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The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies [Paperback]

by Guenter Lewy
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 24, 2001 0195142403 978-0195142402 New Ed
Roaming the countryside in caravans, earning their living as musicians, peddlers, and fortune-tellers, the Gypsies and their elusive way of life represented an affront to Nazi ideas of social order, hard work, and racial purity. They were branded as "asocials," harassed, and eventually herded into concentration camps where many thousands were killed. But until now the story of their persecution has either been overlooked or distorted.
In The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies, Guenter Lewy draws upon thousands of documents--many never before used--from German and Austrian archives to provide the most comprehensive and accurate study available of the fate of the Gypsies under the Nazi regime. Lewy traces the escalating vilification of the Gypsies as the Nazis instigated a widespread crackdown on the "work-shy" and "itinerants." But he shows that Nazi policy towards Gypsies was confused and changeable. At first, local officials persecuted gypsies, and those who behaved in gypsy-like fashion, for allegedly anti-social tendencies. Later, with the rise of race obsession, Gypsies were seen as a threat to German racial purity, though Himmler himself wavered, trying to save those he considered "pure Gypsies" descended from Aryan roots in India. Indeed, Lewy contradicts much existing scholarship in showing that, however much the Gypsies were persecuted, there was no general program of extermination analogous to the "final solution" for the Jews.
Exploring in heart-rending detail the fates of individual Gypsies and their families, The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies makes an important addition to our understanding both of the history of this mysterious people and of all facets of the Nazi terror.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; New Ed edition (May 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195142403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195142402
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitler's other victims August 16, 2006
Long ignored by most historians is the plight of the Gypsies at the hands of the nazis.

Subjected to every indignity and persecution as the Jews of Europe yet often ignored by most historians except brief. Often subjected to grizly medical experiments by men such as Mengele. Many of the photos of his victims are in fact of Gypsy children.

This book gives a good scope of what the nazis did to them.

But like most, it does not give a solid number on how many were murdered by the nazis. Nobody knows. Few Censusus covered them. Few records were kept. More often than not, they were shoved into the same trains as the Jews and gassed with them.

There are many gaps but this book does at least do some justice.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Denying Genocide December 31, 2005
Guenter Lewy seems to have one mission in life: to prove that there was only one genocide in world history, that of the Jewish people during WWII, and that no other ethnic or religious groups have ever been victims of genocide. In recent years, he has been publishing one book after another that attempt to demonstrate that various peoples (American Indians, Gypsies, Armenians) were never victims of genocide. To achieve his objective, he makes a selective use of historical documents, using only the ones that corroborate his thesis, and ignoring those that would prove him wrong. His reading of history is permeated with bias. I recommend anyone to read the negative review of this book by a world-class scholar of genocide, Robert Melson, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (vol. 16, no. 1, 2002).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sad and not readily known December 3, 2012
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This is a great examination of a little known and even lesser understood aspect of the Holocaust. The Roma and Sinti (Gypsy sub-groups) were some of the first to be persecuted. Most of the crime in a city would be laid at the hands of the Gypsies when they were near. They were singled out even before the Jews. They were shunned by society simply because they had no fixed home and lived a nomadic lifestyle. There were even laws that stipulated that church bells must be rung when the Gypsies entered a town to warn the locals to lock up their valuables. This book is a must read if you want to understand what really happened in the Holocaust, not just have a general overview of its history. This is not an easy book to read. It is in-depth and delves into a very difficult subject that is heart wrenching at best and quite depressing at worst.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book September 12, 2012
By Hanzi
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As a Romani person I am very happy to be able to get hold of a book about the Porrajmos. It is a good book and very informative. However, the author tries to make the claim that the slaughter of our people was no genocide, which is absolutely false!
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