Ninety years ago the Czechoslovak authorities issued law on "wandering gypsies", took fingerprints for "gypsy identification cards"
Ninety years ago, the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of the Republic of Czechoslovakia approved a law "on wandering gypsies" on 14 July 1927 that took effect as Act 117/1927 Coll. and remained on the books until the year 1950. According to its first paragraph, the law was meant to apply to "wandering gypsies", defined as "gypsies wandering from place to place and other vagabonds avoiding work who live the gypsy way of life."
In the ministerial documents of the time, police orders, and handbooks for the gendarmerie, the district authorities and gendarmerie stations that were meant to enforce the law were called upon to consider practically all Romani people as "wandering gypsies". Travelling, according to these documents, was allegedly "an inborn instinct" or even a "racial feature" of Romani and Sinti people.
The legal concept of a "wandering gypsy" was, in practice, customarily replaced by the general term of "gypsies". The law had a total of 21 paragraphs and required persons 14 years of age and older to have and produce upon request a so-called "gypsy identification card", a special document including not a photograph, but the owner's fingerprints.
Such documents were one component of a special set of police records based on fingerprints. "Wandering gypsies" were, as a group, listed in those records alongside dangerous criminals and recidivists.
Travelling was permitted only with official, special permission, the so-called "travel paper". The law further restricted the size of groups that travelled and banned them from possessing weapons.
Local authorities had to set aside a place on their territories appropriate for camping, but also could ask for "wandering gypsies" to be banned from entering their area. Paragraph 12 of the law states that it is within the competency of the district courts to remove children younger than 18 from Romani parents and place them with foster families or into institutional care.
Before the law was adopted a debate was held in the Chambers of Deputies about the bill, which was drafted by bureaucrats of the Interior Ministry and police, where both agreement with the law and objections to it were heard. Among those objecting was an MP for the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, József Gáti, who in 1944 was deported to Nazi Germany and never heard of again.
In one part of his speech on this issue, Gáti said: "The gypsy identification cards are nothing different to what the yellow fabric was for Jews in the Middle Ages, or female prostitutes' identification. By means of this characteristic ruthlessness, which under the pretext of preventive measures will label innocent persons and trample on their personal freedoms and the equality guaranteed to them by the Constitution, the masses of this unfortunate race will be criminalized, mainly, itinerant seasonal workers."
"The law 'on wandering gypsies' meant that all Romani and Sinti people living in Czechoslovakia at that time, whether settled or travelling, could be placed by the state authorities at any time at the level of hardened criminal recidivists. On the basis of those special police records based on fingerprints, the Czechoslovak gendarmerie, during the 1930s, claimed they were best-positioned to authoritatively describe the lives of Romani and Sinti people in Czechoslovakia. By that time, at the latest, the gendarmerie's descriptions had been connected with those practicing anthropology, who in those days classified humanity into groups, races, according to physical characteristics, and assigned them to an evolutionary scale of the development of the human species ranging from primitivism to civilization. The gendarmerie's descriptions of the 'biology of gypsies in the Czechslovak Republic' demonstrate that the gendarmerie considered 'gypsies' to be a backward or primitive race," says Pavel Baloun, a historian and doctoral student at the Department of General Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague, who is the author of several articles about the reasons the law arose, its content, and the consequences of its adoption.
The Terezín Initiative Institute has now published materials about this history to mark the 90th anniversary of the publication of the law "on wandering gypsies" on the educational online portal holocaust.cz. The articles there (in Czech only so far) discuss this history in greater detail.
"Unfortunately, after 90 years, it is difficult for us to find eyewitnesses to these events during the First Republic, or the descendants of eyewitnesses, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the vast majority of the inhabitants to whom that law applied became the vicitms of racial persecution by the Nazi regime just a few years later. Almost no written memoirs of those events have been preserved. It is, therefore, very difficult to ascertain what the precise impact was of this law on Romani families. The texts we are now publishing on the website are part of our project creating a Database of Romani Victims of the Holocaust, which the Terezín Initiative Institute has been working on since 2016, drawing on the know-how we have accumulated during our 20 years of work documenting the Jewish victims of the Holocaust," says Eliška Waageová, an expert staffer and editor working for the holocaust.cz website.
Romani and Sinti Holocaust victims have been commemorated by the Terezín Initiative Institute for the last several years as part of its annual public reading of the names of victims of the Holocaust - Yom HaShoah. Last year the Institute joined the commemoration of Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, which will take place this year on Wednesday, 2 August in Prague.
- Outdoor travelling exhibition about indigenous Czech Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust on view in Prague
- European Roma and Travellers Forum expresses support for Czech NGOs seeking to fly the rainbow and Roma flags at Terezín
- European Roma and Travellers Forum calls for moment of silence, noon, 2 August, International Remembrance Day of the Pharrajimos
- European Roma and Travellers Forum launches website for Roma Holocaust commemorations
- Czech tabloid apologizes for fake news report claiming video from Chile was from Ostrava
- Czech historian from Museum of Romani Culture: Let's discuss what comes after the pig farm is removed from the Roma genocide site
- Archeological research confirms most of former concentration camp at Lety is on pig farm land
- Czech President Zeman is in favor of leaving pig farm on site of former concentration camp for Roma
- Greece: Criminal Investigation into Attacks on Romani Community in Menidi Begins
- Czech Republic: Romani family allegedly refused service in restaurant owned by Staropramen Brewery
- Bulgaria: Chair of the Council on Ethnic Minority Integration is now right-wing extremist Valeri Simeonov
- Czech Republic: Romani Resistance Day event connects Auschwitz uprising with tenants whose power has been cut
- Opening remarks at commemoration quote Romani genocide survivor: "There's a pig farm at Lety. How could they allow that?"
- Slovak fascist party has a problem: A second MP charged with insulting Romani people, court could disband it
- Hundreds of Romani people from around the Czech Republic and Europe to attend 13 May ceremony at Lety by Písek
- Czech Police expert: Project to improve Romani citizens' faith in the police is a marathon, not a sprint
Tags:History, kočovníci, zákon, antigypsyism
on 17 July.
Czech tabloid fraudulently tells readers CCTV footage of theft in Chile was from Ostrava - antigypsyism is the response18.7.2017 7:16
Czech Police say their hands are tied as Romani tenant and her children are unlawfully made homeless by Prague landlord trafficking in poverty15.7.2017 11:15
Každý diskutující musí dodržovat PRAVIDLA DISKUZE SERVERU Romea.cz. Moderátoři serveru Romea.cz si vyhrazují právo bez předchozího upozornění skrýt nevhodné příspěvky z diskuse na Romea.cz. Ty pak budou viditelné jen pro vás a vaše přátele na Facebooku. Při opakovaném porušení pravidel mohou moderátoři zablokovat zobrazování vašich příspěvků v diskusích na Romea.cz ostatním uživatelům.