Deportations of Roma and Sinti in Asperg in 1940 (German Federal Archives, R 165 Bild-244-48)
After coming to power in Germany in 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis began to enforce their racial policies, announcing a boycott of Jewish shops, and excluding all non-Aryans from civil service. Two years later, a series of anti-semitic and racial laws were passed in Nuremberg. Nuremberg laws were originally directed against Jews. Interracial marriages were forbidden and only persons of German or related descend were eligible for citizenship. A few months later, the Nuremberg laws were extended to include Roma and dark-skinned persons. Roma were declared enemies of the “racial state” and thus their legal status was equated with the Jews.
As early as 1929, a Central Office for Combatting Gypsies was established in Germany. Heinrich Himmler himself issued an order in 1938 for “combatting the gypsy plague”. Until then segregated and proclaimed anti-social elements of the society, the Roma were now defined based on their origin and race. This definition of Roma was especially advocated by Dr Robert Ritter, who developed a special classification for persons of Romani origin, according to which a person could be persecuted if he or she had two Romani ancestors four generations ago. The Nazis decided to solve the problem of Roma, not by forcibly relocating or imprisoning them in Germany, but by identifying and registering all members of the Roma community, sterilizing, and deporting them.
Although at first Nazis planned to forcibly relocate Jews outside Europe, including to Madagascar that soon proved to be impossible. Instead, a special assembly centers were set up in occupied Europe, known as concentration camps, and “death camps”, designed for mass extermination of all non-Aryan elements of society.
Soon German allies passed similar laws. Italy passed the Italian Racial Laws and Manifesto of Race in 1938. From 1940 onwards Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and the Independent State of Croatia did the same.