The history of the Roma community is full of inequality, marginality and injustices but the Second World War is without the doubt one of the most dramatic pages, especially in Romania. But, why this cruelty with the Roma people?
They are in fact the largest ethnic minority in the European Union. This ethnic comes from the Indian subcontinent, dating back to the Middle Kingdoms of India. With common cultural traits, but with huge differences among its subgroups it’s hard to pinpoint the start of Roma people. There isn’t a written history of the Roma so knowing their history is rather complicated, but we can study it through their language because they have been incorporating words from the regions through which they passed. During the Second World War the racist ideologies peaked. The Eugenics is a social philosophy that defends the improvement of human heritage traits by various forms of manipulated intervention and selective methods for humans. It would help to increase stronger, healthier and smarter people from certain ethnic or social groups, which directly or indirectly promotes the no procreation of those who do not possess these qualities. Coming to consider its application as an advantage in the saving of economic resources for countries. Following the Eugenics theories the Roma Community was an inferior race with an IQ lower than the rest of the population so his extermination was better than letting his genes spread among the Romanian population. Sabin Manuila states in The racial problem of Romania (1940) “The mixing of the Romanian blood with the Romany blood is the most dysgenic influence that affects our race”.
The Roma evacuation started the 12th of September 1942, in eight days 30176 sedentary Romas were placed in Transnistria (It is a territory located mainly between the Dniester River and the eastern border of the Republic of Moldova with Ukraine). In the spring 1943 other 18260 Roma arrived. The food distribution was not sufficient so many people died from starvation. Food rations consisted most often in maize flour and potatoes. Some died of cold (they were naked or poorly dressed), of Typhus and the Germans liquidate the ones that were transferred across the Dniester.
All the deported persons, aged 12-60 years were subjected to forced labour. Those who did not comply with this decision were to be interned in retaliation camps.
In 1945 the Romanian war committee declared that 38000 Roma were victims of the Holocaust dead in Transnistria. More than half of them were children. Today, if you ask any person about the history of the Roma people, they will not know how to say a word, including the Roma population itself. No one knows their history as a slave of the people so in the minds of the Roma community there is no slavery as a historical phenomenon in their minds. Today’s society still considers the lower Roma population, many people continue to suffer discrimination and hate crimes because they are Roma: one in three are victims of harassment in the European Union. As a result of this down spiral, the European Roma population sometimes survives under conditions comparable to those of the most impoverished countries in the world: households without running water or electricity, unemployment and hunger, which in turn reinforces prejudices. Change the situation is everyone’s job. I am sure that it’s within the interest of everyone to turn the things around and achieve a significant change so that in the 21st Century, injustices like this will not continue happening.
Ana Fernández Hernández
Pictures: Juan Garcia Cuadrado