 19,300 of the roughly 22,600 Gypsies crammed together in Auschwitz-Birkenau died there. The great majority of them—like the Soviet POWs—perished of hunger, sickness and epidemic diseases. In order to make space for the Jews from Hungary and other countries whom the SS did not immediately murder on arrival, the Gypsy camp was liquidated at the beginning of August 1944. The Gypsies who were still there were gassed. Not all of those who came out of Birkenau alive survived the end of Nazi Germany. Transported to other camps before the summer of 1944, many died as a result of forced labor or horrific sterilization experiments. Others died on the death marches in the closing weeks of the war, in Bergen-Belsen or as suicide commandos in the SS Dirlewanger Brigade. As late as the spring of 1945, that unit was still sending Gypsies to the front line of fire in the fight against the Red Army. Meanwhile, in Germany the practice of compulsory sterilization of Gypsies was stepped up and systematized from 1943 on.


  • 29 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 72–5.

34The murder of Jews and Gypsies and the mass death of Soviet POWs had the following in common: They were directed at groups of people whom the Nazis characterized as racial entities, or more generally as sub-humans, but some of whom regarded themselves neither as a unified ethnic group nor as a nation in the modern sense of the word. This is self-evident in the case of the ethnically and nationally heterogeneous POWs from the Soviet Union, colonized by the tsarist empire and incorporated into a homogeneous ‘Soviet people’ solely by Stalinist fiat. But for parts of European Jewry, too, there was no necessary congruence between national, religious and cultural identity in the first half of the twentieth century. In Germany, to take but one example, Jews formed a highly differentiated group with strong ties to the majority population; the leading Jewish organization bore the telling name Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith (Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens), and Zionism was a minority movement by comparison. In the case of those persecuted as ‘Gypsies,’ the notion of a unified identity is equally inappropriate, since at that time the concept of a common nation or nationality was meaningful only for a tiny fraction of them.29

35But National Socialist racism also identified ‘Gypsy blood’ in and attached the label of ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ to people who were completely integrated into the majority population and did not regard themselves as ‘Sinti,’ ‘Roma’ or ‘Gypsies’ at all. Here there was a parallel to the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws. While the definition of ‘Jews’ used there referred back to the identifiable confessional affiliation of an individual’s grandparents, it was also applied in practice to people who were themselves indifferent to the Jewish tradition, had converted to Christianity, or were atheists. Granted, the Mischlinge played a different role in the categorization of Jews than that of Gypsies. In both cases, though, what was decisive for the racial labeling of an individual as ‘Jew’ or ‘Gypsy’ was not their own self-image, but an image imposed on them from outside.

36Several other common features of Nazi extermination policies can be identified:

  • dictatorship and war as fundamental determinants: All opposition on the basis of democratic and human rights principles was suppressed in Germany; the vast majority of members of German society who were not subject to persecution on the grounds of being ‘racially inferior’ or ‘alien to the community’ saw themselves as part of a Volksgemeinschaft that had to pull together in the face of Germany’s wartime enemies, especially the Soviet Union.
  • institutional preconditions comprising a bureaucracy, military and police machinery able to impose a grip on its targets, both on its own territory and in the occupied lands, and which, if not completely comprehensive, were nonetheless fairly systematic.
  • a mental predisposition in favor of mass extermination provided by a racist approach to social questions and not confined to the ideological elites of the regime, and which, by deploying concepts such as ‘final objective’ and ‘final solution,’ opened the way for biological ‘solutions’ up to and including letting victims die, compulsory sterilization, and systematic murder.
  • a policy of mass killing that was not planned in advance in 1933 or even in 1939, but only crystallized under wartime conditions in the interaction between regional initiatives and central decisions, and rapidly escalated to murder in the context of frictions and failures in Nazi policy; here, the attack on the Soviet Union as a ‘Jewish-Bolshevik’ power and its lack of rapid success played a key role.
  • a regime and a population complicit in treating murder and the acceptance of mass death as taboo subjects, so that both verbally and through everyday behavior awareness of the crimes was glossed over.
  • a dictator who was indispensable to the legitimation of mass extermination and condoned it, but who was only one of a number of factors in its execution—one whose specific importance has declined in the historiography as the radicalizing influence of other central and regional agencies has become clearer. Particularly in the case of persecution of the Gypsies, it is plain that the instrument of an order issuing from Hitler himself played nothing like the role that older accounts of Nazi extermination policy attributed to it. On the contrary, in this case the initiative often came from institutions such as the Reich Criminal Police Office and from regional policymakers.

