Auschwitz Decree

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The Auschwitz Decree is the decree of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler of December 16, 1942 , which ordered the deportation of the Sinti and Roma living within the German Reich in order to keep them as minorities - unlike previous individual or collective deportations to destroy. By 1945, the decree in Porajmos had killed 500,000 people (maximum estimate).

The decree itself has not survived. However, it is cited as a reference in the following implementing provisions ("Schnellbrief") of the Reich Criminal Police Office (RKPA) of January 29, 1943:

“By order of the Reichsführer SS of December 16, 1942 - Tgb. No. I 2652/42 Ad./RF/V. - Gypsy hybrids, Roma gypsies and non -German blooded members of Gypsy clans of Balkan origin must be selected according to certain guidelines and sent to a concentration camp in a few weeks. This group of people is briefly referred to below as 'Gypsy people'. The induction takes place in the concentration camp ( gypsy camp) Auschwitz regardless of the degree of mixed race . "

The express letter was entitled "Instruction of mixed race gypsies, Rome gypsies and Balkan gypsies in a concentration camp."

Similar deportation orders were issued on January 26th and 28th, 1943 for the " Danube and Alpenreichsgaue " and on March 29th, 1943 for the Bialystok district , Alsace , Lorraine , Belgium , Luxembourg and the Netherlands . In relation to the Burgenlandroma and the East Prussian Roma, the RKPA referred to similar instructions of May 26 and October 1, 1941 and July 6, 1942.

A decisive preliminary stage of the decree was the Himmler- Thierack Agreement of September 18, 1942. It concerns the division of tasks between the Nazi authorities and was agreed between the Reich Ministry of Justice (Thierack) and the chief police officer (Himmler). It read:

"Anti-social elements from the prison system, Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Ukrainians [are] to be handed over to the Reichsführer SS for extermination through work ."

It instructs the judicial authorities (prisons, pre-trial detention centers, etc.) to transfer prisoners directly to the SS without proceeding . The intention to kill the minority through forced labor has hardly been presented so openly in any other official paper.

Acquisition: discourse on attribution

The deportation according to the requirements of the decree required the categorization and nationwide registration of those to be deported. There were essentially three opinions in the Nazi Gypsy discourse on the question of who was a “Gypsy”:

  • "Full gypsies" and "mixed race with predominantly gypsy blood" (according to the marriage regulations according to the " Blood Protection Act ", one of the two Nuremberg laws of 1935)
  • "Genuine Gypsies" and "Gypsy hybrids" (according to the Racial Hygiene and Population Biology Research Center [RHF] and Reich Criminal Police Office [RKPA]), collectively referred to as "Gypsies"
  • "Gypsies" without any further distinctions that were viewed as quibbles (e.g. Goebbels, Bormann, Thierack).

What these ascription variants had in common was the ethnic as well as social interpretation of the basic racial position. According to this, the racial or national demarcation line ran between "full gypsies" and "gypsy hybrids", who together made up the "foreign-racial" and collectively "asocial" group of the "gypsies", on the one and a large number of mainly subproletarian social groups "German-blooded asocials " on the other hand. In this sense, in the wake of the Nuremberg Laws since 1936, as with the marriage regulations against Jews, marriages between “German-blooded” and “full gypsies” or “mixed gypsies” were subject to approval.

"Regulation from the nature of this breed"

On December 8, 1938, Himmler had announced a "regulation of the Gypsy question based on the nature of this race" in a circular. The ideas of RHF and RKPA were decisive for its implementation in operative imperial central regulations. In 1937 the RHF started its recording activities. In 1940 its leader, Robert Ritter, assumed 32,230 "Gypsies" in the German Reich (including Austria and Sudetenland , but only Alsace - Lorraine ). By November 1942, d. H. until shortly before the Auschwitz decree, 18,922 reports were produced in the RHF according to its head. 2,652 of these resulted in “non-Gypsies” as they were recorded for a separate “rural driver family archive”. Its reference area was essentially limited to certain sub-regions in the south of the empire. Work on it was stopped in 1944 without any deportations like the one after the Auschwitz decree.

A sub-group of the “non-Gypsies” were “Gypsy-style” Yeniche . The RHF did not succeed in convincing those responsible for the standardization of the National Socialist racial and anti-social policy "that the Yeniche represent a relevant racial hygiene group and a threat". This explains that they do not appear as a case group in the Auschwitz Decree or in its implementing provisions of January 29, 1943 and consequently, as far as recognizable, in the “main book” of the “Gypsy camp” in Birkenau.

