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Photograph of Romani Section of Lodz Ghetto

Romani Section of the Lodz Ghetto
Muzeum Sztuki w Lodzi

Shortly after the Nazi rise to power in early 1933, the new regime began to reshape German society to fit Nazi ideas about race and national unity. The Nazis and their supporters targeted many groups they considered to be racial, social, or political outsiders and excluded them from the so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft"). Nazi authorities increasingly targeted and persecuted Roma and Sinti1 in Germany. Police in Germany began more strict enforcement of pre-Nazi laws against Romani people.2 Nazi ideas about race and biology soon added increasingly radical and deadly dimensions to the regime's anti-Romani policies.

During World War II, Nazi officials and German police deported groups of people that they wanted to exclude from the Nazis’ so-called “national community” to German-occupied territories in eastern Europe. Nazi authorities began making limited attempts to deport Jews and Roma shortly after the war began in 1939.4 The first large-scale deportations of Jewish and Romani people from Nazi Germany began in late 1941.5 Nazi authorities deported over 5,000 Roma from the eastern regions of Austria to the Lodz ghetto in German-occupied Poland.6 German authorities ordered the Lodz ghetto Jewish Council to clear Jewish inhabitants from several buildings in the ghetto and create a segregated section for the deported Roma.

The featured photograph shows a view of the Romani section of the Lodz ghetto. Nazi authorities often separated imprisoned people according to the racial classifications assigned to them by officials. The Romani part of the Lodz ghetto was little more than several buildings separated from the larger area of the Jewish ghetto by barbed wire. It was extremely overcrowded, and food was very scarce. German authorities had made no arrangements for hygienic facilities or medical treatment. The terrible conditions of the overcrowded Romani section of the Lodz ghetto made the inhabitants extremely vulnerable to diseases. This led to an outbreak of a deadly typhus epidemic shortly after the first transports arrived in November 1941. Jewish doctors volunteered to go into the Romani ghetto to treat the infected people, but German authorities did nothing to improve the conditions causing the epidemic.7

In January 1942—just two months after the first deported Roma arrived in Lodz—Nazi authorities emptied the Romani section of the ghetto. They sent all of the surviving inhabitants to be murdered at Chelmno8 in an attempt to prevent the epidemic from spreading to Germans living in the so-called “Aryan” part of the city.9 The featured photograph was taken shortly after German authorities sent the inhabitants to their deaths.

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 Roma with historical roots in German-speaking lands. 


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.

To learn more about the history of German police monitoring Romani people, see Leo Lucassen, "'Harmful Tramps': Police Professionalization and Gypsies in Germany, 1700-1945," Crime, Histoire & Societes 1, no. 1 (1997): 29–50.

Nazi anti-Romani prejudices included these widespread stereotypes, but the Nazis also considered Romani people to be a racial and biological threat to the strength of the Nazis' so-called "national community" or "Volksgemeinschaft."


To learn more about the Nazi regime’s early efforts to deport Roma and Sinti, see the related Experiencing History item, Photo of Deportation of Sinti People in Asperg, Germany. To learn about Nazi efforts to exclude Jews from German society before the beginning of WWII, see the related Experiencing History collection, Exclusion of Jews in Nazi Germany.

To learn more about the experience of deportation, see the related Experiencing History items, Diary of Đura Rajs, Werner Breslauer, Westerbork Deportation Footage, and Letter from Gitla to Anonymous Persons.

To learn more about the experiences of Austrian Roma and Sinti under Nazi rule, see the related Experiencing History sources, Postwar Testimony of the Hodoschi Family and Oral History with Karl Stojka.

For the perspective of a Jewish doctor who witnessed the epidemic in the Romani ghetto, see Arnold Mostowicz, With a Yellow Star and a Red Cross: A Doctor in the Lodz Ghetto, translated by Henia and Nochem Reinhartz (London and Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2005).

Roma and Sinti who had been deported from Austria to the Lodz ghetto in 1941 became some of the first victims murdered in Chelmno. By mid-1944, the Germans had killed more the 170,000 people—mostly Jewish inhabitants of the Lodz ghetto—at Chelmno. See the related items in Experiencing History, Diary of Irene Hauser and Diary of Moryc Brajtbart, for more details.

During World War II, the Nazi regime was extremely concerned with protecting Germans from epidemic diseases. German officials and medical professionals adopted many extreme and often ineffective policies to prevent or respond to the outbreak of epidemics. To learn more, see the related Experiencing History items, Oral History with Avraham Tory, Police Order on Tuberculosis X-Rays, and Photo of Quarantined Building in the Warsaw Ghetto.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Muzeum Sztuki w Lodzi
Source Number 38093
Date Created
Łódź, Poland
Still Image Type Photograph
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