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Section: Life before the Holocaust

Pre-war Gypsy life

A Roma woman washing clothing in a tub in the 1930s, as a young girl smiles in the background.
A Roma woman washing clothing in a tub in the 1930s, as a young girl smiles in the background. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Kore Yoors.

Prior to the Holocaust, around one million Gypsies were living in Europe. Approximately 500,000 Gypsies were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

Historically, two different groups of Gypsies have settled in Europe, Roma and Sinti. It is widely believed Gypsies originated from India, as their native language, Romani, has roots in Sanskrit.

In contrast to the stereotype, in the first half of the twentieth century many Roma and Sinti had stopped travelling continually, and become permanent residents of cities. With permanent residency many also took up regular day jobs in various professions.

In addition to Romani, their traditional language, most Gypsies spoke the language of the country in which they dwelled.

Gypsies continue to be persecuted and marginalised today.

Hans Braun

The testimony of Hans Braun, a boy from Germany who would later be persecuted at the hands of the Nazis, describing his childhood.
The testimony of Hans Braun, a boy from Germany who would later be persecuted at the hands of the Nazis, describing his childhood. Courtesy of The Wiener Library.

Hans Braun was a Sinti born in Hannover in 1923. Over summer, Hans’ family travelled around Germany with a carnival, and in winter were settled in one location.

Above you can read his recollection of his childhood. This recollection is an excerpt from the Donald Kenrick collection in the Wiener Library archives. Kenrick undertook a significant research project into the fate of the Gypsy’s during the Nazi period in the 1960s, and donated his research to the Wiener Library.

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Pre-war Homosexual life

Pre-war Homosexual life

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