The RHF and the RKPA were considered to be “Gypsies” as a “mixed race” that had developed over a long period of time. The distinction between “genuine gypsies” and “mongrel gypsies” was justified pseudoscientifically with “mixed blood proportions” resulting from the descent, which reduced or abandoned the ties of the “mixed race” to traditional “tribal” norms. The RHF considered the subgroup of the "half-breeds" to be particularly dangerous, not least because of an allegedly unusual sexual "lack of inhibition". Their relatives would strive to penetrate the German national body .

The leadership of the SS saw it similarly , although they spoke of “racially pure” instead of “genuine Gypsies”, which they intended to accommodate as original “Aryans” and research objects in a reserve in which they were to be granted an archaic “ Nomadism ”.

The decree on the “Evaluation of the Racial Biological Reports on Gypsy Persons” of August 7, 1941 differentiated more strongly than before in the sense of ethnic racism and dropped the old concept of the “Gypsy traveler traveling around”. He made a distinction between “full gypsies or genuine gypsies”, “gypsy mongrels with predominantly gypsy blood” (1st degree, second degree), “gypsy mongrels with predominantly German blood” and “non-gypsies”: “NZ means not -Gypsies, d. H. the person is or is considered to be of German blood ”. This breakdown formed the basis of the reports and lists of the RHF, according to which regional and local authorities made selection decisions from spring 1943 onwards. The RHF classified the vast majority of the "Gypsies" as "half-breeds". In so far as "mixed Gypsies with predominantly German blood" could be classified as "non-Gypsies", a joint meeting of RHF, RKPA and Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) in mid-January 1943 stipulated that they should be regarded as "police like Germans" in The rest, however, have to be sterilized .

If the Auschwitz decree is also in the general context of National Socialist racial politics and hygiene , the point in time points to a broader context: that of the increased work of concentration camp prisoners in industry, which is why the number of prisoners should be increased.

The exceptions

The express letter of January 29, 1943 provided for the removal of some groups from the deportation. All other persecution measures imposed on "gypsies" remained in force for them as well.

Just as on the one hand "non-Gypsies" were already exempted from the Auschwitz decree itself, on the other hand, according to the express letter of January 29, 1943, the "pure-bred" or "mixed race in the Gypsy sense" categorized as members of two ethnic groups of the Roma - Sinti and Lalleri - to be exempt from implementing the decree. The number of those exempted from the Auschwitz deportation by the “Gypsy chiefs” appointed by the RKPA was “vanishingly small”. It was “less than one percent” of the 30,000 or so living in the German Reich at the start of the war .

As further exception groups, the express letter named those who were married to “German bloods”, Wehrmacht soldiers , war invalids , those dismissed with distinction from the Wehrmacht, “socially adapted Gypsy hybrids” and those who were described by the employment offices or the armaments inspectorate as indispensable for the military economy. The exemption clauses gave the lower state authorities, the economy and the armed forces considerable room for maneuver, which was used in very different ways.

The selection and deportation practice

The destination of the deportation was the Auschwitz II extermination camp in Birkenau . There, the "Gypsy camp" was created as a separate area in camp section B II e. The first transport arrived there on February 26, 1943. By the end of July 1944 there were around 23,000 people who, according to the express letter of January 29, 1943, had been brought to the “family camp” as families “as closed as possible”.

The local and regional authorities in particular decided on the composition of the transport lists. The advice of the RHF - if available - formed the guideline. Local studies, but also statements by Rudolf Höß and other responsible persons, show that the regulations on exceptional case groups were only observed to a limited extent. According to this, the degree of mixed race had no meaning at the time of admission to Auschwitz. Hundreds of soldiers, including war invalids and award-winning soldiers, were assigned. 134 people were deported from the small town of Berleburg in Wittgenstein , who were considered to be “socially adapted” and who, after 200 years of sedentarism, almost all of them did not see themselves as “gypsies”. Since the self-assessment of those affected was not a selection criterion, an indeterminable, but at least small number of non-Roma who were classified as “Gypsy hybrids” due to family ties to Roma were presumably also deported.

“A total of around 15,000 people from Germany were killed as 'Gypsies' or 'Gypsy hybrids' between 1938 and 1945,” including around 10,500 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.


