The Harrowing Story Of How The Nazis Wiped Out A Quarter Of All Europe’s Romani Gypsies

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Image: Friedel Bohny-Reiter via United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

When we think of the appalling crimes perpetrated by the Nazis, perhaps the first that springs to mind is the Holocaust. This massacre of six million European Jews is infamous and widely understood. But what is less well-documented is the fate of the Romanis, or Gypsies as they’re often called, at the hands of the Nazis.

Image: Bundesarchiv Bild

But who exactly are the Romani or Gypsies? In fact their very name is controversial. Although they are still often called Gypsies, some find that term offensive because of its associations with social deviance. The English word “gypsy” comes from the widely held belief that the Romani people originated from Egypt – gypsy is simply a shortening of the country’s name.

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Image: Bundesarchiv Bild

But the Romani people – or the Roma – generally prefer that name. And the traditional story of the Roma is an extraordinary one which has only been confirmed by genetic analysis in recent years. In 2012 The New York Times reported that the legend describing how the Roma had originated from north-western India around 1,500 years ago had now been ratified by science.

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