Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 6: "NS-Gypsy-policy" in post-war Germany

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Content-Author: Constanze

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Roma and Sinti weren’t acknowledged by the post-war state. On the contrary, the staff and the structural basis of Nazi policy towards gypsies were still functioning.


  • Daniel Strauß: "da muß man wahrhaft alle Humanität ausschalten..." Zur Nachkriegsgeschichte der Sinti und Roma in Deutschland. In: Baustein. "Zwischen Romantisierung und Rassismus". Sinti und Roma 600 Jahre in Deutschland. Als Bausteine ausgearbeitet, ed. LpB Baden-Württemberg, 1998, p. 26 et seq.
  • Harald Huber, Kommentar zu §1 BEG, in: Ingeborg Becker/Harald Huber/Otto Küster, Bundesentschädigungsgesetz. Bundesergänzungsgesetz zur Entschädigung für Opfer der nationalsozialistischen Verfolgung (BEG) vom 18. September 1953. Kommentar, Berlin/Frankfurt am Main 1955, pp. 48–50.
  • Judgement of the 4th Civil Senate of the Federal Court of Justice of 7 January 1956, quoted in: Tilman Zülch (Ed.), In Auschwitz vergast, bis heute verfolgt. Zur Situation der Roma (Zigeuner) in Deutschland und Europa, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1979, p. 169.

After the end of the war, according to a summary by Daniel Strauß, president of the State Association of German Sinti and Roma in Baden-Wuerttemberg, "the continuity of staff and the structural basis of Nazi policy towards gypsies was [...] not sufficiently broken or abolished":

Judges in post-war Germany denied the genocide of Roma and Sinti all the way up to the Federal Supreme Court. In their judgements they adopted explicitly Nazi conventions of speech.

Doctors and public health officers relativised the mental and physical harm done to Roma and Sinti, and downplayed its relationship with persecution and imprisonment.
Police officers undertook special registration of the Roma and Sinti and continued the ethnic discrimination.

And finally, the social sciences failed to process the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, to cast light on antiziganism and to analyse social exclusion. "Societal antiziganism and images of 'gypsies' lived on in people’s minds and government offices and were used to justify contemporary and future unequal treatment and exclusion of the surviving Roma and Sinti, which were now practiced with dubious constitutional means." 

Extract from the Federal Supplementary Law on Compensation for the Victims of National Socialist Persecution of 18 September 1953:

"This law provides a right to compensation to all those who suffered acts of violent persecution because of political conviction in opposition to National Socialism, on grounds of race, faith or beliefs (persecution grounds) in the period from 30 January 1933 to 8 May 1945 (the time of persecution), hereby suffering damage to life, body, health, liberty, property, assets or to professional or economic advancement (the persecuted)."

According to a judgement from the Federal Court of Justice, Sinti and Roma were not persecuted on racist grounds until 1943. The decision was revised in 1963. The application deadline for persecution victims expired on 31 December 1969. In 1981 the Federal Government issued new guidelines on "hardship compensation for persecution victims of non-Jewish origins in individual cases". Only those who had never previously made a claim for restitution were entitled to apply, however.

Extract from a commentary on the Federal Indemnification Law (BEG) 1955:

"[…] The gypsies had long been considered a rural plague in western civilised nations. It cannot be maintained that measures against them in the time before 1933 constitute racist persecution. The characteristics of gypsies (antisocial nature, criminality, migratory instinct) give rise to the need to control them […]. In terms of the measures taken against the gypsies after 1933, it is necessary to distinguish between those taken on law enforcement grounds and those taken for racist reasons. […]." 

Extract from the judgement of the 4th Civil Senate of the Federal Court of Justice of 7 January 1956:

"[…] If you contemplate for a moment the circular decree of the Reichsführer SS and head of the German Police of 8 December 1938 […], it is, however, possible to perceive that, despite the prominence of racist ideological points of view, race as such was not the reason for the orders encountered within it, but the aforementioned antisocial characteristics of the gypsies, which had previously occasioned the imposition of particular limits on this people. […]"

Roma and Sinti Civil Rights Movement

Groups representing the interests of the Roma and Sinti, which grew up at the end of the 1970s and have since 1982 been partly united as the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, were successful in forcing the German Federal Government to recognise the National Socialist crimes against Roma and Sinti as genocide; they demanded and continue to demand a change in the way compensation is handled. A single documentation and cultural centre for German Sinti and Roma exists in Heidelberg since 1990.

"As the Sinti and Roma civil rights movement gained increasing public awareness after the proclamation in the former concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1979 and particularly after the 1980 hunger strike in the Dachau camp, this prompted the Bundestag to come to a non-statutory arrangement in 1981, which took the form of a lump-sum of up to DM 5,000 in compensation for surviving victims of Nazi persecution who had not yet been compensated: the so-called ‘hardship regulation’, at the discretion of the Federal Finance Minister in accordance with the guidelines laid down by Parliament.

The 1981 hardship regulation once again excluded Sinti and Roma persecuted by the Nazis who had already been rejected under the old compensation law because they came under Nazi categories such as ‘spy’ or ‘antisocial elements’, or who had only received such astonishing sums in compensation as DM 53 [about 25 Euros today] or DM 124 (as the repayment of the ‘racial special tax’ levied on top of income tax). Only recently has a chance to the politics of reparation come about in some federal states." 


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