The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II

The Roma Holocaust, also known as the Porajmos ( pronounced [poroˈɦmoːs]), was the planned and attempted effort of Nazi Germany during World War II to commit genocide against Europe’s Romani people. It paralleled the Jewish Holocaust, which saw most of its victims being Jews, who were targeted for extermination as a racially inferior group by the Nazis along with Roma and Sinti peoples. Some scholars consider this neglected episode as part of the same genocidal project targeting Jews and Roma.

Death toll Estimates for the Porajmos vary from 220,000to 1,500,000with even higher estimates too. Most Romani died during the genocide in Yugoslavia, where they were deported to concentration camps and extermination camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Jasenovac, and Treblinka. The majority of the victims were killed by the Einsatzgruppen mobile killing squads.

Persecution of Roma before the genocide was widespread and systematic. They were fired from their jobs, beaten, robbed, kidnapped, and killed. In Czechoslovakia during the early years of the war, they were subject to internment and deportation to concentration camps. Germany annexed Austria in 1938, and the Nazis began a campaign of persecution of Austrian Roma that was intensified after the invasion of Poland in 1939.

In Slovakia, the local collaborating auxiliaries were responsible for the death of Romans. In Denmark and Greece, locals did not participate in the pursuit of Roma as they did elsewhere. Bulgaria and Finland, who were allies with Germany but not collaborators with the Porajmos, likewise refused to collaborate with the Jewish Holocaust.

Another distinctive feature of both the Porajmos and the Holocaust was the extensive use of human subjects in medical experiments. Josef Mengele, a notorious SS officer who worked in the Auschwitz concentration camp, was one of these doctors. His tests included putting individuals in pressure chambers, giving them medications, freezing them, attempting to change their eye color by injecting children’s eyes, and performing other macabre surgeries. Mengele appeared particularly interested in working with Romani children.

Roma Holocaust Memorial Day

Since 2011, Poland has recognized the Genocide Remembrance Day of the Roma and Sinti by parliamentary resolution. Croatia, Czechia, Lithuania, and Slovakia all observe August 2 as the Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day.

It is important to remember the Holocaust’s terrible accounts and to bring attention to the fact that, during the Nazi effort to eradicate Romani people from Europe, hundreds of thousands of individuals were tortured and murdered.

For this purpose, we collected five images that tell us Human stories from the forgotten Romani holocaust.

More info: European Roma Rights Centre

The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II
Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of David Simons
The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II
Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rita Prigmore
The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II
Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Elizabeth Eidenbenz
The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II
Photo Credit: Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rita Prigmore
The Forgotten Roma Holocaust of World War II
Photo Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Joseph Muscha Müller
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