From Publishers Weekly
The Nationalist Socialist dream of a pure society demanded elimination not only of the Jews but of all those who challenged the homogeneity of a racial and cultural utopia. Europe's Gypsies presented a particular problem for the race-obsessed Nazis: on the one hand they were viewed as antisocial liars and thieves, as "work-shy" and as wanderers without a homeland. Yet they supposedly descended from "Aryan" roots in India. Hence Lewy finds policies concerning them to be often contradictory and fluctuating. A professor emeritus of political science at UMass (Amherst), Lewy has plumbed the archives and, through meticulous documentation and a painstaking reconstruction of events, arrived at a startling new interpretation of the Nazi policy toward the Gypsies. Lewy argues that in contrast to the Final Solution of the "Jewish Question," the Nazis had no comparable plan to exterminate the Gypsies. And when the latter were sent to the concentration camps for extermination, it was not solely because of their biological existence, like the Jews, but because their wandering way of life challenged the social and cultural construct of the Third Reich. An important facet in the Gypsies' fate, according to Lewy, was ordinary Germans' insistence on measures against them, something the Nazi regime did not have to foster. Lewy shows how Nazi persecution of the Gypsies evolved through the 1930s: at first, local officials were responsible for measures of control and harassment; eventually, the racial laws written against Jews were directed against Gypsies. Lewy traces this sequence of events in detail; his theory may be controversial, but he argues his case carefully. 20 b&w photos. (Feb.)
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From Library Journal
This book by Lewy (emeritus, political science, Univ. of Massachusetts) addresses an important need in the historiography of the Nazi era. His systematic study of the persecution of the Gypsies places their story in the context of German racial law. Since many Gypsies lived an indigent life and were often shunned as thieves, they were initially classified as "work shy" by the Nazis. As Nazi racial laws further defined "racial pollution," the Gypsies found themselves stigmatized as a foreign element potentially dangerous to the Aryan racial utopia. Of particular interest is Lewy's analysis of how some Gypsies managed to survive by being classified as "socially adjusted," meaning they had jobs and permanent residence, and therefore could avoid deportation (although not sterilization). Based on solid archival sources, this should become the standard work on the subject. Recommended for most public and academic libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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