- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 24, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195142403
- ISBN-13: 978-0195142402
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.8 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,062,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies 1st Edition
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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.
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This book remedies that egregious oversight, painting a vivid, quite compassionate picture of the gypsies' dilemma, and at the same time marshaling a damning indictment of the general campaign of mistreatment, disenfranchisement, torture, and murder conducted by the Third Reich against all subjugated peoples both in greater Germany and also in the countries conquered as they pushed both east and west during the prosecution of the war. According to the author, the policy seemed to evolve as the Nazis encountered such groups in their conquests, and whatever policies as emerged did so more in relation to the local officials' negative views of the gypsies as being thieves, trouble-makers and undesirables than due to any overall pre-planned approach.
Of course, this sort of insight shouldn't come as a total surprise to students of Third Reich social policies. Even Himmler's well-documented plan for the "Final Solution" is now considered by a number of noted historians to owe more to the requirements of exigent circumstance that evolved as the Wehrmacht rolled through Poland during Operation Barbarossa than from any long-term plan to systematically exterminate all European Jews. The Nazis realized they could not feed or shelter the Jews and maintain their schedule for populating the hinterlands, and the extermination program was conceived of as a way out of that dilemma.
It should also be noted that the Nazi bureaucracy was rife with duplications and redundancies, and that this led to disorganization and confusion. As a result, it was exceedingly ineffective and inefficient. The history associated with the conduct of the army and its special branches toward extermination also reflects this disorganization and amateurish, rigid and unfocused leadership and direction. In spite of this lack of leadership or any clear and unambiguous policy, the local officials often improvised, with gruesome effect. As history shows, they were a deadly, murderous crew.
The campaign as described in this well-documented and painstakingly researched book reflects that lack of coherent policy and disorganization in the actions taken against the gypsies. However, this lack of specific focus does not mean they were not massively and negatively affected by government policies. On the contrary, from the inception of programs against the gypsies began in 1938 to the bitter end, they suffered the fates of so many others; deportation to concentration camps, exclusion from school, work and social life, slave labor, involuntary sterilization, torture, medical experimentation, and extermination. This book fully documents the place of the gypsies as a class of victims in the Holocaust, and fills a void too long left vacant by scholarship and public recognition. This is an excellent book, carefully researched, well documented, and compassionate in its comprehensive consideration of the plight of European gypsies at the hands of the Third Reich.
First, he has a good command of the sources, which he uses conscientiously and authoritatively. He is thus able to paint for us the murderous Nazi policies in regard to Gypsies, and the unspeakable suffering of the Gypsy people under Nazi rule.
Second, and again on the basis of these sources, Lewy can tell us what the Nazi's Gypsy persecution was and what is was not. It was a crime of great magnitude, and probably amounted to the outright murder of more than half of all the Gypsies in Nazi-controlled areas. It was not a "Holocaust" in the sense of the Nazi killings of the Jews. The Holocaust sought to kill all Jews without distinction while the murder of Gypsies involved a Nazi policy of killing some and sparing others.
There were of course still others who suffered greatly under the Nazis. There were Communists and Socialists, and Jehovah's Witnesses, among many other such groups. Whole nations were targeted, for instance the Poles. Lewy cannot deal with all such Nazi crimes, but he should have at least reminded us of them in order to provide perspective and comparison. This is a fault of the book.
A second fault lies in Lewy's apparent ignorance of the ethnographic and linguistic literature concerning the Gypsy people. Some such acquaintance would have prevented some rather naïve observations. And it would also have made him more knowledgeable in his references to the many self-styled spokesmen for the Gypsies.
Such faults, however, are heavily outweighed by the very substantial virtues. This book is an absolutely indispensable contribution to our knowledge of the Nazi dictatorship.
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