[…]The next largest contingent [after Soviet prisoners of war] were the gypsies.
Long before the war gypsies were being rounded up and put into concentration camps as part of the campaign against a-socials. One department of the Reich Criminal Police Office was solely concerned with the supervision of gypsies. Repeated searches were made in the gypsy encampments for persons who were not true gypsies, and these were sent to concentration camps as shirkers or a-socials. In addition, the gypsy encampments were constantly being combed through for biological reasons. The Reichsführer SS wanted to ensure that the two main gypsy stocks be preserved: I cannot recall their names. In his view they were the direct descendants of the original Indo-Germanic race, and had preserved their ways and customs more or less pure and intact. He now wished to have them all collected together for research purposes. They were to be precisely registered and preserved as an historic monument.
Later they were to be collected from all over Europe, and allotted limited areas in which to dwell.
In 1937 and 1938 all itinerant gypsies were collected into so-called habitation camps near the larger towns, to facilitate supervision.
In 1942, however, an order was given that all gypsy-type persons on German territory, including gypsy half-castes, were to be arrested and transported to Auschwitz, irrespective of sex or age. The only exceptions were those who had been officially recognized as pure-blooded members of the two main tribes. There were to be settled in the Ödenburg district on the Neusiedlersee. Those transported to Auschwitz were to be kept there for the rest of the war in a family camp.
But the regulations governing their arrest were not drawn up with sufficient precision. Various offices of the Criminal Police interpreted them in different ways, and as a result persons were arrested who could not possibly be regarded as belonging to the category that it was intended to intern.
Many men were arrested while on leave from the front, despite high decorations and several wounds, simply because their father or mother of grandfather had been a gypsy or a gypsy half-caste. Even a very senior Party member, whose gypsy grandfather had settled in Leipzig, was among them. He himself had a large business in Leipzig, and had been decorated more than once during the First World War. Another was a girl student who had been a leader in the Berlin League of German Girls. There were many more such cases. I made a report to the Reich Criminal Police Office. As a result the gypsy camp was constantly under examination and many releases took place. But these were scarcely noticeable, so great was the number of those who remained.
I cannot say how many gypsies, including half-castes, were in Auschwitz. I only know that they completely filled one section of the camp designed to hold 10,000. Conditions in Birkenau were utterly unsuitable for a family camp. Every pre-requisite was lacking, even if it was intended that the gypsies be kept there only for the duration of the war. It was quite impossible to provide proper food for the children, although by referring to the Reichsführer SS I managed for a time to bamboozle the food offices into giving me food for the very young ones. This was soon stopped, however, for the Food Ministry laid down that no special children’s food might be issued to the concentration camps.
In July 1942 the Reichsführer SS visited the camp. I took him all over the gypsy camp. He made a most thorough inspection of everything, noting the overcrowded barrack-huts, the unhygienic conditions, the crammed hospital building. He saw those who were sick with infectious diseases, and the children suffering from Noma, which always made me shudder, since it reminded me of leprosy and of the lepers I had seen in Palestine – their little bodies wasted away, with gaping holes in their cheeks big enough for a man to see through, a slow putrefaction of the living body.
He noted the mortality rate, which was relatively low in comparison with that of the camp as a whole. The child mortality, however, was extraordinarily high. I do not believe that many new-born babies survived more than a few weeks.
He saw it all, in detail, and as it really was – and he ordered me to destroy them. Those capable of work were first to be separated from the others, as with the Jews.
I pointed out to him that the personnel of the gypsy camp was not precisely what he had envisaged being sent to Auschwitz. He thereupon ordered that the Reich Criminal Police Office should carry out a sorting as quickly as possible. This in fact took two years. The gypsies capable of work were transferred to another camp. About 4,000 gypsies were left by August 1944, and these had to go into the gas chambers. Up to that moment, they were unaware of what was in store for them. They first realized what was happening when they made their way, barrack-hut by barrack-hut, towards Crematorium I.
It was not easy to drive them into the gas chambers. I myself did not see it, but Schwarzhuber told me that it was more difficult than any previous mass destruction of Jews and it was particularly hard on him, because he knew almost every one of them individually, and had been on good terms with them. They were by their nature as trusting as children.
