SICSA The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism

ACTA The Analysis of Currenet Trends in Antisemitism
A Special Research Unit of SICSA

(Full Text)

ACTA no. 9 (1996)

Antigypsyism in the Political Culture of the Federal Republic of Germany:A Parallel with Antisemitism?

by Gilad Margalit


This article analyses the recent wave of ethnic hatred directed against Romanies (Gypsies), in the political culture of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This ethnic hatred is designated here as antigypsyism. Differences and similarities between contemporary antigypsyism, antisemitism, and xenophobia will be discussed, with a preliminary survey of antigypsy patterns, and its various manifestations since 1945.

Antigypsyism in the political culture of the FRG was mitigated under the influence of the Allies' reeducation policy during their occupation of Germany, just as revelations of antisemitism had been. This enlightened trend progressively gained power in the FRG after 1945. Nevertheless, hostile assertions and actions directed towards Romanies, as well as statements indicating implicit and explicit "understanding" of the motivation for their persecution under the Nazis were observed. Such statements were found not just among extreme Right groups, or in the private sphere (as was also largely the case with postwar antisemitism), but prevailed on the fringes of mainstream circles as well, at least during the 1950s.

Antigypsyism played only a marginal role in the political agenda of the contemporary German extreme Right. It is certainly not comparable in its depth or dimensions to the central and profound role played by antisemitism in the German extreme Right Weltanschauung. Nevertheless, traditional antigypsyism, and especially the Nazi persecution of the Romanies, gave this ethnic hatred a unique character different from general xenophobic feelings. Antigypsyism has borrowed traditional as well as post-Holocaust antisemitic patterns, and, surprisingly, even has a certain amount of antisemitic content. Like antisemitism, antigypsyism was delegitimized in the political culture of the FRG, and contemporary public appearances are restricted to extreme Right circles.

Notwithstanding, public polls prove that non-political antigypsyism is not limited to the Right extremist circles, but constitutes a widespread phenomenon. One may discover even in mainstream circles a limited acceptance of antigypsy violence, which is regarded as a means of intimidating the Eastern European Romanies and thus forestalling their immigration to Germany.

Antigypsyism and Racism

The term antigypsyism1is used here to denote all sorts of ethnic hatred directed against Romanies through the ages. Although the term also includes racist antigypsyism, it is not necessarily racist. Traditional antigypsyism existed in Central Europe centuries before racism as a concept came to being.

The earliest chronicles which documented the arrival of the Romani migrants during the fifteenth century described them as thieves and frauds,2and this image became part of the German collective memory, as happened in other European cultures.

Racist antigypsyism began in Germany only in the late decades of the nineteenth century and existed on the margins of racist antisemitism.3 In contrast to the latter, however, racist antigypsyism had no political character. Furthermore, the racist preoccupation with the Romanies in Germany, as in England, was not solely negative. Among the adherents of the "Gypsy Lore Society" founded 1888 in England, were many who regarded the Romanies in a romantic light as noble Aryans.4Huston Stewart Chamberlin brought this perception to Germany.5 This racist romanticism was a rather marginal phenomenon in Germany, but it endured even among the circle of the Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler during the Third Reich.6

Antigypsyism, Antisemitism, and Xenophobia

Antigypsyism and antisemitism are two very different phenomena of ethnic hatred, distinct in their content, dimensions, and appearance. The Romanies who confessed the Christian faith in the realm of German culture--at least officially7--never played as profound and fundamental a role as the Jews in the German consciousness and culture.

Contrary to antisemitism, hostility toward the Romanies lacked a religious temper and its demonizing characteristics. For example, Gypsies were accused of kidnapping Christian children, but not of slaughtering them for religious purposes. Traditional antigypsyism was usually connected to conflicts between Romanies and the settled German population, and therefore, in contrast to antisemitism, had a much more superficial and less dramatic character.8 Antigypsyism differs from xenophobic feelings towards the Turks or other ethnic groups that arrived in Germany as late as the mid-1950s. The German relationship with the Romanies on German soil developed over the course of six hundred years--much longer than any other relationship with an ethnic minority except for the Jews (if we disregard ethnic conflicts along the borders and in Prussia). Diner claimed that there is a substantial difference between antisemitism and xenophobia in Western consciousness, as "the Jew stands not for the unknown stranger, but for the other "as a contrapuntal constitutive of the self."9 It seems that for the German consciousness the Gypsy is not considered as a xenos. Similar to the Jew, and yet distinct, the Gypsy forms a peculiar category of a known other. For generations, the Sinti (German Romanies) wandered in specific regions and consequently mastered the local dialects. They rendered various services and provided goods to the German population.10 The Sinti (especially their wives) were famous for their supernatural powers to bless and to heal.11 Their fortune-telling skills left its impression in German (and non-German) literature and folklore.12

