A little bit of history

Roma are originally from central/northern India, from where they started migrating westward some 1000 years ago. Their language, Romani, belongs to the Indo-Arian language family and is similar to Sanskrit. The first Roma groups arrived in Europe around the 14th century, possibly earlier. Initial enthusiasm about their arrival, when they were taken for pilgrims or their skilled craftsmanship was appreciated, was followed by a long period of rejection, discrimination, deportation, internment and persecution, culminating in the Roma Holocaust during the Second World War, when some 500 000 Roma and Travellers were murdered in extermination camps and elsewhere. Contrary to common belief, almost all Roma are sedentary, whereas Travellers are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group not genetically related to Roma.

Important commemorative days are: 

  • 8 April – International Roma Day
  • 2 August – European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day
  • 5 November – World Day of Romani Language

The Roma Holocaust 

Roma's persecution, which had lasted for centuries, culminated in genocide under the NS regime. Defined as a “problem”, “asocials”, and “racially inferior”, the Roma were arrested and murdered in the German Reich and the German-occupied territories.

Because of the ideological contradictions, Roma's persecution was carried out in a far less coordinated way than that of the Jewish population. For instance, several Roma were still in the army in 1943, even though that very army was involved in the genocide of Roma in the East, and even though thousands had already been killed in concentration camps. These army members were deported directly from the front to Auschwitz, sometimes even with medals of honour. Over half a million Roma were murdered during the Second World War.

   Visit the Roma Genocide webpage