The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies

Guenter Lewy, Editor Oxford University Press, USA $74 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-512556-6
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.)
Reviewed on: 01/10/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-19-514240-2
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