Thus, during centuries of coexistence the Gypsy (Der Zigeuner) had become a constant and salient figure in the German Heimat. The romantic aspect of the Gypsy image became a symbol for freedom as early as the seventeenth century. From the time of their arrival in the realm of German culture, Romanies were petty merchants and artisans; their role in the German economy has always been marginal. The German princes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not have "Hof Zigeuner" similar to their "court Jews." In addition, the number of Sintis was much smaller than that of the Jews--there were less than 20,000 Sinti in Germany before their destruction in the Third Reich. During the period of Jewish emancipation in Germany (1781-1870), the Sinti preserved their cultural and social isolation. They didn't undergo a process of assimilation and acculturation as did the German Jews, nor did they intrude in German cultural, political, or economic life. The question of their "civil correction" (buergerliche Besserung) did not become a public issue, although the matter was discussed by some bureaucrats.13 These differences in the roles of these two minorities within German society were reflected also in their different images. As the new image of the Jew in the nineteenth century became identified with the frightening capitalist modern order which supposedly sought to commercialize all the good traditional values, the Gypsy lifestyle was portrayed by the Romanticists and various other anti-modernist and anti-bourgeois thinkers as opposite the urban alienated industrialized modern order. This depiction of the Romani lifestyle as true, free, natural, and passionate influenced generations in Germany and elsewhere (for example, in D. H. Lawrence's novel, The Virgin and the Gypsy).14 In fact, this romantic image of the Gypsy was the opposite of the popular Jewish image of the period (bearing in mind that a negative image of the Gypsy existed as well --that of a thief and fraud). For the German collective consciousness the Gypsy was thus much more than a casual stranger. One might even claim that for certain German circles the Gypsy also constituted "a contrapuntal constitutive" of the self, although in a totally different way than the Jew.

Antigypsyism lacked the element of "conspiracy" that was dominant in nineteenth-century antisemitism, and was never a political issue in Germany previous to the Third Reich. Even then, the "Gypsy Question" was a marginal issue on the Nazi agenda; it was part of the so called "Social Question"--the problem of the lower and poorer social strata from which many criminals supposedly came, and on which most of the public welfare expenditure was spent.15

Because the Romanies were not regarded as a political enemy of Germany as were the Jews, hundreds of Romani soldiers served in the Wehrmacht until 1942-43.16 After that they were dismissed and directly deported to Auschwitz.

Due to these factors the Romanies and their bitter fate in the Third Reich did not become a central subject in post-1945 German political culture until the 1980s.17 Only under the indirect influence of the re-education policy of the Allies did this subject gain some political significance.

The public appearance of antigypsyism in the FRG after 1945 differed from the usual post-Holocaust antisemitic patterns, such as cemetery desecration and graffiti. Unlike antisemitism, it was apparent in institutions, not merely in the private sphere, at least until the early 1960s. Nevertheless, the politization of antigypsyism mainly during the early 1980s, and since 1990 created certain similarities to traditional as well as to post-Holocaust antisemitic patterns.

Imitating political antisemitic tactics, political antigypsyism in the FRG has also used the negative mythical image of the Gypsy retained in the German collective memory, with irrational fears of the Gypsies that have been spread throughout German society since the fifteenth century.18 This usage of mythology in the political propaganda of the German extreme Right is exclusively applied to Jews and Romanies.19

As racist antigypsy expressions were taboo in German political culture after 1945, the antigypsy discourse came to be largely argued in traditional social and mental terms. In extreme Right circles, the Nazi racial persecution of Romanies and its atrocities have been denied. Testimonies of Romani survivors about their fate in the Third Reich, and Romani claims for compensation are portrayed as a perfidious attempt to extort money from the German state, playing on the German guilt complex. Among Neo-Nazis, the "Final Solution" is even being regarded as a model for future solution of the "foreigner problem," and this solution includes also the Romanies.20

Antigypsyism in Post-1945 German Political Culture

The attitude of postwar German society towards the Romani minority is characterized by rejection, hostility, and discrimination.

Although the Allies did regard the Romanies' persecution in the Third Reich as a racial crime, the re-education policy carried out by their military administrations in occupied Germany did not make any special effort to combat it. In comparison to antisemitism and racism, it had been a marginal phenomenon in the Third Reich.21 John McCloy, the American High Commissioner in Germany, said in 1949 that the German attitude toward the few Jews who remained in Germany would be regarded as a touchstone for the German willingness to build a true democracy in their country.22The German public had learned about the centrality of the "German struggle against the Jews" from Nazi propaganda. The Romani issue, by contrast, was not raised in the public speeches of the Nazi leadership, and was hardly discussed in Nazi publications.23 The German public had absorbed the distinction between Jews and Romanies made by the Nazi regime, and this was demonstrated in public attitudes toward the two persecutions after 1945.