Video of the laying of the replacement stumbling block for the Auschwitz Decree in front of Cologne City Hall in March 2013 after strangers broke out and stolen the original in 2010

To commemorate the decree, the artist Gunter Demnig in cooperation with the Verein Rom e. V. on December 16, 1992, the 50th anniversary of the decree, set a stumbling block in the pavement in front of Cologne's historic town hall . The first lines of the express letter citing the decree can be read on the stone. With this stone, Demnig interfered in the discussion about the right to stay for Roma who had fled Yugoslavia .

See also

  • Gypsy headquarters : Classification of the Nazi extermination policy in the decades-long police persecution discourse well into the 1960s; the Nazi "Reich headquarters for combating the gypsy insanity"
  • The fixing decree or fixed decree of October 17, 1939 describes a decree that the Reich Main Security Office sent to the criminal police control centers in the German Reich on Himmler's instructions . The remaining freedom of movement of the members of the minority was subsequently eliminated.

Web links


  • Udo Engbring-Romang: The persecution of the Sinti and Roma in Hesse between 1870 and 1950. Brandes and Apsel, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-86099-225-2 , pp. 342–347.
  • Martin Luchterhandt: The way to Birkenau. Origin and course of the National Socialist persecution of the 'Gypsies'. Schmidt-Römhild, Lübeck 2000, ISBN 3-7950-2925-2 .
  • Romani Rose (Ed.) "We had the smoke in front of our eyes every day ...": The National Socialist genocide of the Sinti and Roma. Verlag Wunderhorn, Heidelberg 1999, ISBN 3-88423-142-1 (documentation on persecution in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp ).
  • Michael Zimmermann: Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question". Christians, Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-7672-1270-6 .
  • Michael Zimmermann (Ed.): Between Education and Destruction. Gypsy Policy and Gypsy Research in Europe in the 20th Century. Steiner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-515-08917-3 .


  1. More on Porajmos, Estimates of the Total Number of Victims
  2. Complete wording of the express letter from January 29, 1943 in: Udo Engbring-Romang: The persecution of the Sinti and Roma in Hesse between 1870 and 1950. Frankfurt am Main 2001, pp. 342–347. See also: Michael Zimmermann: Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question". Hamburg 1996, pp. 301ff. The original source z. B. Institute for Contemporary History, Munich, under the signature Dc 17.02, Bl. 322–327. A wrong version is circulating on the Internet. The “Yeniche” group was added to the title and text of the express letter. On this: A. D'Arcangelis: Die Jenischen - persecuted in the Nazi state 1934–1944. or Nevipe-Rundbrief des Rom e. V. No. 23 (June 2008) (PDF; 523 kB).
  3. Circular Reichsführer SS / Chief of the German Police, December 8th, 1938, Combating the Gypsy Plague, in: Ministerialblatt des Reichs- und Prussischen Ministers des Interior, 99 (1938), No. 51, pp. 2.105-2.110, in full
  4. Andrew d'Arcangelis: The Yeniche - persecuted in the Nazi state 1934-1944. A socio-linguistic and historical study. Hamburg 2006, p. 312. The author places Yeniche as a group at the center of a discourse-historical presentation on the “anti-social question” (full text in OPUS) , but does not process the decisive sources in the phase of the extermination policy and real history. The review by Ulrich Opfermann is critical of this
  5. ^ Michael Zimmermann: Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question". Hamburg 1996, pp. 151, 153.
  6. Karola Fings : The "expert statements" of the race hygiene research center. In: Michael Zimmermann (ed.): Between education and destruction. Gypsy Policy and Gypsy Research in Europe in the 20th Century. Stuttgart 2007, pp. 427–459, here: p. 449.
  7. ^ Michael Zimmermann: Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question". Hamburg 1996, p. 302 f.
  8. ^ Michael Zimmermann: Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question". Hamburg 1996, pp. 305ff.
  9. Michael Zimmermann, Racial Utopia and Genocide. The National Socialist "Solution to the Gypsy Question", Hamburg 1996, p. 381. There further information on other countries from which deportations were made.
  10. ^ Stefan Palm: Further "stumbling blocks" in Cologne. Remembering forced laborers, Jewish families, Roma and Sinti. City of Cologne - Office for Press and Public Relations, March 15, 2013, accessed on March 24, 2013 .