37Moreover, there was an important common element in the psychological strategies deployed, both in denying and in legitimating mass murder—though this is relatively under-researched in studies of the treatment of Soviet POWs. Murdering people, or letting them die, involved a division of labor. The resulting division of responsibility, the military chain of command, the conventions of civil administration that dictated that instructions from superiors both compelled action and relieved individuals of responsibility, and the tendency of bureaucratic processes to be seen as a legitimate end in themselves all contributed to the numbing of conscience and denial of personal responsibility. In the case of the Jews and Gypsies, the police and bureaucracy veiled the deportations in the language of ‘evacuation’ (Evakuierung), ‘resettlement’ (Aussiedlung) and ‘relocation’ (Umsiedlung); or ‘transports’ (Transport); or—in the case of the Gypsies—even of ‘travel’ (Reise). Like the terms ‘final solution’ (Endlösung) or ‘ultimate solution’ (endgültige Lösung), which were not originally meant to imply extermination, these phrases obscured the steps to murder by the very fact of being open to many interpretations.

38There were other common patterns as well: people claimed they were only following orders, or that other institutions had played an even bigger part in the killing or had borne more responsibility. Furthermore, in the case of mass killings that a person had witnessed or known about, they could imagine (or claim) that these must have been isolated incidents or excesses, carried out without the knowledge or approval of the leadership under pressure of war. Another mechanism that had the consequence of easing the psychological burden was the effort to dehumanize the victims. The Soviet POWs, crammed together under horrific conditions like the Jews and Gypsies who were held in ghettos and extermination camps, rapidly became so ill and weak that the people who had created these conditions could see them as ‘subhuman.’ Then the fiction that elimination of the victims through mass murder could even be an act of mercy came into play. Indeed, the participants tried to legitimate these murders with the claim that killing was a much ‘more humane solution’ than a slow death from hunger and disease—a way out that would have the advantage of preventing the spread of epidemics and thus save the lives of POWs, Jews and Gypsies who were not already doomed.

  • 30 See Browning, Ordinary Men.

39In the case of members of the SS, police and military who were directly involved in shooting the victims, the constellation was again different. For them, the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was canceled out, not only by ideological motivations, but also by a form of group pressure that dictated that each man should take part actively in a murder at least once. Careerism, brutalization, alcoholism and an increasing pleasure in killing itself also had some influence, along with an image of masculinity according to which shooting people to death was evidence of male toughness. Finally, there was the comforting knowledge that the killings had the unconditional backing of the political leaders.30

  • 31 ZS, AR 72 a/60, Urteil gegen Wilhelm Wiebens, pp. 34–6.

40The statements with which SS-Einsatzgruppen, Wehrmacht units and police attempted to justify the killing of Jews, Soviet POWs or Gypsies made an instrumental connection between familiar anti-Semitic, anti-Russian and anti-Gypsy clichés and the demands of German war-making and administration of the occupied territories. Alongside the stigma of the ‘unproductive consumer’ and the ‘alien element,’ they invoked the catchwords of spy and partisan against their victims. Stereotypes such as these enabled the murderers to conjure up a balance sheet with the bogey-man of ‘Jewish bolshevism,’ the partisan activities of ‘Russian sub-humans,’ or the ‘espionage’ of ‘Gypsy agents’ on one side, and their crimes on the other, and to draw the conclusion that the killings had made a positive contribution to the war effort. Sometimes the murder itself provided legitimation for further killings. When Einsatzkommando 9 was preparing to shoot 20 Gypsies in Vitebsk in early 1942, an old Gypsy woman pleaded for her life. The commandant refused, with the comment that if she were spared the execution could not be kept secret.31


41Despite these common elements, significant differences can be identified between the mass deaths of Soviet POWs, Jews and Gypsies. The principal differences appear to lie in the hierarchical nature of Nazi racial policy and in the definitions of the various victim groups, arising from different patterns of hostility toward Russians, Jews and Gypsies, as well as in the intensity of persecution.

  • 32 Eva Justin, Lebensschicksale artfremd erzogener Zigeunerkinder und ihrer Nachkommen (Berlin, 1944) (...)