After the Holocaust, antisemitism was delegitimized in German political culture. Even Christian antisemitism, which had no direct connection to Nazi ideology, had been contaminated by the mass murder of the European Jewry.24 Any public antisemitic expressions were regarded as an identification with Nazism. In spite of the differences between postwar antigypsyism and antisemitism, under the influence of the Allies' re-education policy, the public appearance of antigypsyism became much milder than its expression in the private sphere. Nevertheless, the limitations set on antigypsy public expressions were not so strict as the taboo imposed on antisemitism, at least through the 1950s. One could hear them not only in private domain or in the local pub, as parallel antisemitic remarks, but also in semi-public (Halboeffentliche) forums.25

Mr. Lotz, a senior official of the Braunschweig Municipality, wrote in December 1953 to the welfare department of the Deutscher Saedtetag (a body which bound the Municipalities' administrations of the FRG): "Whenever the Gypsy subject is raised, either in public or in the competent committees or in the municipal administration, one may hear expressions which remind, in a frightening manner, those which were common in the Third Reich." 26

The deep rejection of the Romanies by German society was evident in the results of the few public opinion polls, mostly conducted after 1990, under the impact of the migration of the Roma (Eastern European Romanies, especially from Romania) to Germany.27 In most of these polls the German population was asked its preferences concerning living with neighbors of various ethnic descents. Compared to all other ethnic groups in the FRG, Romanies were rated least acceptable. The 1992 polls of the Allensbach Demoscopic Institute indicated that 64% of Germans were repelled by Romanies; a figure much higher than that toward any other ethnic, religious, or racial groups (e.g., Muslims, 17%; Indians, 14%; foreign workers (Gastarbeiter), 12%; dark-skinned persons, 8%; Jews, 7%). This high percentage corresponds only to the rejection of drug addicts (66%), drunks (64%) and left extremists (62%), categories which inspire a fear of violence in the German public.

The 1994 public opinion poll of Emnid Institute reflected a similar trend: 68% percent of the Germans agreed they would not like to have Romanies as their neighbors.

In this poll the gap between the Romanies and the other ethnic groups living in the FRG was much more limited then in the former polls (Arabs, 47%; Poles, 39%; Africans, 37%; Turks, 36%; and Jews, 22%).29

This rejection the Romanies became evident also within the preoccupation in the German political arena with this minority. In the early 1950s, the Bavarian local Parliament (Landtag) passed a law, officially designed to regulate relations between the state and the vagrant population (Landfahrer), but was initiated in fact in order to bar the free movement of vagrant Romanies in Bavaria.30 A comparison between the speeches of the members of the Bavarian Local Parliament concerning the Romanies held in the closed meetings of the Parliamentary committees, and those held in the plenary session reflect two different sorts of discourse: an intimate discourse took place in the Parliamentary committees reflecting the authentic attitudes of the speakers which tolerated discriminatory and incriminatory expressions. No antigypsy expressions were heard in the plenary session, which discourse analysis defines as public discourse. Here, the speakers reflected the internalization of the taboo on the expression of racist and antisemitic comments in public.

During the closed committee meetings in the Bavarian Parliament even the Social-Democrat member, Karl Weish„upl, did not refrain from defaming them. Weish„upl termed them rabble (Gesindel), and presented them as a delinquent group, supporting itself by theft, in addition to receiving charity and compensation rents (Wiedergutmachung) as victims of Nazi persecution.31Nobody protested these remarks, as it was considered legitimate in the closed forum.

Dr. Kaaeb, a senior official in the Bavarian ministry of Interior, asserted in a closed session of the committee that the Romanies are "Asoziale" (a German term that denotes, in fact, delinquents 32), work-shy, and that their occupations in trade serves as a cover for criminal activities.33 As noted above, such sharp and discriminatory expressions were not heard during the debates in the plenary sessions.34 It was the first sign of the existence of taboo on antigypsy expressions in post"1945 German political culture. Nevertheless, the antigypsy semi-public discourse has used much stronger language than its antisemitic equivalent. The loose taboo on antigypsyism enabled the political authorities and the various elites to officially avoid referring to the persecution of the Romanies in the Third Reich as an evil racist crime, as it was perceived by the Allies and Western public opinion as early as 1943,35 but rather as a non-racial persecution conducted against criminals and Asoziale.

Official and Popular Interpretation of the Nazi Persecution of the Romanies in the FRG

Although the official position of the FRG condemned the Nazi crimes, the persecution of the Romanies, at least until the early 1960s, was not regarded as a typical Nazi persecution, similar to that against the Jews.

German Courts in the early 1950s passed few sentences concerning compensa- tion to the Romanies, and determined that the Nazi persecution of them began only with the deportation of most German Romanies to Auschwitz in March 1943. These courts claimed that all measures taken against Romanies prior to this deportation should not be considered a racial persecution, but rather as prosecution of alleged criminal elements.36 The judges, likely influenced by the popular negative image of the Romanies, probably accepted uncritically the Nazi claim that most of the Romanies were not Romanies at all, but Asoziale mongrels and criminals.37 Many of them did not even recognize this as a racist argument.38 The incarceration of Gypsies in the Third Reich concentration camps was considered a brutal punishment but not an unacceptable one.

