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The Roma:

Recent persecution
& current status: Part 1

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Roma are also known as Gypsies, Rom, Rroma, Romani, etc.


There are believed to be about 12 million Roma scattered throughout the world, with the vast majority living in Europe. It is impossible to estimate the total population with accuracy since many governments do not record Roma in their census figures. Also, many Roma conceal their ethnic origin out of fear of discrimination.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe describe the Roma as "the poorest, least healthy, least educated and most discriminated sector of...society." 1

Persecution of the Roma in the 20th century:

They have suffered severe persecution in ancient times, and this has continued to the present day:

bullet During the 1920's, in the Weimar Republic in Germany, the Roma were seriously oppressed. They were forbidden to use parks or public baths. Roma were required to register with the police. Many were sent to work camps "for reasons of public security."

When the Nazis took power in the early 1930s, the Roma were further persecuted under the "Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor" In 1937, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree "The Struggle Against the Gypsy Plague," which increased police monitoring of the Roma.
bullet During the Nazi Holocaust, they were declared to be "subhuman". In 1941-JUL, the Einsatzkommandos were instructed to "kill all Jews, Gypsies and mental patients." A few months later, Himmler ordered that all Roma be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination.

Sybil Milton, a former Senior Historian of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates that 500,000 Roma and Sinti persons were executed during the Nazi Holocaust. This number is supported by the Romas and Sinti Center in Heidelberg. 2 The Roma refer to this genocide as the "O Porrajamos" -- literally "The Great Devouring."
bullet There are about 5,000 Roma survivors of the Nazi concentration camps who are still living. Because of continuing discrimination, they did not share in any of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to other survivors of the Holocaust. 3

Persecution of the Roma continues in the 21st century:

The hatred, discrimination, oppression, and physical attacks directed at the Roma within the formerly Communist governments of eastern Europe have intensified in recent years. Roma are heavily discriminated against in matters of education, employment, health care, and social services. They are a prime target of neo-Nazis and skinheads. Often the governments have done little to guarantee them even the most basic of human rights. If the governments tried to treat them as equal citizens, there would probably be a backlash from the rest of the public.

Amnesty International issued a report in 2007 titled: "Europe: Discrimination against Roma." It states in part:

"The Roma population is the poorest and one of the fastest growing in the region, living predominantly on the margins of society. Roma are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Europe."

"The Roma community suffers massive discrimination in access to housing, employment and education. In some countries they are prevented from obtaining citizenship and personal documents required for social insurance, health care and other benefits. Roma are often victims of police ill-treatment and their complaints are seldom investigated. Frequently Romani children are unjustifiably placed in 'special' schools where curtailed curricula limit their possibilities for fulfilling their potential. Romani children and women are among the communities most vulnerable to traffickers."

"Roma were often the victims of torture or other ill-treatment by law enforcement officers across the region. Roma were also often victims of racist attacks during which they were not adequately protected by the police. The authorities in many countries failed to fulfil [sic] their domestic and international obligations towards the Roma community." 4

A sampling of examples of hatred, discrimination, and oppression in various countries is listed below:

bullet Bulgaria: The situation in in recent years is probably typical of the fate of many Roma in eastern Europe. During the Communist era, Roma culture was suppressed by the government. Their newspapers and clubs were closed; their language was outlawed. 1

The situation has worsened since the overthrow of Communism. The unemployment rate amongst the Roma is many times the national average.

A poll of ethnic Bulgarian adults shows that discrimination and bigotry is intense and widespread:
bullet 94% said they would not marry a Roma*;
bullet 91% believe that the Roma are predisposed to criminal behavior;
bullet 83% that the are "lazy and irresponsible."
bullet 69% would not have a Roma as a friend*.
bullet 59% would not live in the same locale as the Roma;

*These two values have increased by about 5 percentage points since 1992.

This continues in Part 2

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Tom Giles, "Gypsies: Tramps and Thieves?", School of International & Public Affairs. An article at:
  2. "Sinti & Roma," Pamphlet by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at:
  3. Ian Hancoc, "Roma: Genocide of [sic] in the Holocaust". A brief excerpt appears in:
  4. "Europe: Discrimination against Roma," Amnesty International," 2007-OCT-25, at:

Copyright 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1998-JUL
Latest update: 2009-AUG-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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