Monday, June 23, 2014

New Project: Tracing Nazi Racial Policies toward Roma through American Journalism

Before I left for Germany in early June, I began collecting newspaper articles from the 1930s and '40s pertaining to Nazi racial policies toward Roma . My intention with these articles was to analyze the persecution of Roma in Europe during the Third Reich as seen through the eyes of American and British dailies. Although I hadn't planned to use these articles immediately, this nascent study officially became my first research project today.

My project was in large part influenced by a tour of Holocaust memorials I took with UM Professor Janet Hegman Shier last summer in Berlin. At one point during the tour, the guide, who was British and Jewish, pulled out a tablet to show us his collection of digitalized newspaper clippings from the 1930s and '40s. Together, the articles told the story of European Jews--that is, the collective tragedy. Through these articles, one could easily trace the marginalization, persecution, and finally the decimation of Jews throughout the continent. 

Of course, these articles begged the question: why didn't anyone try to stop Hitler prior to 1939 and the start of the war? I mean, the newspaper clippings clearly evidenced gross discrimination.

The shocking reality is that most of these articles were overlooked in America and Britain. In fact, the most horrific articles were usually nestled deep within the newspapers. In May 1945, for example, the LA Times published an article exclaiming "Oswiecim (Auschwitz) Killings Placed at 4,000,000" on page C12.

Since this revealing tour, I have been curious about the documentation of Roma in American newspapers during the war. There seems to be so many questions to ask. Who would write about the Roma? Would writers rely on stereotypes? Would authors be supportive of stereotypes? But most importantly, were there even any articles about the Roma to begin with?

Although I cannot answer all these questions as of yet, I can definitively answer one: yes, Americans did write about Roma (albeit using the word "gypsy") in the 1930s and '40s.

There is still much more research that needs to be completed, but I'm already finding some very perplexing and surprising trends among the articles I have collected thus far. I will post these revelations piecemeal over the next few days as I continue to develop my thesis. 

So, please stay tuned!

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