42First, Nazi racial policy had a hierarchical structure. The central threat in this system came from ‘Jewry,’ who, unlike the Russians or Gypsies, were declared the ‘universal enemy’ of ‘the Aryan peoples’ and given the eschatological stamp of evil itself. Thus, Hitler, whose anti-Semitic tirades were legion, mentioned the Russians or other Slav peoples only in passing, and Gypsies hardly at all. Moreover, Eva Justin, a leading associate of the Race Hygiene Research Center in the Reich Health Bureau (Rassenhygienische Forschungsstelle im Reichsgesundheitsamt), which led the project of racial classification of the Gypsies, commented in 1943 that the “Gypsy problem” was not comparable to the Jewish problem insofar as the Gypsy character, unlike that of the Jewish intelligentsia, was not in a position to “undermine or endanger” the German people as a whole.32

  • 33 Hans-Erich Volkmann (ed.), Das Russlandbild im Dritten Reich (Cologne/ Vienna, 1994).

43Broadly, the same is true for the Nazi attitude toward the Soviet Union: Here, the vision of ‘Jewish bolshevism’ was unquestionably central to the construction of hate objects and negative projections, especially since reference to the Soviet Union as ‘Russo-Judaea’ had been part of right-wing rhetoric ever since 1917, and not only in Germany. ‘Ordinary’ Russophobia and anti- Slavism complemented this image since it was agreed that the Russians were ‘sub-humans,’ easily dominated and incapable of self-government. Only this ‘inferiority’—it was argued—could explain how a tiny ‘Jewish-Bolshevik’ elite had been able to establish dominance. Conversely, this implied an expectation that the political system would collapse if this leadership cadre in the Red Army, state and society were to be exterminated.33

44In contrast to the comprehensive Nazi hate-object—the ‘Jewish counterrace’— that was allegedly contending with the ‘Aryan peoples’ for world domination, the Nazi stereotype of the ‘Gypsy,’ in particular, encompassed two contradictory and even mutually exclusive types. The differences between them had important consequences for the Nazi persecution of Gypsies in Germany and in the occupied territories of eastern and south-eastern Europe. Outside of the Reich, and particularly in eastern Europe, anti-Gypsy fantasies were directed primarily against traveling Gypsies, who (it was imagined) used their wanderings to disguise their activities as spies for the ‘Jewish-Bolshevik enemy.’ Inside the Reich, it was imagined that the ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ were the real threat; partially or entirely sedentary, they maintained close contacts with non-Gypsies and were thereby allegedly ‘penetrating’ the ‘body of the German nation.’ Conversely, the largely endogamous Sinti who traveled around Germany were declared to be ‘tribally authentic’ (stammecht) or even—as Himmler and the SS Ancestral Heritage (Ahnenerbe) Office put it, in a racialist version of the traditional romantic image of the Gypsy—‘pure-blooded,’ and, since they originated in India, basically ‘Aryan.’ In the last phase of the war the Russian population, too, was combed for ‘Aryan’ elements. By contrast, the Nazis categorically denied that any Jew could aspire to Aryan status.

  • 34 See Burkhard Jellonnek and Rüdiger Lautmann (ed.), Nationalsozialistischer Terror gegen Homosexuel (...)

45The fixation on the hate-object of the ‘Gypsy Mischling,’ which can be shown to have characterized attitudes in the Reich proper, was also linked to the special role of the concept of race hygiene in the Nazi persecution of the Gypsies. ‘Race hygiene’ existed alongside racial anthropology, which classified ‘alien races’ as inferior, and as a second variant of a form of racism that operated with the notion of ‘genetic heritage’ (Erbgut). According to this approach, certain groups within a race or a people were to be excluded on the grounds that they were inferior. In the Nazi system these included people who did not appear to conform to the norms of the ‘German Volksgemeinschaft,’ for example, homosexuals, and those classified as ‘asocial.’34

