The Invisible Genocide

Image:Roma flag.svg

So, The Independent reportedof attacks on Gypsies in Italy:

In cruel and unusual concert, Italy's new government, its police and paramilitary carabinieri, and even its gangsters, have turned their joint might against the nation's enemy number one: the Gypsies.

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI and a small number of left-wingers raised lonely voices in central Naples against the national hardening of hearts towards Europe's perennial outsiders. To little avail: the Pope's appeal for a spirit of welcome and acceptance was met with a hail of angry rejection in blogged comments on news websites.

But what will remain scorched in the nation's memory as a mark of shame, or a beacon pointing the way forward, depending on how you see it are the flaming structures of the Gypsy camp burnt in the Ponticelli district of Naples on Wednesday.

Residents of the former communist stronghold on the northern outskirts of Naples have been raising hell about the camp since Saturday, when a woman claimed a Gypsy girl had entered her flat and tried to steal her baby.

Ah, the old baby-stealing Gypsie routine. You know, Gypsies are probably the most maligned and persecuted group that you know nothing about,other than that they cursed the wretched vampireAngelus (left)with a soul, forcing him to feel the guilt for centuries of atrocities, at least until he got some hot Slayer ass.

And, of course, that's fiction – as is most of what people know of them. Gypsies are actually referred to as Roma, and they can be linked (genetically and dialectically) back to India. It's really hard to define Roma, though, because they self-identify in many different ways, the five main groups being Kalderash, Gitanos, Sinti (some Sinti bristle at being called Roma, considering themselves a different ethnic group entirely), Romnichal, and Erlides. Even Irish Travellers are considered Gypsies, but not really Roma.

The most common theory of the origin of Roma is that they are the defeated armies of Northern India, dispersed throughout Europe after repeated raids by Mahmud of Ghazni. This is where their persecution began.

Once they landed in the Romanian states of Wallachia and Moldavia, they were enslaved for five centuries. Keep in mind that if you believe the Biblical accounts, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt for only 210 years, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade that fueled the American colonies only lasted for three to four centuries.

But it wasn't just Wallachia and Moldavia that persecuted the Roma – all around the world during that period, various atrocities were visited upon them:

Decrees, laws, and mandates often allowed the killing of Gypsies. For instance, in 1725 King Frederick William I of Prussia ordered all Gypsies over 18 years of age to be hanged. A practice of “Gypsy hunting” was quite common – a game hunt very similar to fox hunting. Even as late as 1835, there was a Gypsy hunt in Jutland (Denmark) that “brought in a bag of over 260 men, women and children.”

After Romani slavery in Romania was abolished in the 19th Century, most countries didn't want to take them. There were anti-immigration measures passed all over Europe, and even in the United States, Roma immigration was banned in 1885.

Less than a half century later, the most efficient and deadly persecution of Gypsies was carried out by the overachieving Third Reich, who in 1933 passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring:

Any person suffering from a hereditary disease may be rendered incapable of procreation by means of a surgical operation (sterilization), if the experience of medical science shows that it is highly probable that his descendants would suffer from some serious physical or mental hereditary defect.

This set up a “Genetic Health Court,” whereby they could determine that a person had a genetic disorder (such as schizophrenia and alcoholism) and sterilize them. Many Roma were sterilized and sent to concentration camps after this law was passed, because apparently being from Asia is a genetic disorder. I wonder what the NAZI'sJapanese allies thought of that.

This was the beginning of what the Roma called the Porajmos, which is the Romani wordfor “devouring.” Himmler summed up the goal of Porajmos pretty succinctly, saying that “the aim of measures taken by the State to defend the homogeneity of the German nation must be the physical separation of Gypsydom from the German nation, the prevention of miscegenation, and finally, the regulation of the way of life of pure and part-Gypsies.”

Like the Jews, the Roma were then systematically rounded up, tortured, and exterminated with utter contempt and cruelty:

First the girl had to dig out a hole in the field, while her mother, who was seven months pregnant, had to watch while chained to a tree. They slit open the stomach of the pregnant woman, ripped out the unborn child and threw it into the hole in the ground. Then they threw the woman in as well and the small girl too, after they had raped her first. She was still living when they covered the hole.

It's In the end, the Roma were decimated in Europe:

By the end of the war, it is estimated that 250,000 to 500,000 Gypsies were murdered in the Porajmos – killing approximately three-fourths of the German Gypsies and half of the Austrian Gypsies.

Romania was complicit in the destruction of the Roma, because apparently five centuries of enslavement wasn't enough. They sent 25,000 Roma to camps in Transnistria, where 11,000 lost their lives.

It wasn't until seven months ago that Romania acknowledged their role in the atrocity:

On October 23, 2007, Romanian President TraianBsescu publicly apologized for his nation's role in the Porajmos, the first time a Romanian leader has done so. He called for the Porajmos to be taught in schools, stating that, “We must tell our children that six decades ago children like them were sent by the Romanian state to die of hunger and cold”. Part of his apology was in the Romain Language. Bsescu also awarded three Porajmos survivors with an Order for Faithful Services.

In Czechoslovakia, they were particularly brutal, so much so that those sent to the Lety and Hodonn concentration camps and then to Auschwitz-Berkenau were so brutalized, that “the vast majority of Romani in the Czech Republic today are actually descended from migrants from Slovakia who moved there during the post-war years in Czechoslovakia.”

The Czech Republic threw them a nice bone, though, this month, erecting a monument to them at the site of the Lety concentration camp, which, incidentally, is right next to a nauseous pig farm:

On 13.5.2008 at 12:00, the Committee for the Compensation of the Romani Holocaust (VPORH) will hold a commemorative ceremony for the Romani victims of Nazism at the burial site of the former concentration camp for Roma at Lety by Psek (next to the pig farm).

enk Rika, VPORH president, responded today to recent proposals for how to deal with the Lety issue as follows: “One fine day, a modest but dignified memorial will stand at that site. There will be not a trace of a pig farm left. No one can prevent this. It is unacceptable to the former Romani prisoners of the camp and to the relatives of the camp's victims to propose building a museum next to the pig farm and leaving the pig farm where it is. The only correct solution is to remove the pig farm from this place of reverence. We will then provide our own monument.”

And then here we are again today, this time in Italy, with violence and new decrees forthcoming:

The “decree law”, which will have immediate effect, is expected to make illegal immigration a criminal offence, punishable by up to four years in prison…

…Now the government is trying to fine tune the law so it only applies to criminally inclined clandestini and Gypsies.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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