Despite the unfavorable conditions the majority of the gypsies did not, so far as I could observe, suffer much psychologically as a result of imprisonment, apart from the fact that it restricted their roving habits.
The overcrowding, poor sanitary arrangements and even to a certain extent the food shortage were conditions to which they had become accustomed in their normal, private way of life. Nor did they regard he sickness and the high mortality rate as particularly tragic. Their whole attitude was really that of children, volatile in thought and deed. They loved to play, even at work, which they never took quite seriously. Even in bad times they always tried to look on the bright side. They were optimists.
I never saw a scowling, hateful expression on a gypsy’s face. If one went into their camp, they would often run out of their barracks to play their musical instruments, or to let their children dance, or perform their usual tricks. There was a large playground where the children could run about to their heart’s content and play with toys of every description. When spoken to they would reply openly and trustingly and would make all sorts of requests. It always seemed to me that they did not really understand about their imprisonment.
They fought fiercely among themselves. Their hot blood and pugnacious natures made this inevitable in view of the many different tribes and clans thrown together here. The members of each clan kept very much together and supported each other. When it came to sorting out the able-bodied, the resulting separations and dislocations within the clan gave rise to many touching scenes and to much pain and tears.
They were consoled and comforted to a certain extent when they were told later they would all be together again.
For a while we kept the gypsies who were capable of work in the base camp at Auschwitz. They did their utmost to get a glimpse of their clan-mates from time to time, even if only from a distance. We often had to carry out a search after roll-call for homesick gypsies who had cunningly slipped back to join their clan.
Indeed, often, when I was in Oranienburg with the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps, I was approached by gypsies who had known me in Auschwitz, and asked for news of other members of their clan. Even when these had been gassed long ago. Just because of their complete trust, it was always hard for me to give them an evasive answer.
Although they were a source of great trouble to me at Auschwitz, they were nevertheless my best-loved prisoners – if I may put it that way. They never managed to keep at any job for long. They ‘gypsied around’ too much for that, whatever they did. Their greatest wish was to be in a transport company, where they could travel all over the place, and satisfy their endless curiosity, and have a chance of stealing. Stealing and vagrancy are in their blood and cannot be eradicated. Their moral attitude is also completely different from that of other people. They do not regard stealing as in any way wicked. They cannot understand why a man should be punished for it. I am here referring to the majority of those interned, the real wandering gypsies, as well as those of mixed blood who had become akin to them. I do not refer to those who had settled in the towns. These had learnt too much of civilization, and what they learned was unfortunately not the best.
I would have taken great interest in observing their customs and habits if I had not been aware of the impending horror, namely the Extermination Order, which until mid-1944 was known only to myself and the doctors in Auschwitz.
By command of the Reichsführer SS the doctors were to dispose of the sick, and especially the children, as inconspicuously as possible.
And it was precisely they who had such trust in the doctors.
Nothing surely is harder than to grit one’s teeth and go through with such a thing, coldly, pitilessly and without mercy.[…]
A short overview of Nazi policies towards the Gypsies can be found under the following link:
http://www.ushmm.org/education/resource ... aSBklt.pdf
Pearson returned to the cross-examination of Otto Ohlendorf, the former commander of Einsatzgruppe D, at his trial and read from page 278 of the NMT volumes:
http://zundelsite.org/english/dsmrd/dsmrd20weber.htmlMR. HEATH: What about the gypsies. I believe you have no idea whatever as to how many gypsies your Kommando killed, have you?
A. No. I don't know.
Q. On what basis did you kill gypsies, just because they were gypsies? Why were they a threat to the security of the Wehrmacht?
A. It is the same as for the Jews.
A. I think I can add up from my own knowledge of European history that the Jews actually during wars regularly carried on espionage service on both sides.
PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: You were asked about gypsies.
MR. HEATH: I was asking you about gypsies, as the Court points out, and not Jews. ***. I would like to ask you now on what basis you determined that every gypsy found in Russia should be executed, because of the danger to the German Wehrmacht?