46Second, the definition of who counted as a Soviet POW from the German point of view between 1941 and 1945 was clearly a function of progress in the war effort itself. Within this group, the Wehrmacht and the Einsatzgruppen made a selection according to political and racist criteria (Communist Party functionaries in the first case, Jews or ‘Asiatics’ in the second). In the persecution of German Jews at least, the machinery of persecution operated uniformly with quite precise definitions. Such designations were not available for people stigmatized in the Reich as ‘Gypsies’ or ‘Gypsy Mischlinge.’ Who was a ‘Jew’ was decided by the Nuremberg Laws of 1935. This group needed to be distinguished by definition in one direction only, namely in relation to ‘first-degree Mischlinge.’ By contrast, it was the ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ who stood at the center of the persecution of Gypsies in the Reich. No juridically precise definition of this term existed. Whatever characterization did exist was formulated vaguely with reference to genealogy and a criterion of ‘social conformity.’ This led to complications, since the relative importance of these two levels of definition—heredity, on the one hand, behavior in terms of degree of assimilation with the majority population, on the other— was a matter for debate. Beyond this, the concept of ‘Gypsy Mischling’ had to be defined in contradistinction to two other categories, or in two directions: against the ‘pure-blooded’ or ‘tribally authentic’ Gypsies, on the one hand, and against members of ‘non-Gypsy families’ with a ‘trace of Gypsy blood,’ on the other. If the definitions of ‘Gypsies’ and ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ were vague in themselves, and complicated even more by rivalries between different institutions with competing criteria, the business of assigning real individuals to the notional categories created an additional problem. At the same time, this problem gave the persecutors on the ground an opening to apply the instructions they received from the center in accordance with their own interpretation, and that normally meant at the expense of the victims.

47Third, it is difficult to understand the differences among the Nazi images and definitions of ‘Jews,’ ‘Gypsies’ and ‘Russians’ without knowing the history of these representations, which were similar in some respects but in others quite distinct. The ambivalence of attraction and revulsion was differently balanced, in ways that were specific to the dominant depiction of the Jew, the Gypsy and the Russian. In the social construct of the Gypsy, the dominant negative attributes associated with the cliché of the uncivilized and dangerous barbarian had a positive counterpart in the image of the noble savage. Cosmopolitanism and openness were cancelled out by the stigma of an urge for aimless and irregular wandering; simplicity of life and expectations corresponded to primitivism; innocence and lack of prejudice were related to a limited intellect, carefree sensuality, uncontrolled instincts and indecency.

48In watered-down form, many of these perceptions featured in the image of Russians, although here simplicity and primitivism were most emphasized: namely, as a helot nation willing to put up with suffering and hard work, and of Russia as a ‘colossus of clay’ bound to collapse at the slightest prodding from outside. As applied to the Russians, these notions should be read against the background of Germanic colonization in the East and centuries-old struggles for power; in regard to the Gypsies, processes of social discipline that had been going on in western Europe since the Early Modern period provide the key background.

  • 35 Lutz Niethammer, Kollektive Identität. Heimliche Quellen einer unheimlichen Konjunktur (Hamburg, 2 (...)

49The equally ambivalent image of ‘the Jew’ was given particular shape by Christianity’s deep-rooted and long-standing doubts about its own religious beliefs.35 Even when an individual Jew abandoned the Jewish religion, he remained a symbol of the ‘chosen people,’ and thus an object of envy from a Christian, and then post-Christian, perspective. At the same time, the Jew personified all that, though rejected in the making of the New Testament, he nevertheless persisted in challenging by his very existence: Christianity’s claim to be self-evident. This dichotomy between ‘chosen one’ and ‘reject’ was replicated in the myth of the ‘Jewish plutocrat’ and the ‘Jewish Bolshevik,’ and echoed in the contradictory images of the arch-traditional Orthodox Jew and the ‘subversive’ modernizer.

50Fourth, while Germany’s Wehrmacht and political leaders abandoned the Soviet POWs to die in millions in 1941 and early 1942, only to place greater stress on maintaining their labor force later on, the systematic murder of Jews and Gypsies continued uninterrupted from mid-1941 until shortly before the end of the war. Of course, the Jews were subject to a much more radical degree of persecution than the Gypsies, who were not threatened with murder in all the states occupied by or allied with Germany. While in the case of Germany within its 1937 borders—Austria, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and Estonia—it is difficult to decide whether the Jews or the Gypsies suffered more extreme persecution, the German police and occupying authorities in west European countries—France, Belgium and the Netherlands— devoted more time to, and showed greater thoroughness in, the deportation of the Jews than in the registration and deportation of those classified as ‘Gypsies.’ Very few Roma were deported from the parts of Italy occupied by the Germans from the autumn of 1943, while the SS and the police at least attempted the systematic deportation of Jews.