These sentences received the final sanction of the Supreme Court (Bundesgerichthof) in 1956.39The Supreme Court's verdict was revised only in 1963. The revision declared that the beginning of the Nazi racial persecution of Gypsies began as early as 1938.40 The discriminatory procedures of the compensation authorities in the cases of Romani victims of the Nazi persecution declared many of them not entitled to be considered as victims of Nazism, although among them were also those who were deported to Auschwitz after March 1943.41

The postwar German public also shared the authorities' judgment, considering the Nazi persecution of the Romanies to be part of the war on crime -- an aspect regarded as one of the "good sides" of Nazism in wide circles of the German public; 44% of the Germans today do believe that Nazism had also its "good side."42 The famous, albeit methodically problematic, study by Sinus in 1979/80 may explain this finding. Although only 13% of voters hold an extreme Right Weltanschauung (hostility towards foreigners and toward pluralistic and democratic values), 37% of the public hold some extreme Right views.43 Even adherents of democratic and anti-Nazi groups shared some extreme Right convictions, and held a nostalgic view of some aspects of the Third Reich. Thus the Nazi public safety policy was seen as guaranteeing Jedem das seine: safety and order to those who obey the law, and incarceration and hard work to criminals and Asoziale.

According to this false myth, German citizens in the Third Reich were much more secure than ever before or after, and this collective memory has been transferred to the young German generations.44 Bossmann cited dozens of compositions written by German school pupils in the mid-1970s in which the writers declared that Hitler had succeeded in liquidating all sorts of crime during the Third Reich.45 Among these were some who regarded the Nazi concentration camps as proper correctional institutions for elements such as the Asoziale.46 Protecting the civil rights in the FRG of these hated social elements -- guaranteed by the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) -- was regarded as abandoning German society to lawlessness.47

A taboo on public identification with Nazism has prevailed in the political culture of the FRG. Only neo-Nazis dared to violate the taboo, and repeat publicly their own interpretation of the persecution in its most crude and violent directness. The German weekly Die Zeit printed the words of a Hamburg carpenter in a pub in 1964: "The whole world is grateful that Hitler had decimated few of them [the Romanies]."48 This was not an isolated remark.49 Respectable people said the same in subtler and less direct forms which disguised its real character.50 Even extreme Right politicians in the FRG usually accept the conventions and express their venomous perceptions in a rather subtle manner, unlike the neo-Nazis. Josef Vogt, a Christian democrat local parliament member from Baden Wuertemberg, was the only mainstream democrat politician in the FRG who made such public statements, to the best of the author's knowledge. In 1956 Vogt wished to pass a law against vagrants (Landfahrer). In the postwar German bureaucracy, this was a euphemism for the term Gypsies (Zigeuner) which denoted racial descent. Thus, the bureaucracy avoided any accusation that measures taken against Gypsies were actually racist persecution. In his speech delivered before the parliamentary plenum in Stuttgart, Vogt said that among the people who know the vagrant plague, (the term was a postwar substitute for the traditional bureaucratic term Zigeunerplage), there are those who say that in the Third Reich this issue had been dealt with in a simpler and more basic manner. Then he tried to dissociate himself from this sharp statement, but left hints as to his, at least, ambivalent attitude towards this Nazi persecution.53

This acceptance by individuals from the center of the political spectrum of the violation of civil rights of stigmatized groups and of the Nazi persecution of the Romanies is a partial manifestation of a sociopolitical phenomenon that Seymour Lipset calls "extremism of the center,"54 (used here with a slightly different meaning, since Lipset regarded Fascism itself as a form of "center extremism"). It is certainly not a uniquely German phenomenon, but in post-1945 Germany, it is inescapablely connected with a limited understanding of Nazi motives, and a radical treatment of Romanies.

The Magolsheim Affair

The Magolsheim event was a violent antigypsy eruption that could certainly be considered as a revelation of the "extremism of the center" towards the Romanies. In early June 1957, at least 60 of the 425 inhabitants of the village of Magolsheim in the Mnsingen district of the Schwaebische Alb demolished a house to its foundations. The house had been bought by the community of Herrlingen in the Ulm district in order to house the nine-person family of the Romani old wares trader Franz Kreuz. 55 The mayor (Buergermeister) of Magolsheim learned of the purchase and tried in vain to cancel it. A night before the expected arrival of the Romani family, some prominent figures in the community initiated the destruction in order to hinder the family from settling in the village. The Mayor, who knew about their intentions, went to sleep and did not try to prevent them from committing the offence.56

