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The Forgotten Holocaust: A brief history of the Roma

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Roma

By Annesha Das Gupta

The question is asked: “Have you heard of the holocaust?” The answer comes: “Yes, sure. The atrocities that were performed against the Jews. Tell who hasn’t!” “But what about the Romani Holocaust?”

“Romani Holocaust? What is that?”

Yes, in each and every part of the world, across all the educational institutions, this is what has gone amiss. People are made to forget a race of human beings who suffered but whose sufferings were never made to surface in our textbooks.

Let us look at the historical amnesia. It is time to redeem it.

The Romani Holocaust – Mainstreaming

  • Before the Nazis – A short introduction

 

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Image Courtesy: Bob Dawson

According to the eminent Romani scholar, Ian Hancock, the Romanies were unfortunately victimized much before the arrival of the era of the Nazis, and that its reasons are complex but can be explained in four main points: a) The first Roma who arrived in Europe were there because of the Ottoman Turkish, who conquered the Christian Byzantine Empire and so the Roma people were also perceived as possible threats. b) The Roma, a group, who were neither whites nor Christians and therefore, were considered to be aliens. c)  They also never claimed to any geographical territory or have an economy, militia or a government. d) The culture, as Hancock says, was the final nail in the coffin, which segregated and build up a strict social boundary against the Roma and the non-Roma world.

Further, Hancock explains in his essay, Romanies and the Holocaust: A Reevaluation and an Overview, that sometime in the early 1920s a psychiatrist called Karl Binding and a magistrate, Alfred Hoche, jointly authored and published a book named, The Eradication of Lives Undeserving of Life. It was mentioned referring to the Roma people that were “unworthy of life” and the “incurably mentally ill”.

After the coming of the Nazis, they followed up the practices in the US such as euthanasia and sterilization and implemented them on the Roma.

A law incorporating the phrase “unworthy of life” was put into effect just four months after Hitler became the chancellor of the Third Reich.

  • Arrival of the Nazis

Image Courtesy: The Telegraph

 

Thus, when the Nazis, first arrived in 1933, German laws were already into effect against the Roman for over 100 years.

But the conquest of the Balkan, southern and Eastern Europe began when Hitler ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia, a former ally, in the spring of 1941 after they refused to allow the German troops to cross its territories.

The Romani Holocaust – was planned and executed by the Nazi Germany and its allies. Bob Dawson, a Roma and ‘gypsy’ heritage collector explains: “Nazi racial theory met a stumbling block with the Roma and Sinti as they were more ‘Aryan’ than the Germans and yet the Nazis realized they were not Aryan in the same way as the Nordic ideal”. Further, he goes on to say, that, Nazi racial theorists, such as Hans Gunther, had to find an explanation to explain “alleged racial flaws” and they were ‘asocial’ and distinct from Germanic Aryans because of their mingling with “inferior races”.

In September 1935, Roma became subjected to the restrictions of the Nuremberg laws just like the Jew masses. Whereas, two years later the Nation Citizenship Law relegated the Romanies and the Jews, as second-class citizens. In the same year, Heinrich Himmler decreed the “Struggle against Gypsy”, where the Roma people were stated as “mixed blood” and involved in “criminal activities” so their each and every move must be reported to the regional police departments of Reich Central Office.

Again, between June 13-18,1938, was declared as “Gypsy Clean-Up Week” (or Zigeunerauf in the documents) throughout Germany which was in reality, the horrendous preparations for the complete extermination of the Roma and Sinti people.

In 1939, Johannes Behrendt of the office of Racial Hygiene Institute issued a brief statement where it was said that “all the ‘gypsies’ should be treated as hereditarily sick and the only solution is their elimination with any destination”.

In January of 1940, it is found that about 250 children from Brno were murdered in Buchenwald, where many were used as test subjects to examine the efficacy of the Zyklon-B cyanide gas Crystals and later in the gas chambers. It is worth mentioning that a distinctive attribute of the Holocaust was the extensive use of human subjects in medical experiments. The most notorious of the physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

His nefarious experiments used to include the placing of subjects in pressure chambers, testing of drugs on them, freezing them and even injecting of chemicals into children’s eyes which was apparently an attempt to change the color of their eyes. Though, unfortunately, most of his documents including a 3,300 paged  have allegedly been destroyed by a Dr. Otmar Von Chuer of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

On 16 December 1941, Himmler issued that the Romanies of the West Germany were to be deported at Auschwitz-Birkenau. And three years later, on 4 August, about 2,400 Romanies were gassed and cremated there and the event is remembered as Zigeunernacht.

According to Mrs. De Wick,an eyewitness, Anne Frank, a notable Jewish Holocaust victim, had witnessed the prelude to the murder of Romani children at Auschwitz. In her words: “I can still see her standing at the door and looking down at the camp street as a herd of naked gypsy girls were driven by to the crematory, and Anne watched them going and cried”.

Do not forget them – Victims and survivors of the Roma Holocaust

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Image Courtesy: The Journal

 In different regions of the world, the Romani Genocide or the Romani Holocaust is known by different terms. The term Porjamos which literally translates to “devouring” in the dialects of the Romani language was first coined by Ian Hancock in the early 1990s. Hancock also used the world Kalderash Rom, which mostly popular among the activists but remains unknown to many Romanies as well as to the descendants of the Holocaust victims and survivors.

Whereas the people involved with the Romani Civil Rights movement in Hungary has the preference for Pharrajimos (cutting up) which is Marhine, meaning untouchable and since the letter ‘p’ is not is use there, it is unpronounceable among the community.

The total number of the Romani people who were killed in the Holocaust accounts more than one and a half million people and whereas in Nazi occupied France it was, between 16,000 to 18,000 of them.

According to Francoise Sagan, “Being a Jew under Hitler made you first a guilty party and then a parcel which the Yellow Star, itself now become a label, dispatched to those unknown camps – a process which took a more or less brief period of time, but a period of time all the same. Being a ‘Gypsy’, however, made you an instant target, since the relatively small number of persons of the race facilitated in their execution”.

In 1950, the Wurttemberg Ministry of the Interior issued a statement to the judges of the hearing a war crime restitution, claiming that the ‘Gypsies’ were persecuted under the Nationalist Socialist Regime not for any social reason but for their criminal and anti-social tags.

Twenty-one years later, in 1971, Bonn Convention, according to Hancock, taking advantage of this, cited that they were not paying the Roma people as the reasons for their victimization during the Nazi period because of their security only.

Whereas in the February of 1987, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a conference named ‘Other Victims’ with a panel on Romanies but unfortunately no member of the Roma community is part of the organization or the presenters since 2002.

It was as late as in 1982 when West Germany finally decided to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The Polish government commemorated the genocide on August 2nd, 2011.

The first memorial commemoration of the Holocaust victims was erected on May 8, 1956 in the Polish Village of Szczurowacom. Other incident is of the Gypsy Caravan Memorial, which traveling since 1996, along Poland, from Tarnow via Auschwitz sites and Borzecin Dolny, where the well-wishers and people of the Roma community gather for the remembrance.

Lastly, on 24 October 2012, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism was unveiled in Berlin.

Many people who belong to the community are afraid to reveal their presence openly in the society. Primarily,because of the unfair stigma attached to their identity and the various unsympathetic laws against them. the gap needs to be abridged so that Roma community can proudly claim their place in the society and move up the social ladder.

Read More at www. http://newsgram.com/roaming-their-world-the-roma/

http://www.newsgram.com/history-roma-peoples-flag

http://www.newsgram.com/roma-people-and-their-indian-connection/

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Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

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Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.

 

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.