Recalling Gypsies in the Mineshaft
If we feel now that we face great evil and that hope has gone, we ought to look back seventy-five years. What happened in 1938? In November, the Jews of Germany were subjected to the horrors of Kristallnacht. Synagogues burned. Jews were murdered in the street. The shadow of the Shoah to come loomed large across the lands of Europe.
Seventy-five years ago this week, five months before that organized persecution of German Jews, another largely forgotten, seldom noted part of Nazi malice began. June 12, 1938 to June 18, 1938 was "Gypsy Clean Up Week" in Germany. Thousands of Gypsies were hunted, beaten, and arrested for no reason other than being Gypsies.
This Nazi hatred blossomed in full hellishness into what Gypsies have called simply "The Devouring." The number of Roma and Sinti Gypsies exterminated by the Nazis is not certain. Perhaps only one quarter of a million souls died -- that is the low figure given by historians -- but some think that perhaps 1.5 million Gypsies died at Nazi hands in ways as horrible as anything done by Japanese to Chinese or Germans to Jews.
Both Nazis and Japanese conducted exercises in medical sadism which have been euphemistically called "medical experiments." Dr. Mengele particularly was interested in Gypsy children, and one example of what he did is enough: surgically removed organs from Gypsy siblings and then sewed them together to create Siamese twins. A higher percentage of gypsies were subjected to medical experiments than any other group. Yet even forgotten in the international rage against Nazi atrocities, not one single Gypsy testified at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. No reparation payments were ever made to Gypsies.
Why? One reason surely is that Gypsies, unlike other victims of Nazi war crimes, wanted just one thing: Gypsies wanted to be left alone. They had no wish to be integrated as functioning cogs in some German statist machine. German Jews, by contrast, were shocked because they had been war heroes in the First World War, scientists and engineers who contributed directly and happily to Weimar Germany -- and this reached awful depths when Jews like Dr. Max Nauman, founder of the National German Jews, consciously expressed as the National Socialist branch of German Jewry, called for the "ruthless expulsion" of Eastern European Jews from Germany and demanded that these "dark hordes" be denied the right to vote. Nauman's loyalty to Nazism, of course, did not save him or like-minded German Jews.
Other groups persecuted by the Nazis, like homosexuals, also were very happy being good Nazis. Ernst Roehm, leader of the Nazi Storm Troopers, was gay, but he was one of many homosexuals who were willing participants and angry avengers of the injustices done to Germany -- until, of course, the Nazis turned on them as well.
Communists in Germany, after the nonaggression pact, began fanatical supporters of the Nazis and Stalin, may have simply wished to be brought in as a loyal lieutenant of Hitler. Certainly German Communists joined the Nazi Party on orders from the Kremlin, and some rose to high levels. Freisler, the judge of the People's Court who condemned Helmut Moltkie, famous son and grandson of Prussian generals and who opposed Hitler within Germany, moved directly from being a German Communist to being a fanatical German Nazi.
What did the Gypsies want? They wanted to live their lives without being incorporated into active membership in the German state, and that was their "crime" in the eyes of the Nazis. Those of us who love liberty -- which means cherishing the right of others to live their lives according to private and not public standards -- should take special note of the grand and awful pogrom which began against Gypsies seventy-five years ago.
Is that not the principle which most of us who dread statism and political correctness want for ourselves? What the Nazis demanded, what the Soviets demanded, what Maoists demanded, and what to a chilling degree today our leftists demand is that all of us become soldiers of the state, waging a cold war on those in society who do not conform to or accept the values pronounced by party leaders and government officials.
Those who don't conform to what is politically correct, today as seventy-five years ago, face threats and intimidation. There is a reason why anti-Semitism is again rising in Europe. There is a reason why the campaign of secularists against Christianity seems to grow stronger all the time. Gypsies, like Jews and Christians, are canaries in the mineshaft. When their voices are muffled, then liberty is dying.