"Gypsy-Politics" in other European countries

From the 19th century to the founding of the Third Reich (1933)

By around the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, many other European countries likewise followed extremely restrictive politics regarding Roma. As in Germany and Austria, the general aim was to stop immigration by foreign Roma, to force native groups to settle by passing specific "gypsy-decrees" and keep them under severe observation by the police. As early as 1822 in Great Britain, the so-called "Turnpike Act" laid down the punishment of all Roma dwelling along roadsides. As of 1889, the British Parliament voted repeatedly on the possibility of introducing "Moveable Dwelling Bills". Such attempts at regulating Roma life by law and subjecting them to permanent control by the police failed. This is partly due to opposition by the Showmen’s Guild founded in 1889. However, most of the measures suggested by the "philanthropist" George Smith influenced other laws up until 1936.

In Serbia, "nomadic" life-style was prohibited in 1879; Bulgaria followed the same line in 1886. In 1926, the Czech government passed law No. 117, which prohibited "gypsy lifestyle". At the same time, special Roma-identity cards were issued, and authorities were granted permission to take Roma children under the age of 14 from their parents and send them to children’s homes or to live with "respectable" families.

In France, the fingerprinting and photographing of Roma started several years earlier than in Czechoslovakia, Germany or Austria. As early as 1907, the French police were asked to take photographs of "vagabonds, nomads and gypsies" and, along with specific further information, send them to a central office in Paris. In 1912, the government ordered identification by law for "travellers of all nationalities" and therefore, in the form of the "carnet anthropométrique", created an instrument of control that was to be used until 1970(!). It contained personal information, a photograph, the owner’s fingerprints and even the registration number of his/her vehicle. Signs saying "Interdit aux Nomades" (Nomads Prohibited) denied the Roma many dwelling places.

In several countries, the continuous wave of immigration at the beginning of the 20th century led to a general prohibition of immigration for Roma. In 1914, Sweden passed a law that stopped immigration up to 1954. At about the same time, Denmark and Norway decided to do the same. Overseas, some countries had already passed restrictive laws before the turn of the century: in 1884 Argentina denied entry to the Roma; in 1885 they were excluded from immigration policies by the United States. Many of those Roma wishing to enter the country were forced to return to Europe.


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Mayerhofer, Claudia (1999) Dorfzigeuner. Kultur und Geschichte der Burgenland-Roma von der Ersten Republik bis zur Gegenwart, Wien.
Reemtsma, Katrin (1996) Sinti und Roma. Geschichte, Kultur, Gegenwart, München.
Vossen, Rüdiger (1983) Zigeuner. Roma, Sinti, Gitanos, Gypsies zwischen Verfolgung und Romantisierung, Hamburg.
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Galician Gypsies (England), 1911