The truth is that the Nazis, in the camps and elsewhere, murdered, more than likely, even more of our People than the million though there are some that still want to deny that figure and play with 250,000 to 500,000. Even one murdered Gypsy is one too many.
The Frankfurter Fachhochschule has, after intense study and research, suggested, in the later 20th century, the figure 1.5 Million dead Gypsies in the camps and elsewhere and some Romani organizations in Eastern Europe put the figure as high as 2 Million plus. As said, whatever the figure, one murdered Rom was one dead Rom too many.
However, what makes us different from the Jews and that is why we are still having problems of having the real figure of our dead (and let's not even talk about the generations unborn because of those that were forcibly sterilized) is that we do not do any lobbying work that reaches the heart and soul of the people, neither in Germany, nor, and where it is even more important, in the United States, nor even in France. The greatest problem though is that we are still seen to most non-Gypsy as “dirty Gyppos” and no more, though sometimes even worse.
We also have a distinct lack of poems and books by Rom on this matter of the Holocaust, though some there are, as those by the late O. Tom Odley from Britain, and one or two others. There are the novels “Fires in the Dark” and the older one that makes mention of it “After the Mourning”, and then there is the book “Winter Time” that is the story of Walter Winter and his time in the Camps. In addition there is the movie “And the Violins Stopped Playing” and a couple of songs and laments there are too on this matter. So, to suggest, as it has been that we have done nothing on that level, though the movie and the book “After the Mourning” may be non-Romani in origin, the subject, nevertheless, of the Romani persecution and murder for the self-same reasons as those of the Jews, namely that of Race, is documented by Rom and non-Rom alike.
To say “Zigeuner” or “Gypsy” today gets you dirty looks from the political correct lobby who want it to be “Sinti and Roma” or, preferably, as it would appear, just Roma. They hereby, like with the memorial for the “Sinti and Roma” Holocaust victims that is now, finally, going to be build in Berlin, after a wrangle of years over the inscription as the suggestion of “Zigeuner” could not possibly agreed to by the “Central Council of German Sinti and Roma”.
Now the term “Sinti and Roma” has in the German areas, in the same was as “Roma” in Eastern Europe, has become synonymous with and to mean Zigeuner in exactly the same connotation.
By using the term “Sinti and Roma” nothing has been gained whatsoever, and neither has by the term “Traveller” in Britain for instance, when the Romanichals, after WWII, around the 1950's, began using the term “Traveller” to refer to themselves. Now when the people hear “Travellers” they thing “Gypsy” which means they think Irish Travellers though, with their mess and their bad behavior.
No, I am not saying that all Romanichals are angels. Dordi! No! Far from it. Nor are all English people saints, are they now. However, the great majority of those that cause the Gypsy or Traveller (as in Romani) to be given a bad name are the Irish Travellers and not only in this country. The same holds true for Norway and Sweden.
The term Gypsy, which we have called ourselves, to outsiders at least, for amongst our own we more often that not may have use the term “Rom” in the singular, and “Roms” in the plural, was abandoned in favor of the term “Traveller” because some misguided do-gooders of the Gohja community, and also one or two “learned” Romanichals, went to the people telling them that “Gypsy” is a bad and incorrect word for us. However, they never told them to use Romani or Romanichal instead, did they now. They encouraged them to use the term “Traveller”. Why? To make the Rom look and appear to the outside world one with the Irish Traveller and the non-Rom “English” Travellers.
We should never have, ever, abandoned the use of the term “Gypsy”. Fine, it was not our own word. So what. I doubt that “Jew” is really the term either for one of the Judaic faith. The word Jude in German comes from their word for the Tribe of Judah. But, alas, the do-gooders and others do not realize that nor do they want to. Jude and Yid became words with bad connotations in the same way as did Gypsy and Zigeuner. Did the Jews give up the term Jews. No, sure they did not. So why were we so stupid?
Adopting the term “Traveller” gave us nothing but grief and does so to this very day. Some Romanichals in this country, and overseas, are finally coming back to using the more common name, namely, Gypsy. The word Gypsy, according to the Oxford Dictionary, should also only refer to the Romani. So why do the powers that be and the media call the Irish Tinkers and others, Gypsies, whether with a capital first letter or with a small? Because they are simply ignorant or because there is a different agenda on the go? Methinks the latter for it is not possible to have so many ignorant people about in the same places.
The use of the term “Sinti and Roma”, also, has, in the case of the memorial, excluded the Lalleri and the Manouche. Those two groups, while more than likely, in the same was as the Romanichels and Romanichals, being Sinti do not, per se, refer to themselves as Sinti. They use the term “Lalleri” or “Manouche” or “Romanichel” or, in cases even, “Gitans”. The Lalleri and Manouche were also persecuted as “Zigeuner” under the Nazis, as indeed were the so-called Jenische. While the Lalleri and Manouche are, indeed, of the Romani People, some of the Jenische are while others are not, and of those that are not all deny vehemently any link to the “Manische” as they call the Sinti. By the use of the term “Sinti and Roma” active discrimination is, however, enacted against other Romani groups who do not go by either of those two terms, whether they be the Cale, the Spanish Romani (Romani, please and NOT Roma), or those in the East that call themselves Cigan/Tsigan (all depending on the spelling) rather than being called Roma and, while they may, or may not be Sinti – those that thus call themselves Cigan or Tsigan, in other words “Zigeuner” or Gypsy – they are not aware of being of that group either and therefore use the term Tsigan, especially when they are called “Roma” by so-called experts. Many of them have been unable to work out – what is so difficult here – why those refuse to be called “Roma”. Simple answer; because they are NOT Roma, period. They too are being excluded in this term “Sinti and Roma” or the often so preferred overall term “Roma”, with the experts claiming that we are all but tribes of the Roma, which we are not, are actively being discriminated against.
Let us return back to our roots, and not only in the way of our old Faith and our Culture and Traditions. Let us use again the terms that we once used and that people always understood.
Tell someone you are Romani in England and you get “oh, you are from Romania”. Erm, sorry, nope, I am not. Tell them – though I won't because I am not – that you are “Roma” and they go, “oh you are from Roma, from Italy”. No idea as to the perception of “Sinti” except for blank face, even in Germany.
However, use “Gypsy” in England or other English-speaking country, and the equivalent colloquial words that have been used by us before – and please no one come me again with the “fact” that they always called themselves “Sinti” in Germany. Sure, and on an airfield nearby a squadron of pigs is preparing for takeoff”. I have been in Germany and I have been told by my relations themselves that only amongst Rom would they have ever called themselves Sinti, or by their tribal group rather, but to the outside it was “Zigeuner”. And that even after the time of the Nazis.
I know that there will be folks that will claim different and that they have always used “Sinti”. Well, and I shall look out for all those pigs on the wing.
We need to lobby for people to understand better who and what we are but that will not work if we confuse the issue, muddy the waters, and especially discriminate against and exclude others who are of Romani Blood, in the same way as we must get away from denying those that are of mixed parentage their Birthright as Rom.
© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008