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Applying the Lessons of the Holocaust: 1938-2008, Kristallnacht Seventy Years Later

Ian HancockAn essay by Ian Hancock for the International Seminar Organized by l’Association Verbe et Lumière -Vigilance, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and UNESCO Paris, November 18th 2008.

Written Introduction

My name is Ian Hancock, I am former White House appointee to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and Director of The Romani Archives and Documentation Center at The University of Texas at Austin (www.radoc.net).

Briefly, Romanies have generally been overlooked in Holocaust historiography because of the lack of easily accessible documentation and the lack of scholars specializing in this area. The general awareness that Romanies were targeted in the Third Reich has at best relegated us to a category of "others," i.e. non-Jews, along with Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, Poles and so on. I understand that the Rwandan and Balkan genocides are acknowledged -not Holocaust related - but Romanies, who are, find no place. Details arguing for representation are found in the attached essay, so I will not repeat them here, except to say that ONLY Jews and Romanies were slated for extermination following the directive of the Final Solution. Himmler himself publicly issued the "entgueltige Loesung der Zigeunerfrage" in 1938. The attached essay contains references in support of this from leading Holocaust scholars.

Hon. Ian F. Hancock, Ph.D.

The Beginning of the Essay...

1938

In Augsburg in 1500, a general order was issued by Emperor Maximillian stating that Romani men may be shot and their women raped if found anywhere in Germany beyond Easter the following year. German citizens who killed Romanies were protected by this law, which stated that “taking the life of a Romani . . . did not act against the policy of the state.”

Nineteen thirty eight was a pivotal year in Holocaust chronology; Hitler’s foreign policy advisor Joachim von Ribbentrop himself called it “the year of our destiny.” In some respects it echoed the policy in Maximillian’s Germany.

It was the year of Kristallnacht, the commemoration of which brings us here today, and it was the year of the Gypsy Clean-Up. Both events sent a clear message: if the very guardians of law and order could openly brutalize and murder Jews and Roma, then it gave carte blanche to the general public to do likewise with impunity; national prejudice had become physical. I am extremely grateful to the organizers for inviting me to participate in this commemorative symposium, and for the opportunity to bring to you the details of the Porrajmos—the Romani Holocaust, for which adequate scholarship is still lacking.

Download the whole speech (Word Document) >

About Ian Hancock

Perhaps the world's best-known Romani scholar, Dr Ian Hancock never graduated from high school.

Ian Hancock Romani scholar, and political advocate. He is perhaps the world's best known Romani scholar.

He is director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where he has been a professor of English, linguistics and Asian studies since 1972

He has represented the Romani people at the United Nations and served as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

Dispelling Myths

One of the aims of GRTHM is to counter-balance the widespread ignorance of Traveller communities that often leads to hatred and conflict. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month celebrates our culture and history by tackling the negative stereotyping and prejudices that have led to this situation.

Myths and truths >