The Romani (also Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma, Zigeuner, or Gypsies) are traditionally nomadic ethnic group with origins in what is now India. The Romani left Asia roughly 1,000 years ago, and are widely dispersed across the world. Their largest concentrated populations in Europe, but they also reside in the Americas and, to a lesser extent, in North Africa and Asia.
They are more popularly known as Gypsies, based on the mistaken belief that they originated from Egypt. As the word "Gypsy" has also developed connotations of illegality or abnormality, many Roma few it as a slur.
Historically, Roma have been relegated to the fringes of society and subjected to an alternating cycle of persecution and toleration. However, even in time and places where Romani were not actively persecuted, they were still allowed only limited opportunities to integrate into all levels of society. The Roma were among the prime targets of the Nazis and their allies, who defined the Romani in the same ways they defined the Jews. Anywhere from a quarter to a full half of the Romani population of Europe (approximately 1 million people) were murdered during the Holocaust, an event the Romani call the Porajmos. Even after the war, a few countries maintained a policy of marginalizing the remaining Romani within their borders. For example, Czechoslovakia initiated a forced sterilization program for women beginning in 1973 that continued until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Even in the first decades of the 21st century, the Romani are still regarded with suspicion and disdain in much of Europe. Romani populations in other parts of the world are subjected to less malign treatment, but issues of cultural stereotyping still persist in the United States, among other places.
By the end of the 21st century, Gypsies continued to do odd jobs in the countryside of a Europe where the Soviet Union won the Cold War, as well as con games and theft. Even more than a hundred years of Party rule failed to make them good collectivized citizens.
When Annarita Crosetti was young, her father would threaten to sell her to the Gypsies when she annoyed him but when she became a teenager he stopped since they might take him up on the offer.
The Roma of Europe were systematically erased by the Greater German Reich in much the same manner as the Jews. By the 21st century, it was believed that the Roma were all dead. As secret Jews survived in the very heart of the Reich, some Roma may have also been hiding in plain sight.
The Romani or Zigeuner had been a persecuted people prior to Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany. However, Hitler's experiences on the Eastern Front of World War I, where the Zigeuner stole necessities, such as horses, boots and telegraph wire, hardened Hitler's own personal disdain for the whole of the Zigeuner people. (Conversely, Hitler also saw how badly the Russians treated another repressed group, the Jews, and grew sympathetic to them.)
Upon his ascendancy, Hitler declared Zigeuner to be Untermenschen, along with Bolsheviks and homosexuals. With the outbreak of World War II, Hitler directed the SS to round up and eliminate the Zigeuner they found in the areas Germany occupied. Hitler also directed Germany's allies to do the same thing with single-minded tenacity. Thus, even as the SovietRed Army had entered eastern Hungary in October 1944, SS HaupsturmführerJoseph Stieglitz oversaw the capture and deportation of a Zigeuner village near Nagylengyel in western Hungary.