The Gypsy people would have arrived in Europe in two ways: on the one hand, following the Saracens who sometimes plundered Spain, passing through Arabia and Egypt, and on the other following the Turks, through Hungary and Bohemia.
European historical background
Europe was pledged in a period in which religion was predominant and the clergy was the ruling class, without which it was impossible tanking decisions.
In addition, Spain was fighting against Muslims (the Reconquista) while Germany was bloodily fighting against the several sects that were being created in Christianity.
Gypsies arrived in the middle of this chaos and they settled down near forests and rivers in order to live as breeders and smiths, thanks to their refined art of metalworking.
A decent welcome
At the beginning Gypsies astonished the European populations due to their lifestyle and their lack of religion. Anyway, they reserved them a favourable welcome and Gypsies were enabled to enter in the houses of the noble class, because they had forged the bullets used by European countries (above all Spain and Germany) to fight off their invaders. Above all in Spain, Italy and Germany a lot of Gypsy groups were under the noble families’ protection, who didn’t look down on the fact of living together.
The beginning of the persecution
Suddenly, European population started to blame the Gypsy people of being spies, thieves, wizards, cannibals, devil’s allies etc, passing from distrust to real denunciations. All of this without a specific reason, and the persecutions started with the prohibition of working in order to end with legal actions.
Main “legal” persecutions
- 1348: the year of the Black Death, when the Jew were accused of spreading it poisoning the water of fountains and wells in order to get rid of Christians. They would hide themselves in the most secluded areas in order to flee from persecutions and after they would have come out 50 years later calling themselves Gypsies (Egyptians).
- 1492: the Catholic Monarchs issued the Alhambra decree according to which all the Jewish people had to be expelled from Spain. This was the first decree that inspired all the following ones issued by all the European kings.
- 1494: the Edict of Medina del Campo, which was inspired by archbishop Jimenez De Cisneros, according to which Gypsies were obliged to live working for the noble class, or they would have been tortured and exiled forever.
- 1500: The Diet of Augsburg, a law made by emperor Maximilian I in which he ordered to Gypsies to leave the country and he was imitated by other European countries, such as Italy, France, England, The Netherlands, Scotland etc.
- In late 1700, with the Illuminated Despotism, there is the first effort to absorb the Gypsy culture, above all with kings Joseph II and Charles III; the latter established laws where Gypsies were considered as the other subjects and punishing those who tried to hinder them, influencing even the rest of Europe. Since there, the Gypsy lifestyle started to change and they were more inclined to mingle themselves with other ethnic groups, even if they ended up to accept their condition of misery without fighting against it, due to the mistrust around themselves, above all in certain areas.
An anecdote which is not well known is the persecution of Gypsies during the II World War. Among the Jews deported in the concentration camps there were even millions of Gypsies, who were transferred in municipal internment camps in order to control them. Later, they were forced to undergo sterilization experiments and biological studies in order to let the German people discover what was their race, because they weren’t sure about it. Then, thanks to a graduation thesis of doctor Ritter’s assistant, who worked on the Ministry of Health, it was said that the Gypsy children had the gene of nomadism, so they were potentially dangerous. With this explication, it is possible to justify the Holocaust of Gypsies, who were obliged to undergo forced sterilization and were deported to concentration camps, among which there are Dachau Mauthausen, Watzweiler, Neuengamme, Ravensbruck, Buchenwald, Jagala, Treblinka and Auschwitz.
Not to forget about them