The Magolsheim affair was a single violent antigypsy act of property damage, with considerable resonance in the political culture during the 1950s.57 This isolated event was still a very severe one: a non-radical populace participated in an unlawful radical action, and received a certain degree of sympathy from a wider non-involved public circle. In the public debate in the local Baden Wrtemberg parliament and in subsequent newspaper reports, understanding for the perpetrator's motives was expressed. Unlike Der Spiegel, which unequivocally denounced the demolition of the house and expressed sympathy for the Romani family, the local Stuttgarter Zeitung, for example, took an ambiguous position in the public debate about the house's destruction. An editorial published two days afterward, defined the act as a method which endangered the very existence of the law, yet insinuated that one should understand the perpetrator's motives, as they had no legal means of preventing the Romanies from settling in the community. The same argument was expressed much more bluntly in the parliament of Baden-Wrtemberg by the Christian democrat member Tiberius Fundel. Fundel, a local politician of the old style, on the one hand denounced rather equivocally the way "the villagers had resisted the threatening settlement of the big Romani family," and on the other hand, asserted emphatically that the villagers had no legal way to prevent the Romani family from settling there, and that the moral was most clearly on their side. Fundel claimed that the settlement of a large Romani family (he spoke of seventeen persons) would place a heavy burden on the small community. His arguments constituted antigypsy rhetoric and prejudice; he asserted that if one Romani family settled in Magolsheim, it might soon be followed by others. He declared that he "does not negate the right of Romanies to be citizens of equal rights in our state," but he said that as the Romanies object to being integrated into their surroundings and obey only their own foreign laws, it creates problems for coexistence with them. Fundel thought that this problem should be regulated by law. One of his opponents in the parliament shouted in response "New racial laws!" Fundel finished his speech with Christian symbolism that demonstrates the centrality of the Jew as a prototype for the stranger in German conciousness. He compared the owner of the house to Judas, the community of Herrlingen and its municipal administration which had bought the house to Pilatus who washed his hands, and Mr. Kreuz, whom he called "the Gypsy" (Der Zigeuner) to the small Jewboy (Jdel) who carried the box with nails for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a figure not found in the gospels, but probably taken from the popular passion plays. This strategy of turning the victim into a perpetrator and vice versa (Opfer-T„ter-Umkehr), was used in postwar German discourse to relativize and even to legitimize some Nazi crimes. Fundel's attitude was reflected in reports about the affair in the Stuttgarter Zeitung, expressing the unwillingness of conservative circles of the right wing of the ruling Christian democratic party to accept the democratic principles of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) guaranteeing equal rights and free movement to every citizen without regard to ethnic descent. There was little evidence of objection by some communities in Wrtemberg to accept Romani families who wish to settle within their dominion; the central government in Stuttgart usually supported the Romanies against the local authorities who reflected the local people's voice. In fact, these circles regard the Romanies as second class citizens and wish to legalize this status.

Politicized Antigypsyism in the FRG

A. The denial of the Nazi racial persecution of the Romanies.

The appearance of antigypsyism in the extreme Right fringe of post" Holocaust German political culture is a new phenomenon. Contrary to antisemitism which is fundamental to the extreme Right Weltanschauung, and a constant theme in their publications, the antigypsy preoccupation of these circles was infrequent and usually a reaction to some specific Romani activity.

The first appearance of antigypsy articles was a response to the accusations against German society and the government during the campaign of the Society for Endangered Peoples (Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Voelker) in 1979 and 1980.65 This campaign integrated the struggle for equal rights for the Romanies in the FRG with a preoccupation with their persecution during the Third Reich under the slogan "In Auschwitz vergast bis heute verfolgt" (Gassed in Auschwitz, persecuted until now).66

While mild antigypsy declarations were made by some conservative politicians during the public debate on this issue in the early 1980s,67 the main organs engaging in antigypsy propaganda and instigation were the newspapers of Dr. Gerhard Frey: the German National newspaper (DNZ-Deutsche National Zeitung) and the German Weekly Newspaper (DWZ-Deutsche Wochenzeitung/Deutsche Anzeiger) The circulation of the two newspapers is 65,000 copies weekly.68

Frey is the owner of a publishing house which puts out most of the extreme Right press and literature in the FRG. In 1971, he founded the German Folk Union (Deutsche Volksunion), a movement which was to lead and unite all the forces loyal to the constitution from the center to the Right.69

Frey's newspapers skirted the juridical prohibition on instigation against ethnic groups and identification with Nazism in the BRD.70 Although officially the newspapers' policy is loyal to the principles of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), these newspapers constantly relativize Nazi crimes, and insinuate that the Holocaust is an invention of the Jews and the Allies designed to defame and weaken Germany, and to extort its wealth.71 The DNZ and DWZ continually engage in discreditating the democratic leadership of the FRG.

In three articles published in the DNZ between November 1979 and April 1980 the newspaper clarified its position towards the Romanies' claims regarding their persecution in the Third Reich, and their situation in the FRG. Each article spread over an entire page and was provocatively entitled "Compensation for the Gypsies? The Germans are being asked to the Pay-desk again"; "Gypsies in hunger-strike. The Nazi Trauma should cost the Germans 600 millions more"; "Speculation on the German guilt complex. The reason for the Gypsy's campaign."72

The venomous articles were carefully written so as to avoid any possible accusation of racism, or legal claims for libel. All the details were backed by court verdicts, quotes from respectable newspapers, encyclopedias, and historical documents, selectively interpreted and presenting the crimes in a distorted manner.

