Roma (Gypsies)

Antiziganism or anti-Romanyism is hostility, prejudice, or racism directed at the Romani people, also known as Gypsies. The material below has been compiled from a variety of websites, which are listed at the bottom of the page.


The Roma people migrated from northwest India to Persia between 224 and 642. By the 14th and 15th centuries, some had migrated to Western Europe, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some came to North America. While there are about 12 million Roma in the world, it is impossible to estimate the total population with accuracy since many governments do not record Roma in their census figures. In addition, many conceal their ethnic origin out of fear of discrimination.

Roma are persecuted heavily, particularly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. According to Amnesty International, of the 10 million Roma living in Europe, almost 80 percent live in European Union states. "The Roma population is the poorest and one of the fastest growing in the region, living predominantly on the margins of society. Roma are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Europe." The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe describes the Roma as "the poorest, least healthy, least educated and most discriminated sector of...society."

The 20th Century

During the 1920s, in the Weimar Republic in Germany, the Roma were required to register with the police and were forbidden to use parks or public baths. Many were sent to work camps "for reasons of public security.

"When the Nazis took power in the early 1930s, the Roma were further persecuted under the "Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor." In 1937, Heinrich Himmler issued a decree, "The Struggle Against the Gypsy Plague," which increased police monitoring of the Roma. During the Nazi Holocaust, they were declared "subhuman," and in July 1941, the Einsatzkommandos were instructed to "kill all Jews, Gypsies and mental patients." A few months later, Himmler ordered all Roma deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for extermination.

Sybil Milton, a former senior historian of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, estimates that 500,000 Roma and Sinti persons were executed during the Nazi Holocaust. This number is supported by the Romas and Sinti Center in Heidelberg. The Roma refer to this genocide as the "O Porrajamos," which translates to "The Great Devouring."

"About 5,000 Roma survivors of the Nazi concentration camps are still living. Because of continuing discrimination, however, they did not share in any of the hundreds of millions of dollars given to other survivors of the Holocaust.

The 21st Century

The hatred, discrimination, oppression, and physical attacks directed at the Roma within the formerly Communist governments of Eastern Europe have intensified in recent years. Roma are discriminated against heavily in matters of education, employment, health care, and social services. They are a prime target of neo-Nazis and skinheads. Often, governments have done little to guarantee them even the most basic human rights. Some believe that, if the governments tried to treat them as equal citizens, there would be a public backlash.

The 2007 Amnesty International report "Europe: Discrimination against Roma" states in part:

"The Roma population is the poorest and one of the fastest growing in the region, living predominantly on the margins of society. Roma are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Europe.

"The Roma community suffers massive discrimination in access to housing, employment and education. In some countries, they are prevented from obtaining citizenship and personal documents required for social insurance, health care and other benefits. Roma are often victims of police ill-treatment and their complaints are seldom investigated. Frequently, Romani children are unjustifiably placed in 'special' schools where curtailed curricula limit their possibilities for fulfilling their potential. Romani children and women are among the communities most vulnerable to traffickers.

"Roma were often the victims of torture or other ill-treatment by law enforcement officers across the region. Roma were also often victims of racist attacks during which they were not adequately protected by the police. The authorities in many countries failed to fulfill [sic] their domestic and international obligations towards the Roma community."
In Bulgaria, the situation of the Roma in recent years is probably typical of the fate of many Roma in Eastern Europe. During the Communist era, Roma culture was suppressed by the government. Their newspapers and clubs were closed; their language was outlawed. The situation has worsened since the overthrow of Communism. The unemployment rate among the Roma is many times the national average.

A poll of ethnic Bulgarian adults shows that discrimination and bigotry is intense and widespread:
  • 94% said they would not marry a Roma*
  • 69% would not have a Roma as a friend*
  • 83% believe the Roma are "lazy and irresponsible"
  • 59% would not live in the same locale as the Roma
  • 91% believe the Roma are predisposed to criminal behavior
*These two values have increased by about 5 percentage points since 1992