“Lwów Saved Us”: Roma Survival in Lemberg 1941-44

Piotr Wawrzeniuk. Journal of Genocide Research, Volume 20, Issue 3, 2018.


Among the foremost Nazi German crimes were the genocides of Jews and Roma. While the scientific exploration of the former started in parallel with the mass murder, the substantial bulk of research on the latter has been conducted only since the 1990s. Since then, a wide range of studies have been carried out, encompassing Nazi Germany and the countries and territories it had occupied or annexed. Although hotly debated, the discussions of whether a genocide against Roma was committed have given way to a virtual consensus on the matter. The discussions have mainly focused on two aspects: whether the mass murder of Roma was an outcome of a centrally initiated and supervised plan, as in the case of Jews, and whether sedentary Roma largely or in whole were exempted from persecution. Among the adherents of the interpretation of Roma persecution that stops short of employing the term “genocide,” one finds Guenter Lewy and Yehuda Bauer. To them, the anti-Roma policy of the Nazis frequently lacked a racial-ideological basis and had no universal characteristics. The general destruction of the Roma population was not its goal. Mass killings occurred basically as a result of either coincidence or situational decisions by lower-ranking leaders who acted in accordance with local conditions, and while many killings were the result of the conviction that Roma were racially inferior, a great many were due to wartime brutalization. To those who view the persecution of Roma during the Second World War as a genocide, the question of intent is crucial. Had the war continued, mass killings would have eventually resulted in annihilation of most of the Roma and Sinti in the Nazi-controlled areas. To the author of the present study, the basic and widely used definition of genocide adopted by the UN in 1948 as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part” a “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” covers the persecution of Roma well. At the same time, if one follows “the intent” argument, one may claim that, had the war (or a peace that would have left the Nazi regime in place) continued long enough, Poles and Ukrainians would also finally cease to be as national groups because of enslavement, mass killings, and assimilation of “worthy” elements into the German people. The very term of genocide has been created for prevention and prosecution. It is, as Christian Gerlach has remarked, a normative and action-oriented concept not designed for furthering scientific studies of the matters it covers. It is important to keep these aspects in mind when entering the rather new field of studies of Roma persecution in Nazi-ruled Europe.

During the last three decades or so, the genocide of Roma, frequently referred to as “the Romani Holocaust,” has become “the main element of the Roma national identity” and the centrepiece of Roma historical memory. By ritualizing the memory of the genocide, Sławomir Kapralski claims, “Roma focus on their common past in order to create a better future.” As to the genocide of Jews, Dan Stone has argued that attempts to maintain the Holocaust as a “sacred” entity depend on the one hand on the belief that Jewish identity would be threatened if one of its pillars lost its “sacred aura,” and, on the other hand, on the belief that the Holocaust’s status has functioned as an antidote against antisemitism. A Roma genocide uniqueness paradigm has grown over the years as well. The mere use of the term “the Romani Holocaust” points at an emancipatory memorial discourse based on the Jewish model. Daniel Blatman has argued that a uniqueness paradigm might diminish the value of a given scientific inquiry, and he suggests scholarship that integrates the genocide of Jews into the history of the regions where it took place, into the broader history of Europe in the twentieth century, and into democide studies in general. Ari Joskowicz has stressed that while Jewish-Roma interactions during the Nazi occupation of Europe have often been interpreted to constitute an essential nature of their relations, those encounters were in fact the result of conditions created by the Nazis. There was no solidarity on the basis of pre-war marginalization, and both groups were actually rather socially distant. Still, many testimonies on Roma are accessible through archives established mainly to document the history of mass murder of Jews, such as collections of the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive (used below). Roma history, Joskowicz maintains, cannot be written without taking account of Jewish archival and memory politics. In turn, Jan Taubitz has argued that the build-up of the Holocaust oral history archives intersected with American memory culture and mass medial representations of the Holocaust. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that interviews with Roma survivors were made in a context and in a way not optimal from the perspective of studies of the persecution of Roma during the Second World War. Combining different sources and their intertextual reading might lead us towards better understanding of what happened to various groups of Roma during the Second World War. The propositions of Joskowicz and Taubitz make it even more pressing to try to come to grips with the history of Roma persecution and study it in its own right. This study shows that, to some extent, when recollecting what happened in Lemberg, several Roma view their experiences through the prism of Jewish suffering. Archival documents do not support such a depiction. It is likely that the character of Roma persecution during the Second World War gets lost if a normative, activist-driven account of the past is used as a point of departure in scientific studies.

I understand the persecution of Roma during the Second World War as encompassing several repressive measures, including genocide. This study presents the first microhistorical inquiry of events concerning the persecution of Roma in Lemberg during the Nazi occupation. By examining the local and particular, new knowledge about conditions on the ground is added to the studies of Roma persecution. At the centre of attention are groups of Roma and Sinti who survived the war in Lemberg, the capital of the District of Galicia (Distrikt Galizien, DG), which was part of the General Government (Generalgouvernement, GG), an area encompassing remnants of pre-war Poland that had not been incorporated into the Reich. The German occupation lasted from 30 June 1941 to the summer of 1944. Lemberg was the town’s official name in 1941-44. Before that, the town had been occupied by Soviet units when Polish forces surrendered the town in September 1939. Lwów was annexed into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, gaining official names of Lviv (in Ukrainian) and Lvov (in Russian). The Soviet occupation was succeeded by the German occupation on 30 June 1941.