The murder of the Romanies during the Third Reich was denied in a manner similar to the DNZ's treatment of the Holocaust.73 Relying on the diaries Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess, written during his imprisonment,74 the articles claimed that the Romanies were not destined for annihilation by the Nazis. According to the article, the Romanies would have stayed in the camps until the end of the war and then two Romani tribes would have been set free, as Heinrich Himmler had wished.75

Naturally, Hoess's report on the gassing of the German Romanies in August 1944 in Auschwitz was ignored,76 like any other Nazi document which ratified that Wehrmacht units murdered Romanies.77

In one of the articles, the author admitted that "there is proven evidence that Romanies were persecuted and liquidated unjustifiedly during the war in pogroms, committed by the Eastern European peoples liberated from communism by the German troops." It is claimed that these victims are now counted as victims of the Germans.78

The article referred to the Supreme Court verdict of 1956 in order to back its claim that measures taken against Romanies by the Nazi regime were no different from those taken before 1933.

The author refrained from mentioning that the verdict as a whole, and especially that claim, was revised in a later Supreme Court decision of 1963.79 All the articles depicted the Romanies as criminals and unscrupulous parasites who form a privileged group in the FRG and extort large sums of German money by manipulating the German guilt complex.80 It was emphasized that they are consciously following the Jewish precedent.81 The articles stressed that the sympathy of the German press had allegedly been influenced by the Allies, communists, and other leftist groups in favor of the Romanies. It was claimed that these elements were using the Romani subject in order to demolish the German national consciousness.82 The DNZ also denied the Romanies' claim of discrimination in the FRG.

The Romani subject was gradually removed from the public agenda in the FRG during the second half of the 1980s, and subsequently the preoccupation of the German extreme Right with this issue ceased. It was renewed during 1989 with the struggle of the Roma organizations in the FRG against the expulsion of Roma refugees, mainly from Yugoslavia, to their home countries.83

For the first time after 1945, the Romani issue preoccupied the extreme Right press from May 1990 until the end of 1993 with a new and unprecedented aspect.

B. The Roma's Migration to Germany and the "International Jewish Conspiracy"

The Basic Law of the FRG grants asylum in Germany to anyone who is persecuted politically.84 A few months after the collapse of the Eastern European communist regimes in 1989, a wave of migrants from former eastern bloc countries arrived in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), and somewhat later to the FRG as well. From 1989 the number of asylum applicants increased drastically,85 as well as the number of ethnic Germans from Eastern European communist countries who immigrated to the FRG.86 Among the migrants were many Gypsies, mostly from Romania.87 The motivation for their emigration was not solely economic: the collapse of the communist regime brought a wave of brutal attacks against Gypsies perpetrated by the local population in all the former Eastern bloc. In Romania, pogroms began as early as March 1990.88 By May 1990 the German press reported that almost 15,000 Gypsy refugees had already arrived in East Berlin, and that the GDR and the municipality of Berlin were confronted with housing problems.89 The number of the Roma legal and illegal emigrants who had arrived in the FRG in 1990 probably amounted to several thousand, and they soon became a conspicuous element in the centers of most of the German cities.

From May 1990 until the end of 1993 the extreme Right press addressed the subject of the Romanies. Although most of the articles were focused on the wave of new arrivals, the Sinti (the German Romanies) were not left out.90 Old articles and photographs about the public campaign of the Sinti in 1979"80 reappeared, as well as new accusations against the Sinti.91 Writers for the DNZ claimed they had nothing against Gypsies, but alleged that the Gypsies had become privileged citizens after 1945, immune to prosecution in spite of their defamation of German history, its fallen soldiers, its honor, and the rights of the German people.92 The DNZ alleged that the Sinti had propagated lies concerning their fate during the Third Reich.

The Roma immigration was called a "Gypsy Invasion."93 A DNZ red front page headline asked: "Millions of Gypsies coming to Germany?"94 The first article on the Romani migration in Frey's DNZ connected it to the struggle of the GDR against reunification. The Deutsche Stimme (German Voice, the organ of the NPD) alarmed the population with the vision of a multicultural society promoted by Left and liberal politicians like Christian Democrat Heiner Geissler and Social Democrat Oskar Lafontaine in the FRG.95

Gregor Gysi, of Jewish descent, embodied sworn enmity for the unification of Germany. Chairman of the new PDS (Democratic Socialist Party, which succeeded the old SED, the ruling party in the communist GDR), he was depicted as Der Drahtzieher (the string puller) by the DNZ, as well as by part of the respectable press in the FRG. The German term denotes someone who executes his will through others, and is charged with antisemitic meaning.96 The DNZ claimed that Gysi was striving to crush the desire for unification from within and to prove that the people of the GDR opposed it.97

