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Criminal Complaint against Douglas Bamberger

Complaints filed with police that accuse Douglas Bamberger of stealing and being a Gypsy.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Nazi rise to power in 1933 led to greater harrassment of Roma and Sinti ("Gypsies")1 in Germany.2 Theories of eugenics and race embraced by the Nazi regime claimed that criminal behaviors were inherited and all Romani peoples were potential criminals. Nazi policies treated Roma and Sinti as if they were a criminal “plague” as well as a threat to the “purity” of the Nazis' so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft"). As the enforcers of Nazi Germany’s policies, the German police were highly involved in the persecution of Roma and Sinti—particularly the Kripo (Criminal Police).3

The featured documents show how criminal complaints filed by citizens and neighbors helped to enforce these policies against Roma and Sinti. In this example, Berlin Kripo authorities received a report that eight-year-old Douglas Bamberger had stolen a sled.4 The mother of one of Douglas’s playmates informed police that she believed the Bambergers should be registered as "Zigeuner" ("Gypsies").5 Douglas continued to get into trouble for petty thefts. In other complaints, more citizens told police that they believed he was a “Zigeunerjunge" ("Gypsy boy") who should not be hanging around Berlin “unregistered.”6 German citizens sometimes included speculation about people's racial status in their complaints to the police. 

The complaints brought the Bamberger family to the attention of Berlin police authorities. Hundreds of Romani Berliners had already been forced to move to Marzahn—the so-called “Zigeunerlager" ("Gypsy camp") established outside of the city on the eve of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Bamberger family, however, had not yet been registered with the Kripo and was continuing to live among their so-called “Aryan” neighbors in Berlin.7 In early 1943, the Kripo sent its information on the Bamberger family to the Gestapo, but the family fled before they could be arrested. Archival records suggest that only Douglas and his older sister survived the war.8

Roma are a European ethnic group whose distant ancestry can be traced to modern-day India and Pakistan. Many Romani groups refer to themselves by different names, such as Sinti, Kalderashi, or Lalleri. Sinti are a Romani people with historical roots in Central Europe. In many languages, Roma are often referred to by exonyms (names or labels assigned to a group or place by outsiders). In English, this word is “Gypsy,” which is generally considered to be a racial or ethnic slur.


For a brief introduction to the experiences of Roma and Sinti during the Nazi era, see the Experiencing History collection overview for Roma and Sinti in Nazi Germany.

Discrimination against Roma and Sinti has existed for centuries throughout Europe, but the persecution of Romani peoples by the Nazi regime and its allies was unprecedented. Although precise numbers are difficult to establish, scholars estimate that between 250,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti were killed during World War II. To learn more about the persecution and murder of Roma and Sinti during World War II, see Anton Weiss-Wendt, ed., The Nazi Genocide of the Roma: Reassessment and Commemoration (New York: Berghahn Books, 2013). 

Nazi anti-Romani policies developed in part through pressure from the Kripo and regional officials to deal more harshly with Roma and Sinti in the name of public order. For more, see Michael Zimmermann, “Intent, Failure of Plans, and Escalation: Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies in Germany and Austria, 1933-1942,” in Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Roma and Sinti: Under-Studied Victims of Nazism: Symposium Proceedings (Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2002): 9–22.

Juvenile cases like Douglas's were handled by the female division of the Kripo (Weibliche Kriminalpolizei, or WKP). Police work was dominated by men at the time, but the WKP was an important part of the Kripo that worked closely with social welfare organizations like the children's homes in which Douglas would eventually be placed. For more on juvenile crime in Nazi Germany, see Robert G. Waite, "Serious Juvenile Crime in Nazi Germany," in Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany, edited by Richard F. Wetzell (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014): 247–70. 

Romani peoples have often been referred to by negative labels by outside groups. In English, the most common such term is "Gypsy." Today the label "Gypsy" is generally understood to be a racial or ethnic slur. In German, the equivalent term is "Zigeuner."

The Nazi police state relied on tips from the public to help identify and monitor those accused of being political or racial enemies of the state. For more, see Claire M. Hall, “An Army of Spies? The Gestapo Spy Network 1933-45,” Journal of Contemporary History 44, no. 2 (April 2009); and Robert Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933–1945 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). 

Douglas's father rejected the label "Zigeuner" for years, but the Racial Hygiene Research Center in the Ministry of Health ruled that Douglas, his parents, and his sisters were all "Zigeunermischlinge" ("mixed Gypsies"). Nazi racial theorists believed that so-called "Zigeunermischlinge" posed a greater threat to German society than "racially pure" Romani peoples, partially because they supposedly spread a destructive criminal and racial influence while living undetected among their so-called "Aryan" neighbors.

An uncle tried to locate the family after World War II, but he found no traces of Douglas's parents. His younger sisters did not survive.

German: "RStGB" refers to the Reichsstrafgesetzbuch.

German: "W. K. P." refers to the Weibliche Kriminalpolizei, which dealt with matters involving minors.

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State Criminal Police
Berlin Criminal Police Headquarters  [Upper right: Office stamp]

KJ: Li
Reference: L1.

Call: 86 Office: Precinct 86 Date: January 25, 1940

Criminal Complaint [Note: left column translation follows here; below it is the right column translation]
Scene of the crime: Berlin East 17, 15/16 Tunnelstrasse
District: Berlin

Time of the crime: January 23, 1940
Criminal offence: Theft by a child.

§§ 242 Reich Criminal Code1 

Damaged: Anna Widera, née Stenzel, married, [Berlin] East 17, 15/16 Tunnelstrasse
Accused (perpetrator(s) and involved parties):

a) Douglas Bamberger, school pupil,

born on: March 29, 1931
in: Berlin

Residence: Berlin, 13/14 Dresdenerstrasse, with his mother. [Added by hand:] Now lives at 32 Admiralstrasse

b) [No entries]

Object: 1 sled

Value: 10 Reichsmarks

[At bottom of page: Signatures and administrative stamps]

[Right column] 

Search for Evidence [this section is crossed out; no entries were made]

[Signature: Schwarz, Kriminalobersekretär]




L. Koessling
32 Simmelstrasse May 17, 1942
Telephone: 49/6332

To Police Precinct 41
“Kripo” [Kriminalpolizei]

Berlin N[orth] 65
20 Wagnitzstrasse

I am making a complaint against the eleven-year-old boy Douglas Bamberger.

On May 15, 1942, at 5:40 p.m., the boy stole my bicycle on Schulstrasse at the corner of Reinickendorferstrasse. This boy has already been roving about in Berlin for weeks now without being registered, as I have already established, these are Gypsies.

I request that further action be taken.

H e i l  H i t l e r!

L. Koessling

[date stamp] Police Precinct 41

May 20, 1942

[Remainder handwritten]

Re. 174/42
41/ Berlin, May 21, 1942
The criminal complaint Köppling – [text missing]
[in?] the present letter [from] Kössli[ng] 
against Bamberger; bicycle,

May 18, 1942, to Female Criminal Police2

[Signature, possibly also abbreviation for Kriminalobersekretär, last part missing]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
RG Number RG-68.112M
Date Created
January 23, 1940 to May 17, 1942
Author / Creator
Anna Widera
L. Koessling
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Report
How to Cite Museum Materials

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