A. There was no difference between gypsies and Jews. At the time the same order existed for the Jews. I added the explanation that it is known from European history that the Jews actually during all wars carried out espionage service on both sides.
PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: Well, now, what we are trying to do is to find out what you are going to say about the gypsies... Is it also in European history that gypsies always participated in political strategy and campaigns?
DEFENDANT OHLENDORF: Espionage organizations during campaigns.
PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: The gypsies did?
A. The gypsies in particular. I want to draw your recollection to extensive descriptions of the Thirty Year War by Ricarda Huch and Schiller -
Q. That is going back pretty far in order to justify the killing of gypsies in 1941, isn't it?
A. I added that as an explanation, as such motive might have played a part in this, to get at this decision.
Q. Could you give us an illustration of any activity of a band of gypsies on behalf of Russia against Germany during this late war?
A. Only the same claim that can be maintained as with regard to Jews, that they actually played a part in the partisan war.
Q. You, yourself cannot give us any illustration of any gypsies being engaged in espionage or in any way sabotaging the German war effort?
A. That is what I tried to say just now. I don't know whether it came out correctly in the translation. For example, in the Yaila Mountains, such activity of gypsies has also been found.
Q. Do you know that of your own personal knowledge?
A. From my personal knowledge, of course, that is to say always from the reports which came up from the Yaila Mountains.
Q. In an instance in which gypsies were included among those who were liquidated, could you find an objective reason for their liquidation?
A. From Russia I only knew of the gypsy problem from Simferopol. I do not know any other actions against gypsies, except from the one in Simferopol.
PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: Very well.
MR. HEATH: May I proceed, your Honor?
PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: Yes, please.
MR. HEATH: Mr. Ohlendorf, you say the gypsies are notorious bearers of intelligence? Isn't it a fact that the nationals of any invaded state are notorious bearers of intelligence?
Proceeding to chapter 4, Nyiszli sheds some light on the occupants of the Gypsy camp, as well as the Theresienstadt compound.
He writes: "There were 4,500 of them in all (Gypsies). They did no work, but were assigned the job of policing the neighboring Jewish camps and barracks, where they exercised their authority with unimaginable cruelty."
By his description, it may be seen that Nyiszli was not particularly enamored with the Gypsies, but on the following page he does describe many of the horrible afflictions which troubled these despised individuals. He writes of their susceptibility to a rare disease called NOMA, the symptoms of which shocked and repulsed even hardened SS doctors:
This terrible disease is exceptionally rare; in ordinary practice you scarcely ever come across it. but here in the Gypsy Camp it was fairly common among both children and adolescents. And so, because of its prevalence, research had been gradually facilitated and considerable progress made towards finding an effective method of treating it..
According to established medical concepts, "dry gangrene of the face" generally appears in conjunction with measles, scarlet fever and typhoid fever. But these diseases, plus the camps deplorable sanitary conditions, seemed to be the factors which favored its development, since it also existed in the Czech, Polish and Jewish camps.
But it was especially prevalent among Gypsy children, and from this it had been deduced that its presence must be directly related to hereditary syphilis, for the syphilis rate in the Gypsy camp was extremely high. From these observations a new treatment, consisting of a combination of malaria injections and doses of a drug whose name is "Novarsenobenozol," had been developed with most promising results.
Dr. Mengele paid daily visits to the experimental barracks and participated actively in all phases of the research."
Now, what does the above tell us? Undoubtedly we are all familiar with the oft spread tales that those too ill to work were gassed on the spot and that selections were undertaken daily to hunt these individuals down in order to send them to the gas chambers, as they had become "useless eaters," yet here we have the doctor conceding that both the Gypsies and (later) the Theresienstadt Jews were not expected to work and had been maintained for some 2 years in this manner without sending any of them to the so-called gas chambers.
Is there anything more interesting that one can say about the gypsies in the Holocaust? Of course, those that say that the Jews were not exterminated will maintain the same about the gypsies; but is there any evidence that most of them were still alive after the Holocaust, since, unlike the Jews, they would not have been able to travel far, and so their presence or their absence would surely have been noticed in their traditional areas?