The DNZ described the first elected Christian Democrat prime minister of the GDR, Lothar De Maiziere, as Gysi's close friend, who acted in the "foreign interest" of the Soviet Union and the "mighty" Jewish World Congress and its president, Edgar Bronfman.98

The article claimed that De Maziere and his deputy, Interior Minister Distel, had deliberately allowed the Romanies to enter the GDR as an obstacle to unification. The DNZ also emphasized the Jewish origin of Anetta Kahane, the deputy of the Ost-Berlin municipality for foreigners (Auslaenderbeauftrage). It was insinuated that her origin explained her zealous support of multi-culturalism and her rejection of limiting the free entrance of foreigners to the GDR.99 The DNZ suggested that the entrance of Romanies to Germany was part of an alleged Jewish conspiracy against Germany. The charge of conspiracy disappeared soon after, however, since in August 1990 the Volkskammer of the GDR voted for unification.

Nevertheless, the subject of the Romani immigration continued to make clamorous headlines for the DNZ and DWZ until the end of 1993.

Between 1990 and 1993 the Romanies were prominently mentioned as part of the anti-foreigner campaign in Frey's press.100 They symbolized all foreigners seeking refuge in the FRG, allegedly threatening the national identity and culture of German society. The DNZ accused asylum seekers of exploiting the generous grant of asylum to victims of political persecution when in fact they were coming to Germany for economic motives.101 The DNZ integrated the traditional antigypsy image of Romanies as thieves and frauds within these more rational arguments against the alleged liberal immigration policy of the FRG.

Duestsce Hande, Gute Hande.....

This cartoon symbolizes the new status of the Romanies in the discourse of the extreme Right. A Romani fortune teller steals all her client's valuables while reading his future. The client, a male figure with a foolish expression, personifies Germany. The Romani woman is saying in broken German: "German hands, good hands...much more to work, much more to give, for many, many, many foreign people." The multiple-eyed black monster in the back symbolizes the foreign multitude who wish to penetrate Germany.102

Frey's DVU Party presumably did not find the DNZ's campaign against the Romanies effective enough. According to Schmidt's book, party members were involved in the "Citizens initiative of Lichtenhagen" which encouraged the population of Rostock to handle the asylum seeker's problem (Das Asylantenproblem) on their own in an announcement published in a local newspaper on the eve of August 22, 1992 in which Romani refugees were the target of a three-day pogrom by 1,200 Neo-Nazis.103

As in the much earlier Magolsheim affair, the attackers enjoyed widespread public support. Thousands of citizens cheered and encouraged the Neo-Nazis as well as local teenagers to throw molotov cocktails at the refugee's residence, where almost two hundred foreigners and a few reporters were besieged.104 Even the justification given by neighbors after the pogrom were similar to that of the villagers of Magolsheim. Many claimed that they were victims of the Romanies, saying that the Romanies had discharged their excreta in the public areas, had stolen from the local supermarket, robbed their German neighbors, and aggressively begged for charity. This behavior allegedly justified the retaliation. Some of them were sorry "for what had happened," however they blamed local politicians for being responsible for the pogrom and not the perpetrators.105

In September 1992 the FRG and the Romanian government eventually agreed on the repatriation of 50,000 Romanian citizens, most of them Gypsies who could not receive asylum in the FRG. The terms of the right of asylum were changed in July 1993, and there followed a two-thirds decrease in the number of asylum applicants (Romanies as well as others). These factors probably led to the disappearance of the Roma in the headlines of Frey's press. Nevertheless violent acts against Romanies continue to take place.

The number of violent acts against Romanies and Romani property since 1990 are relatively few in comparison to antisemitic events or to violent attacks against Turks. However, the consequences were severe: two Romani refugees from the former Yugoslavia died in an arson attack in Herford (Westfalia) on September 28, 1994. One should not ignore Neo-Nazi terror against Romanies in neighboring Austria, either, since the Austrian Neo-Nazis have close ties to Neo-Nazi groups in the FRG. In Austria the terrorist attacks were not reserved for Romani immigrants. On February 6, 1995, four Austrian Roma were killed in a bomb explosion in Oberwart. The bomb was connected to a sign that read "Roma, zurueck nach Indien!" (Roma, back to India!). Romanies were also victims of police brutality, and a very severe institutional molestation, which has no direct connection to the anti-foreigner wave. On April 13, 1995, 150 German policemen raided a Romani refugee residence in Cologne. Thirty-nine women were forced to undergo blood tests, their pictures were taken, and their fingerprints were registered. Four of them were taken to the University Hospital where they were forced to undergo a gynecological inspection. State Attorney Utermann justified the police action, since it was part of an investigation concerning an abandoned baby who had been found alive in the refugee's neighborhood a few days earlier. The doctor who had examined the baby detected "pigments that are frequently found in Gypsies," so the police assumed that the mother might have been a resident there. Despite the special efforts the mother was not found.

