May 032010

Most of us know that Hitler’s Nazi’s exterminated approximately 6 million Jews in what became known as the Holocaust (or sometimes preferred amongst the Jews, Shoah). However the total killed by the Nazis in methods and reasons similar to the Jews total around 11-17 million. Let us take that lower figure of 11 million. If you remove the total of Jews from it, you are still left with a total of 5 million men, women, and children which enough to deserve the word “holocaust” no matter who the victims are.

Some argue that the Jews are special because they were the only ethnic group to be targeted by the Nazis. I am not sure why being part of a particular ethnic group makes state murder any worse than being murdered for some other reason, but it’s also wrong. In addition to the Jews, the Nazis also targeted the Romani population, and Slavs. Nazis finally decided that the Romani be placed “on the same level as Jews and placed in concentration camps.”.

The Nazi attitude towards the Slavic population of the countries they invaded was more or less “we’ll deal with them later” although many hundred of thousands were killed.

Although we are concentrating on the genocide where the Nazi’s attempted the complete “ethnic cleansing” of populations, the other victims need remembering – the mentally ill, the disabled, the homosexuals, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Left. Plus of course any others the Nazi regime might find “inconvenient”.

The Porajmos (the Romani “shoah”) killed somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000. Doesn’t sounds so many in comparison does it ? Perhaps not, but a single victim of government killing is one too many. And when you start to look at the effect on the ethnic population as a whole something different begins to emerge.

Country Jewish Casualties (%) Romani Casualties (%)
Poland 90 26
Croatia 98
Germany & Austria 90 75 (Germany), 58 (Austria)
Estonia 100
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania 90 100
Luxembourg 20 100

It is perhaps easy to get carried away by statistics – especially when talking about genocide. The numbers are incomprehensible, and the percentages just as incomprehensible. It is worth noting that despite the enthusiasm with which Nazi’s undertook the “Final Solution”, nowhere did they fully succeed in exterminating Jews; whereas they accomplished a “successful” genocide of the Romani in 5 separate countries.

As to why we hear so much about the Jewish Shoah – and quite rightly as this blog entry is not about attacking those commemorating the Jewish victims of the holocaust – and so little about the other victims, I really do not know. In the case of the Romani, part of the reason is that in the countries where they survived, they were still subject to official repression including forced sterilisation.

And of course there is a secrecy tradition amongst the Romani that stops them from telling their story made worse by many of the things that happened to them being taboo. But is that any reason for us to forget them ?

Perhaps it is simply film that is the answer. I have seen numerous films and documentaries covering the Holocaust and most simply ignore the “other” victims or at best mention them almost as an aside. We need to redress this balance and cover all of the victims of the holocaust.