The current “Gypsy  problem” in France brings back in mind, to help us find different ways of analyzing the situation,  some forgotten  pieces from history.

In 40’s Marshal Antonescu was trying to solve another “gypsy problem” in Romania…”all Gypsies in Bucharest must be removed. But before removing them, we must consider where to take them and what to do with them. A solution might be to wait until the marshes of the Danube are drained and build some Gypsy villages there and let them fish….Another solution would be to negotiate with the big landowners. There…is a considerable shortage of workers in Bărăgan. We could build these villages there…at least some houses and barracks, a sanitation system, stores, inns, etc. We should set up a census and arrest all of them en masse, and bring them to these villages. We will build three-four villages, each for 5–6,000 families, and install guards around them so they cannot get out. They will live their life there and find work there too.”(Ciuca)

In 1942 roughly 25,000 Romanian Roma (around 12% of the total Romanian Roma population) were “evacuated” to Transnistria. “The May 1942 census, through its definition of the two categories of Roma, also showed the criteria for “selection” of those to be deported. It was based on nomadism and, in the case of the sedentary Roma, on criminal convictions, theft, and the lack of means to subsist. In some documents authorities also referred to the necessity of ridding villages and towns of the poor Roma population without an occupation or trade and no means of subsistence, without any possibility to earn a living, and those who made a living from theft and begging.”(International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania)

The “Gypsy colonies” were created just for  them in Transnistria. “Due to the malnutrition, some of the Gypsies—and these make up the majority—have lost so much weight that they have turned into living skeletons. On a daily basis—especially in the last period— ten to fifteen Gypsies died. They were full of parasites. They were not paid any medical visits and they did not have any medicine. They were naked…and they didn’t have any underwear or clothing. There are women whose bodies…were [completely] naked in the true sense of the word. They had not been given any soap since arriving; this is why they haven’t washed themselves or the single shirt that they own.

In general, the situation of the Gypsies is terrible and almost inconceivable. Due to the misery, they have turned into shadows and are almost savage. This condition is due to the bad accommodations and nutrition as well as the cold. Because of hunger…they have scared the Ukrainians with their thefts. If there had been some Gypsies in the country who were stealing…out of mere habit, here even a Gypsy who used to be honest would begin stealing, because the hunger led him to commit this shameful act.” (Achim, p.26-28)

In Spring 1944 the deported Roma  returned to Romania.  11,000 of them never made it back. Those that made it, came back to a country where, for another 45 years, were not even recognized as an ethnic minority.

References

International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania: The Deportation of the Roma and their treatment in Transnistria, 2004, p.5-6

Achim, Viorel (ed.) Documente privind deportarea ţiganilor în Transnistria. Bucharest, Editura Enciclopedică, 2004,vol. 2: no. 249, (Report December 5, 1942)  p. 26-28

Ciucă,Marcel-Dumitru, et al., (eds.), Stenogramele şedinţelor Consiliului de Miniştri. Guvernarea Ion Antonescu,  Bucharest, Arhivele Naţionale ale României, 1998, vol. 2, p.181

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