51In the case of Hungary, the removal of Roma to concentration camps in 1944–45, for all its horror, cannot be equated with the systematic deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The situation in Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia and the German-occupied part of the Soviet Union was analogous. There is no evidence of deportations or mass shootings of Gypsies in Denmark, Norway, Greece or Bulgaria. By contrast, the lives of European Jews were permanently under serious threat from northern Norway to Rhodes and from France to the German-occupied parts of the Soviet Union. This difference can be explained by the ideological dominance of anti- Semitism as well as by the way in which the image of the Jewish enemy was mobilized in German war-making and occupation policy. In German-occupied eastern Europe, for example, the murder of Jews was increasingly regarded as a tried and trusted method of dealing with supply bottlenecks, epidemics and housing shortages. In comparison to the Jews concentrated in large numbers in the Old Russian Pale of Settlement, eastern European Roma constituted a numerically insignificant group. This also explains why they were much less crucial to a policy of murder that was simultaneously racist and utilitarian.


  • 36 Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn (eds.), The History and Sociology of Genocide. Analyses and Case St (...)

52In 1948 the United Nations defined genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”36

53There is no dispute that the murder of European Jewry fits these criteria. The mass shootings by Einsatzgruppen, police and military in eastern Europe and Serbia, their concentration in the Lodz ghetto and in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the gassing of thousands of prisoners, and the compulsory sterilizations inside and outside of the camp system mark the Nazi crimes against the Gypsies, too, as genocide. By contrast, letting the Soviet POWs die does not appear to be treated anywhere in the literature as genocide, since Nazi Germany let them die in their millions but did not link this to any project of eliminating the Soviet population as such. On the contrary, the majority of them were assigned the role of a helot population for the German ‘master race’ in its mission to colonize the East.

54If we weigh the term ‘genocide,’ derived from international law, against the more open concepts of ‘mass extermination’ or ‘mass crime,’ the latter two terms have the same status from a moral point of view as well as from the perspective of historical research. In the context of Nazi policies of extermination, the phrase ‘mass extermination’ allows us to consider, alongside the murder of Jews and Gypsies, events such as the death of Soviet POWs, which, in terms of the numbers affected, were extraordinarily significant.

  • 37 Lewy, Nazi Persecution, pp. 221–4.

55The most controversial aspect of the UN Convention on Genocide lies in the concept of intent, which must underlie a policy of extermination if it is to qualify as genocide. There are four positions on this question: The first holds that a word such as ‘genocide,’ essentially a legal term, cannot be usefully applied in the social sciences. A second position proposes that the term ‘intent’ be interpreted in such a way that the destruction of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group would count as genocide unless there was no evidence of human intention—as in the case of natural disasters, or an epidemic introduced by accident. The advocates of a third position insist that an overall plan is the necessary precondition for genocide. This is how Guenter Lewy proceeds in his book The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, taking into account the fact that there is no evidence in Nazi policy toward the Gypsies of a plan based on a long-term project of annihilation.37

  • 38 Robert Ritter, “Die Zigeunerfrage und das Zigeunerbastardproblem,” Fortschritte der Erbpathologie, (...)

56Two objections to this position can be stated. First, it was a demand, at least of the Race Hygiene Research Center which was responsible for the racial classification of the Gypsies, that the estimated 90 percent of Gypsies whom they classified as ‘Mischlinge’ should be sterilized and kept in sexsegregated camps. The aim of this policy was explicitly the ‘disappearance’ of the Gypsy Mischlinge.38 This phrase cannot be used to support a simple intentionalist argument; the race hygienists’ call for the ‘disappearance of the Gypsy Mischlinge’ cannot be equated with a politically implemented program of genocide. At the same time, however, there was a clear consensus between race hygienists and the German police authorities that ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ should be prevented from reproducing themselves and/or should be ‘eradicated’ in other ways.

  • 39 Concerning this topic I disagree with Yehuda Bauer’s point of view. See Bauer, Rethinking the Holo (...)

