Synopses & Reviews
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.
"A reasoned, academic overview of the often historically neglected Nazi persecution of the gypsies. The book is very accessible to the general reader, filled with poignant details of individual and community struggles with the growing Nazi terror."--ForeWord
"Lewy's study is an extremely important addition to the study of the persecution of the Gypsies during the Nazi period, a subject that has been little researched until now....Lewy's meticulously researched and methodically presented study is based on the study of primary documents in archives and in various governmental agencies. The book includes some photos and reproductions of documents and an extensive bibliography."--Multicultural Review
"Guenter Lewy's The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies is an outstanding achievement. It will become the standard work on the subject. It documents and analyses an aspect of Nazi criminality that hasn't received sufficient attention and corrects some unfounded statements. It is a work of great compassion and exemplary scholarship."--Saul Friedlander, Department of History, Tel Aviv University and University of California, Los Angeles
"Lewy's account of Nazi measures against the powerless Gypsies is unsurpassed in the English language. It tells a story in painstaking, footnoted detail that is totally bizarre. This book is a platform for much reflection."--Raul Hilber, author of The Destruction of the European Jews
"In his level-headed way Guenter Lewy challenges many stereotypes about the Gypsies, exploring their culture including their 'ritual purity'. He also argues that despite all Nazi crimes against them the Third Reich's policy towards them lacked the single-mindedness of its murderous assault on the Jews. Meticulously researched, this book is innovative and courageous in its conclusions."--Klemens von Klemperer, Department of History, Smith College
"A moving account of the fate of a small people caught in a maelstrom."--Kirkus
Includes bibliographical references (p. -296) and index.
Thousands of documents from German and Austrian archives provide a horrifying picture of how Europe's nomadic Gypsies were ostracized, abused, and branded by the Nazis in the quest for racial purity. 20 halftones.
About the Author
is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of many books, including The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany
and Religion and Revolution (OUP). He lives in Washington, D.C.