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For centuries Europeans stigmatized the Roma and Sinti, often referred to as Gypsies, as social outcasts. Although the Weimar Constitution granted them full and equal citizenship rights, their persecution continued and intensified under the new republic. In 1926, the state of Bavaria introduced a law which systematically registered and regulated the Roma. In 1929, the government in Berlin enacted similar legislation at the national level. When it took over power in 1933, the National Socialist regime sustained the previous government's anti-Gypsy measures.
As with the Jews, the National Socialist regime persecuted the Roma for racial reasons. The Roma, among others, were subject to numerous legislative measures taken as preemptive strikes against groups deemed "racially inferior" by the National Socialists. These laws included the July 1933 "Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases," under which countless Roma were involuntarily sterilized; and corollaries of the September 1935 "Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor," which extended this infamous "Nuremberg Law" to Roma and Sinti.
In addition to being persecuted on racial grounds, the Roma found themselves labeled "asocials" and categorized with prostitutes, beggars, chronic alcoholics and vagrants. Following the November 1933 "Law against Dangerous Habitual Criminals," many Roma were arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps. By 1936, the National Socialist regime had deprived German Roma and Sinti of their civil rights. A central office to "combat the Gypsy nuisance" opened with its headquarters in Munich.
In July 1936, in an initial effort to remove local Roma and Sinti during the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in the capital, the Ministry of the Interior established its first "Gypsy camp" (Zigeunerlager) at Marzahn outside Berlin. Further camps for the Roma opened during the 1930s, and following the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, the camps of Lackenbach and Salzburg-Maxglan were established.
A decree designed to "prevent crime" in 1937 provided a pretext for police to arrest and incarcerate Roma. The first major action, which involved German and Austria Roma, took place in June 1938 and resulted in their deportation to the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and the women's camp at Lichtenburg. The following year, another large group of German and Austrian Roma were sent to Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Dachau and Buchenwald. After 1938, Himmler required that all Roma over the age of six register with authorities.
When World War II broke out in 1939, the National Socialists intensified their persecution. Further significant deportations began in May 1940. Roma were transported to the ghettos in Lublin, Łódź, and Warsaw and to the killing centers at Chelmno and Treblinka. In December 1942, Himmler decreed the deportation of mostly Reich and Protectorate Roma to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were interned in the separate "Gypsy family camp." The National Socialists liquidated the "Gypsy camp" at Auschwitz in August 1944.
Non-Reich and Protectorate Roma did not escape persecution. Roma in the Protectorate were deported to the "Gypsy camps" at Lety and Hodonin. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, members of the Einsatzgruppen and Wehrmacht carried out killing actions and shot Roma along with Jews and Communists. In the autumn of 1941, the Wehrmacht also took part in retaliatory killing actions against the Roma in Serbia. The collaborationist Vichy authorities in France interned Roma and subsequently sent many to concentration camps inside the Reich. The Croatian Ustaša killed and interned thousands of Roma along with Serbs and Jews. In 1941, thousands of Romanian Roma and Jews were deported to Transnistria, part of western Ukraine. The final mass deportation of the Roma occurred in October 1944 in Hungary.
Several factors render it difficult to estimate accurately the number of Roma killed during the Holocaust. Pre-war population figures are scant, especially for populations outside of Germany. In addition, much remains to be learned about the fate of non-Reich and Protectorate Roma. Most scholars estimate the total number of murdered Roma to be approximately 196,000 - 220,000.
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Jehovah's Witnesses were subject to persecution in Germany prior to the January 1933 National Socialist seizure of power, but following Hitler's takeover, measures against the group intensified. Initially these measures, including the ransacking of Witness offices and subsequent expropriation of that space, occurred at the regional level. However, by April 1, 1935, both the Reich and the Prussian Ministry of the Interior ordered local officials to dissolve the Watchtower Society. A special unit of the Gestapo subsequently compiled a registry of all persons believed to be Jehovah's Witnesses.
While Jehovah's Witnesses as such were not banned, many activities integral to their faith were refuted. National Socialist persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses lay in their refusal to swear loyalty to a worldly government or serve in its armed forces. Furthermore, the Watchtower Society's missionary activities and international connections were deemed as overtly political and subversive acts against the National Socialist regime. Despite the intensified persecution of their group, approximately 20,000 of the estimated original 25,000-30,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany continued to practice their faith.
The first arrests of Jehovah's Witnesses followed the establishment of compulsory military service in March 1935. Many Witnesses refused to be drafted or perform military-related work out of religious conviction. In addition, countless other Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested, tried and incarcerated at prisons and concentration camps, many for continuing to meet illegally.
By 1939, approximately 6,000 Jehovah's Witnesses from the Reich (including Austria and the Protectorate) were incarcerated in prisons or camps. Of those 20,000 German Witnesses who remained active throughout the Nazi period, approximately one-half were convicted at some juncture during that time. Between 2,000 and 2,500 German Witnesses and 700-800 non-German Witnesses were interned in concentration camps. The number of Jehovah's Witness deaths in the camps totaled approximately 1000 German Witnesses and 400 non-German Witnesses (including 90 Austrians and 120 Dutch). It is worth noting that non-German Jehovah's Witnesses suffered a considerably higher death rate than German Witnesses. In addition to the above number, approximately 250 Germans were executed, mostly following military tribunals for refusal to commit to military service.
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