ALTHOUGH several articles on this subject were published before and after September 1st, 2010, on that day the Mexican daily La Jornada published one of great impact entitled “El holocausto gitano: ayer y hoy” (The Gypsy Holocaust: yesterday and today) which reminds us of a truly dramatic history. Without adding or removing a single word from the information contained in the article, I have selected some lines referring to certain events that are really moving. Neither the West nor -most of all- its colossal media apparatus have said a single word about them.
“1496: the boom in humanist thinking. The Roma peoples (gypsies) from Germany are declared traitors to the Christian nations, spies in the pay of the Turkish, carriers of the plague, witches and warlocks, bandits and kidnappers of children.
“1710: the century of Enlightenment and reason. An edict orders that adult gypsies from Prague be hanged without trial. Young people and women are mutilated. In Bohemia, their left ears were cut off; in Moravia, their right ears
“1899: the climax of modernity and progress. The Bavarian police found the Special Section of Gypsies’ Affairs. In 1929, the section is promoted to the category of National Central section and is moved to Munich. In 1937, it is established in Berlin. Four years later, half a million gypsies die in the concentration camps of Central and Eastern Europe.”
“In her PhD thesis, Eva Justin (assistant to Dr. Robert Ritter of the Racial Research Section of the German Ministry of Health), asserted that gypsies’ blood was extremely harmful to the purity of the German race. And a certain Dr. Portschy sent a memorandum to Hitler suggesting that gypsies should be submitted to forced labor and mass sterilization because they jeopardized the pure blood of the German peasantry.
“Labeled as inveterate criminals, the mass arrest of gypsies began and, from 1938, they were interned in special blocks at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Gusen, Dautmergen, Natzweiler and Flossenburg camps.
“In a concentration camp he owned in Ravensbruck, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo (SS), created a space to sacrifice gypsy women who were submitted to medical experiments. One hundred and twenty Zingari girls were sterilized. Gypsy women married to non-gypsy men were sterilized at the Dusseldorf-Lierenfeld hospital.
“Thousands of gypsies were deported from Belgium, the Netherlands and France to the Polish concentration camp of Auschwitz. In his memoirs, Rudolf Hoess (commander of Auschwitz) wrote that among the gypsies deported there were elderly people almost one hundred years of age, pregnant women and a large number of children.
“At the ghetto of Lodz (Poland) […] none of the 5,000 gypsies survived.”
“In Yugoslavia, gypsies and Jews were equally killed in the forest of Jajnice. Campesinos still remember the screaming of the gypsy children who were taken to the places of execution.”
“At the extermination camps, only the gypsies’ love of music was a source of comfort to them on some occasions. In Auschwitz, starving and infested with lice, they gathered together to play music and encouraged the children to dance. But the courage of gypsy guerrillas who fought as part of the Polish resistance in the region of Nieswiez was also legendary.”
Music was the factor that kept them together and helped them to survive, just as much as religion was for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The successive articles published by La Jornada from the end of August onwards have reminded us of events that were almost forgotten about what happened to the gypsies in Europe. After having been affected by Nazism, they were consigned to oblivion after the Nuremberg trials in the years 1945 and 1946.
The German government headed by Konrad Adenauer declared that the extermination of the gypsies prior to 1943 was a result of the state’s legal policies. Those who had been affected that same year did not receive any compensation. Robert Ritter, a Nazi expert in the extermination of gypsies, was released. Thirty nine years later in 1982, when most of those affected had already died, the government recognized their right to compensation.
More than 75% of gypsies, whose total number is estimated to be between 12 and 14 million, live in Central and Eastern Europe. Only in Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia were gypsies recognized as having the same rights as the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian minorities.
The Mexican newspaper described as “particularly perverse” the mass deportation of gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria ordered by the government of Sarkozy –a Jew of Hungarian descent-; these are the exact words used by the newspaper. Please do not take this as an act of irreverence on my part.
In Romania, the number of gypsies is estimated to be two million.
The president of that country, Traian Basescu, a US ally and an illustrious member of NATO, called a woman journalist a “filthy gypsy.” As can be observed, this is an extremely delicate person who speaks politely.
The website univision.com posted some comments about the demonstrations against the deportation of gypsies and the “xenophobia” in France. According to AFP, around “130 demonstrations were due to take place in France as well as in front of the French embassies in several European Union countries, with the support of tens of human rights organizations, trade unions and left wing and environmental parties”. The extensive report refers to the participation of well-known cultural personalities such as Jane Birkin and the film-maker Agnes Jaoui and reminded readers that Jane “together with Stephane Hessel, a former member of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of France (1940-1944), was part of the group that later on met with the advisors to the minister of Immigration Eric Besson.
“‘The conversation fell on deaf ears, but it is good that it took place, for it showed that a large part of the population was enraged at that nauseating policy’, said a spokesperson of the network ‘Education Without Borders…”
Other news about this thorny issue are coming from Europe: “Yesterday the European Parliament put France and Nicholas Sarkozy on the spot for having deported thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies during a tense debate in which the attitudes of José Manuel Durão Barroso and the Commission were described as scandalous and ridiculous for their apparent pusillanimity and for failing to condemn the decisions by Paris as illegal and contrary to community rights”, according to an article by Ricardo Martínez de Rituerto published by El País.com.
In another article, La Jornada published the astonishing social data that neo-natal mortality among the gypsy population is nine times higher than the European average and their life expectancy rate barely exceeds 50 years of age.
Prior to that, on August 29, it had reported that “although there has been plenty of criticism –from the European Union institutions as well as from the Catholic church, the United Nations and the broad spectrum of pro-immigrants organizations – Sarkozy insists in expelling and deporting hundreds of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens – and therefore, European citizens – using as an excuse the alleged ‘criminal’ nature of these citizens.”
“It is difficult to believe that in the year 2010 – concludes La Jornada – after Europe’s terrible past with racism and intolerance, it is still possible to criminalize an entire ethnic group by labeling them a social problem.”
“Indifference, or even consent towards the actions carried out by the French police today and the Italian police yesterday – more European, in general terms – leave the most optimist analyst speechless.”
Suddenly, while I wrote this Reflection, I remembered that France is the third nuclear power in the planet, and that Sarkozy also had a briefcase with the keys required to launch one of the more than 300 bombs he had. Is there any moral or ethical rational in launching an attack against Iran, a country condemned for its alleged intention of manufacturing this kind of weapon? Where is the good sense and logic of that policy?
Let us assume that Sarkozy goes crazy all of a sudden, as seems to be the case. What would the UN Security Council do with Sarkozy and his briefcase?
What will happen if the French extreme right decides to force Sarkozy to maintain a racist policy, contradicting the laws that prevail within the European Community?
Could the UN Security Council respond to those two questions?
The absence of truth and the prevalence of deception is the greatest tragedy in our dangerous nuclear age.