57The second objection is of a more fundamental kind. None of the central episodes of mass murder in the 20th century can be proven to have been based on long-term planning39 or a pre-determined program of killing. This also applies to the Nazi murder of Jews and Gypsies. This point becomes particularly clear when we consider that before the war the object of anti- Jewish policy in the Reich was to force the Jews to emigrate, notably, to Mandatory Palestine, while the deliberate killing began only three years later. Political leaders who were planning murder from the beginning would hardly have pursued a policy that drove the victims beyond their reach. As recent detailed research has demonstrated, the murder of the Jews emerged out of a series of individual decisions, which only in late 1941 and early 1942 came together to form a general policy adding up to genocide.

  • 40 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 297–304; Patrick Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten. Die deutsche Krimina (...)

58A situational decision-making process can also be documented for the murder of the Gypsies in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The initial impulse for the order to deport the Gypsies to Birkenau was Himmler’s desire to culturally and biologically breed a ‘racially pure’ minority of Gypsies that would restore their ‘Aryan’ character. This necessarily raised the question of what was to be done with the remaining ‘Gypsy-like persons’ (zigeunerische Personen). The initiative for the Gypsy deportations in late 1942, however, lay not with Himmler but with the Reich Criminal Police Office. The police authorities used the SSleader’s romantic racist ideas for their own ends, skillfully harnessing Himmler to their purposes. Since 1942 the Kripo leadership had been trying to compensate for its loss of control over society by intensifying the use of concentration camp imprisonment. The deportation of purportedly deviant ‘Gypsy Mischlinge’ was in keeping with this line. In the process, the criminal police were prepared to countenance the large-scale death of allegedly ‘inferior’ Gypsy prisoners—assuming this was not actually intended. The answer to the question of how any survivors would be dealt with could await the end of the war, which they fantasized would be a German victory.40

59A fourth position in defining ‘genocide’ argues that we need to take into account the intimate connection between stigmatizing a group, speculative considerations about how to get rid of its members, and the situational escalation of persecution into mass murder. Neither in the case of the murder of the Gypsies, which was not linked to an intention to kill the whole group, nor in that of European Jewry, where the intention was total destruction, was there a plan already prepared and awaiting implementation in 1933 or 1939. What happened in the form of shootings, imprisonment under murderous conditions, gassing and forced sterilization was intentional mass destruction, which in that sense amounted to genocide.


1 * Translated from the German by Dr. Eve Rosenhaft (University of Liverpool).

2 Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill/London, 1995).

3 Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden. Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945 (Stuttgart, 1978).

4 See Yehuda Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust (New Haven/London, 2001); Christopher R Browning, The Path to Genocide. Essays on Launching the Final Solution (Cambridge, 1995); Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York, 1992); Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrussland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg, 1999); Christian Gerlach and Aly Götz, Das letzte Kapitel. Der Mord an den ungarischen Juden (Stuttgart/Munich, 2002); Ulrich Herbert (ed.), National Socialist Extermination Policies. Contemporary German Perspectives and Controversies (New York/Oxford, 1999); Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews (New York, 1985); Peter Longerich, Politik der Vernichtung. Eine Gesamtdarstellung der nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung (Munich, 1998); Hans Mommsen, Auschwitz, 17. Juli 1942. Der Weg zur europäischen ‘Endlösung der Judenfrage’ (Munich, 2002); Dieter Pohl, Holocaust. Die Ursachen, das Geschehen, die Folgen (Freiburg, 2000); Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten. Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes (Hamburg, 2002); Leni Yahil, The Holocaust. The Fate of European Jewry 1932–1945 (New York/Oxford, 1990).

5 Hans Jansen, Der Madagaskar-Plan. Die beabsichtigte Deportation der europäischen Juden nach Madagaskar (Munich, 1997); Magnus Brechtken, "Madagaskar für die Juden". Antisemitische Idee und politische Praxis. 1885–1945 (Munich, 1998).

6 See footnotes 9 and 10 in this article.

7 Ulrich Herbert, “Arbeit und Vernichtung. Ökonomisches Interesse und Primat der ‘Weltanschauung’ im Nationalsozialismus,” in Ulrich Herbert (ed.), Europa und der ‘Reichseinsatz’. Ausländische Zivilarbeiter, Kriegsgefangene und KZHäftlinge in Deutschland 1938–1945 (Essen, 1991), pp. 384–426, here pp. 415– 18.