Abandonment of an infant is usually the outcome of despair and should therefore have been handled gently by psychologists and social workers rather than the police. The German police, used to regarding Romanies as criminals even after 1945, probably could not free itself from these traditional patterns. The brutality of the investigation, especially the uncritical cooperation of the medical staff with the police was for the Romanies reminiscent of the Nazi past. This event may also illustrate the "extremism of the center" that can take place on the institutional level regarding a hated and despised minority without any international backing such as the Turks or the Jews in Germany have today.


Politicized antigypsyism is a new phenomenon in the political culture of the FRG that appeared as late as 1979. It is only a marginal preoccupation of the German extreme Right, compared to the constant latent and exposed preoccupation with Jews and Judaism, or the Allies who defeated Nazi Germany. The extreme Right press dealt substantially with the Romani subject only during two periods--1979-1980 and 1990-1993, responding to events initiated by the Romanies and others. The more recent antigypsy wave was part of a wider xenophobic wave aimed not only at changing the liberal German asylum policy, but to preserve the ethnic homogeneity of the German state. Unfortunately, such attitudes enjoy a certain public support even in non-extremist circles. Violent attacks were directed not only towards the immigrant Roma but in some cases also towards the German and Austrian Sinti and Roma who possess German or Austrian citizenship. The German extreme Right do not consider them Germans, and the Neo-Nazis rendered a concrete example for their own interpretation in Oberwart, Austria (as mentioned on p. 28). In spite of these similarities, antigypsyism is distinct in two aspects from the xenophobia directed against other ethnic minorities who began to arrive in the FRG in the late 1950s as Gastarbeiter and remained. Both of these aspects have common characteristics with antisemitism, yet differ in magnitude and significance.

Similar to antisemitism, antigypsyism also relies on traditional myths, and their use in extreme Right political propaganda is exclusive to Jews and Romanies. In addition, a new layer reflects the postwar coping of these circles with the Nazi crimes. The Nazi persecution of the Romanies was raised in the German public agenda as late as 1979, at which time their persecution was unequivocally denounced as criminal and racist. Extreme Right circles implemented a pattern of denial, similar to the Holocaust denial they have practiced since 1945.

Romani claims for compensation were treated in a manner similar to Jewish claims: denounced as false and a deceitful attempt to extort money from the German state by playing on the German guilt complex. This argument integrated the traditional image of the Gypsy as a fraud and thief into the post-Holocaust situation, but it also lends German Gypsies a traditional antisemitic characteristic--they supposedly have a burning hatred for Germany and conspiratorial attempts to harm its reputation among nations.

As racist antigypsy expressions were taboo in political culture after 1945, the German extreme Right abandoned the delegitimized racist arguments of Nazi times and returned to traditional non-racial terms. Among the Neo-Nazis the denial of the Nazi racial persecution of Romanies, as with Holocaust denial is not unequivocal. Their acts and slogans in the recent anti-foreigner wave of violence do insinuate that the "Final Solution" is even being regarded as a model for the future solution of the "foreigner problem," and that also includes the Romanies.


The Attitude of the German Sinti toward the Roma Migration

There are certain similarities between the reaction of the German Sinti to the Roma migration with the reaction of some of German Jewish circles towards the Eastern European Jewish (Ostjuden) migrants who came to Germany in the Wilhelmian period and in the Weimar Republic. In contrast to Roma organizations in the FRG like the Hamburg Rom and Cinti Union, the Sinti organization, Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma (Central Council of the German Sinti and Roma), did not encourage the Roma migrants to apply for asylum in the FRG. The Sinti organization defined the Sinti as a German ethnic minority (Deutsche Volksgruppe) and demanded that the authorities grant them the same status as the Danes and Sorbs have, whereas the Rom and Cinti Union defines the Roma as a non-territorial European people.118

A senior member of the Sinti organization, Hugo Franz, even expressed his support for the return to Romania of thousands of Romanian Gypsies who had arrived in the FRG since 1990, in accordance with the agreement between the two governments.119 Many Sinti regarded the new Roma migrants as a threat to their own political achievements in the FRG following the public campaign of the early 1980s. They were afraid that they would be identified by the German public with the Roma, and that it would cause animosity toward them. The aggressive mode of begging by the Roma children and women as well as their general behavior in public outraged the German public and was mirrored in the German press as early as summer 1990.120 Franz pointed out the cultural differences between them and the Sinti, and asserted that they could find their place only in their home countries and not in Germany.121


Gilad Margalit was born in 1959 in Haifa and holds a PH.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His doctoral thesis discusses The Attitude of German Society and its Institutions after 1945 toward the Gypsies and Their Persicution in the. Third Reich.

His field of research is German-Jewish relations and postwar German society's attitude toward its minorities, and the process of Vergangenheitsbeweltigung -- coming to terms with the Nazi past.