8 Streit, Keine Kameraden, p. 136.

9 Aktennotiz, 2. 5. 1941, Document 2718 PS, International Military Tribunal (IMT), Major War Criminals, Nuremberg 1947–49, Volume 31, p. 84; see also Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pp. 46–59.

10 Wirtschaftspolitische Richtlinien für Wirtschaftsorganisation Ost, Gruppe Landwirtschaft vom 23. 5. 1941, Document EC 126, IMT, Volume 36, p. 135.

11 Streit, Keine Kameraden, p. 136.

12 Einsatzbefehl Nr. 8, 17 July 1941, IMT, NO – 3414, based upon the notorious Kommissarbefehl, OKH, Gen. Z.b.V. beim ObdH, Nr. 75/41 g. Kdos. Chef., 6. 5. 1941, Annex 2, Document 877 PS, International Military Tribunal [IMT], Major War Criminals, Nuremberg 1947–49.

13 Ulrich Herbert, Fremdarbeiter. Politik und Praxis des ‘Ausländer-Einsatzes’ in der Kriegswirtschaft des Dritten Reiches (Bonn, 1999), pp. 158–208.

14 Michael Zimmermann, Rassenutopie und Genozid. Die nationalsozialistische ‘Lösung der Zigeunerfrage’ (Hamburg, 1996); The National Socialist ‘Solution of the Gypsy Question,’ in Herbert (ed.), National Socialist Extermination Policies, pp. 186–209; Guenter Lewy, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies (Oxford/New York, 2000); Martin Luchterhandt, Der Weg nach Birkenau. Entstehung und Verlauf der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgung der ‘Zigeuner’ (Lübeck, 2000).

15 Examples: Staatsarchiv Detmold, M 1 JP/1611, Kommandeur der Gendarmerie Minden, 27. 2. 1937; Landesarchiv Berlin, Rep. 142 OGT 1-10-1-23, Landrat Hameln, 20. 9. 1934; Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, 364/Zug 1975/ 3II/Fasc. 23, Bezirksamt Mosbach, 11. 6. 1934; Staatsarchiv Marburg, Landratsamt Marburg, Bürgermeister von Neustadt, 21. 2. 1936.

16 Antoni Galinski, “Obóz dla Cyganów w Lodzi,” in Biuletyn Okregowej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Lodzi (Lodz, 1989), pp. 47–56, Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 221–9, Erika Thurner, National Socialism and Gypsies in Austria (Tuscaloosa/London, 1998), pp. 102–5.

17 Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pp. 628–55, 859–84.

18 Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 58/217, EM 92, 23 Sept. 1941, p. 299; Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen Ludwigsburg (Central Office of State Justice Administration, hereafter: ZS), AR 72 a/60, Verdict against Wiebens et al., fol. 34–36; Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, MA 701/1, BdS, EK 3, Kauen 1 Dec 1941, Full listing of executions carried out in the area of EK 3 to Dec. 1, 1941, fol. 31; BAB, R 58/219, EM 150, 2.1. 1942, fol. 364; Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 58/218, EM 119, 20 Oct. 1941, fol. 239; for White Russia, see Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pp. 1063–7.

19 Piotr Kaszyca, “Die Morde an Sinti und Roma im Generalgouvernement, 1939- 1945,” in Waclaw Dlugoborski (ed.), Sinti und Roma im KL Auschwitz-Birkenau 1943–44 (Auschwitz, 1998), pp. 117–43. On the decision-making process, see Dieter Pohl, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944. Organisation und Durchführung eines staatlichen Massenverbrechens (Munich, 1997), p. 114.

20 Historical Archives Riga, Fonds 70, Inventory 5, file 15, p. 45; Staatsarchiv Nuremberg, ND, NOKW 2072, 281. Sdv., 23.6.42, Kommandierender General v.21.11.41. -VII 1045/41; ND, NOKW 2022, 281. Sdv., Abt. VII/I a, Tgb. Nr. 457/43 geh., 24.3.43, Bezug: O.K. 534, Br.B.Nr. 193/43 geh. v. 22.3.43, an Feld-Kdtr. 822; ZS, AR-Z 497/67, p. 143-44, SSPF Lettland - KdO, I a Nr. 800/42, 11. 3. 1942 and 3. 4. 1942.

21 Special Archives Moscow, 1323-2-292 b, p. 93, Runderlass des Befehlshabers der Ordnungspolizei im Generalgouvernement, 13 Aug. 1942.

22 Christopher Browning, Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York, 1985); Walter Manoschek, ‘Serbien ist judenfrei’. Militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42 (Munich, 1995); Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 248–58.

23 ZS, V 503, AR-Z 36/76, Vol. 1, Supplementary File of the State Commission Serbia on Establishing Crimes by the German Occupiers and their Auxiliaries in Serbia. See also Browning, Fateful Months, p. 71, and Manoschek, ‘Serbien ist judenfrei,’ p. 178.

24 Staatsarchiv Nuremberg, ND, NOKW 1221, Ten-Day Report, 31 March 1942, fol. 4; NOKW 1444, Ten-Day Report, 20 April 1942, fol. 4; ibid., Ten-Day Report, 30 April 1942, fol. 4., BAB, R 70-Serbien-33, fol. 36.

25 Manoschek, ‘Serbien ist judenfrei,’ p. 178; Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 256–7.

26 Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42. Bearbeitet, kommentiert und eingeleitet von Peter Witte, Michael Wildt, Martina Voigt, Dieter Pohl, Peter Klein, Christian Gerlach, Christoph Dieckmann und Andrej Angrick (Hamburg, 1999), p. 405.

27 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 297–304; Gilad Margalit, “Rassismus zwischen Romantik und Völkermord. Die ‘Zigeunerfrage’ im Nationalsozialismus,” In Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 7/8 (1998), pp. 400–20; Guenter Lewy, “Himmler and the ‘Racially Pure Gypsies,’” in Journal of Contemporary History 34 (2), 1999, pp. 201–14.

28 There is no evidence of a fundamental discussion or of a basic decision-making process on Gypsy policy among the National Socialist leadership in spring 1942.

29 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 72–5.

30 See Browning, Ordinary Men.

31 ZS, AR 72 a/60, Urteil gegen Wilhelm Wiebens, pp. 34–6.

32 Eva Justin, Lebensschicksale artfremd erzogener Zigeunerkinder und ihrer Nachkommen (Berlin, 1944), p. 120.

33 Hans-Erich Volkmann (ed.), Das Russlandbild im Dritten Reich (Cologne/ Vienna, 1994).

34 See Burkhard Jellonnek and Rüdiger Lautmann (ed.), Nationalsozialistischer Terror gegen Homosexuelle. Verdrängt und ungesühnt (Paderborn, 2002) Wolfgang Ayaß, ‘Asoziale’ im Nationalsozialismus (Stuttgart, 1995).

35 Lutz Niethammer, Kollektive Identität. Heimliche Quellen einer unheimlichen Konjunktur (Hamburg, 2000), pp. 440–1; Mordechai Breuer and Michael Graetz, Deutsch-Jüdische Geschichte in der Neuzeit. Vol. 1: 1600–1780 (Munich, 1996), pp. 49–60.

36 Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn (eds.), The History and Sociology of Genocide. Analyses and Case Studies (New Haven/London, 1990), p. 10.

37 Lewy, Nazi Persecution, pp. 221–4.

38 Robert Ritter, “Die Zigeunerfrage und das Zigeunerbastardproblem,” Fortschritte der Erbpathologie, Rassenhygiene und ihrer Grenzgebiete 3 (1939), pp. 2– 20; “Primitivität und Kriminalität,” in Monatsschrift für Kriminalbiologie und Strafrechtsreform 31 (1940), pp. 198–210.

39 Concerning this topic I disagree with Yehuda Bauer’s point of view. See Bauer, Rethinking the Holocaust, p. 12.

40 Zimmermann, Rassenutopie, pp. 297–304; Patrick Wagner, Hitlers Kriminalisten. Die deutsche Kriminalpolizei und der Nationalsozialismus (Munich, 2002), pp. 129–43.


MICHAEL ZIMMERMANN (1951–2007) worked as a historian with the city of Essen (directing an exhibition project on Essen under National Socialist rule), and was an assistant professor at Bochum University; he was also a visiting professor at the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. He published many works on the history of Gypsies in Germany and Central Europe, and on the history of German Jewry, as well as on the subjects of National Socialism and racism in general. He co-edited the volume with Yaron Matras and Hangs Winterberg, Sinti, Roma, Gypsies. Sprache—Geschichte—Gegenwart (2003).

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont sous Licence OpenEdition Books, sauf mention contraire.


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