This study employs formerly untapped source material, foremost produced by the local courts and the police, supplemented by testimonies of Roma survivors. The research questions addressed in this work are as follows. What were the practices of persecution of Roma in the DG (with the GG as the background)? What brought Roma to Lemberg and when? Was there a push and pull effect? Thus, what made them leave other regions, and what factors made Lemberg their destination? Where did they live? Are there similarities and differences in the way Roma and Jews were treated by the local authorities? The results of the analysis performed here point to the unusual case of Roma surviving in urban settings, but also to stark dissimilarities in the treatment of Jews and Roma. The main argument is that Roma found a relatively safe refuge in Lemberg. In the context of the Second World War and the GG, this meant that there were no direct attempts at exterminating the group or of exposing it to degrading conditions that limited its chances of survival. The circumstances of such a policy cannot be thoroughly explained without further study. However, I believe that it is productive to employ the concept of anomaly to explain what happened to the Lemberg Roma. One might say that Roma constituted an anomaly in the world and societal order envisioned by the Nazis, in a way similar to Jews, and to a lesser degree Slavic peoples such as Poles and Ukrainians. Paraphrasing Mary Douglas, any system of clarification will give rise to anomalies that can be dealt with in various ways. They can be reinterpreted and thus reduced and made less anomalous, they can be physically controlled and made to disappear, they can be avoided while definitions to which they do not conform are strengthened, or they can be viewed as so dangerous that they are put above any discussion. The Roma of Lemberg were contained and controlled, and thus manageable. This policy could depend on the milder Nazi policy towards the “non-German” population within Lemberg itself.

Nazi Persecution of Roma in Ukraine and Poland: A Short Overview

On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, there were approximately twenty thousand Roma living in the territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), including Galicia. Half of them are estimated to have perished in anti-Roma actions between 1941 and 1944. Another 12,000 Roma died in Transnistria, a part of southwestern Ukraine incorporated into Romania in the wake of the invasion. Most of those Roma were deported from Romania proper and died of malnutrition, exposure, and diseases that followed. Citing Jerzy Ficowski, Michael Zimmermann argues that the number of Polish Roma murdered or who perished as a result of harsh treatment and deplorable living conditions amounts to between 8,000 and about 13,000-14,000 individuals from a pre-war population of 28,000 or 18,000-20,000. There are no exact numbers for either the pre-war population or the total number of victims. Czesław Łuczak suggests that more than 50,000 out of 75,000-85,000 Polish Roma died during the Nazi occupation. This proposition lacks references, however, and is questionable because he also claims that 20,000 Polish Roma survived among Roma in Romania and Hungary, who supposedly were “thoroughly integrated into the societies there,” oblivious of the persecution in those countries. On the opposite side of the scale, one finds a Polish police officer, who in 1932 counted 8,000 Roma living in Poland, not counting “the Russian Gypsies.” A Jewish newspaper mentioned 10,000 Polish Roma in 1934. Thus, the lower estimate of the pre-war Roma population of Poland made by Ficowski seems to be the most accurate.

During at least the initial phase of the war against the Soviet Union, there was no clearly formulated ideological Nazi agenda with regard to Roma as there was in the case of Jews. Instead, the policy evolved over time and depended on the administrative entity, the regional and local administration, the kind of detachments involved, and their immediate needs. During the war, the Ukrainian SSR was divided into several zones. There was the militarily administered rear zone of the front in the east. There was Reichskommissariat Ukraine (run by the German civil administration), Transnistria (including Odesa and much of the Ukrainian-Moldovan borderland of today), Bukovyna (administered by Romania), Transcarpathia (administered by Hungary), and the DG. Consequently, anti-Roma measures could vary depending on various temporary factors such as the proximity of the front, the prevalence of armed combat, the movements and transit of armed detachments through the region, or the economic needs of the local administration that would spare Roma if labour was in demand. The first wave of killings was carried out in the summer and autumn of 1941 by Einsatzgruppen (the mobile killing detachments of the Security Police and the Security Service of the SS). In general, within the territory of the Soviet Union and the countries it occupied, the handling of Roma was more decentralized than in the Reich, resulting in somewhat different views on the solutions to the “Gypsy problem.” In Lithuania, more than half of the Roma survived because many were deported westwards to perform forced labour, and they returned only after the war. Others were—for a considerable time—left alone by the authorities, provided they performed labour or owned property. In Latvia, approximately half of the Roma population survived due to widely varying policies of the local authorities, ranging from annihilation to looking the other way. In contrast, all Estonian Roma were murdered. In Crimea, local Muslim Roma were sometimes presented as Tatars by the local (Tatar) authorities so they would be spared. Thus, the policies of the local authorities carried great weight, and persecution could be more or less deadly due to varying interpretations of the “Gypsy problem.”

Because the DG was part of the GG, one should consider the anti-Roma policies in the latter before proceeding to the district and town level. There was a principle of not supporting Roma, and their movement was restricted in the eastern parts of the GG close to the demarcation line between the German and Soviet occupation zones. An attractive but unworkable alternative to the GG authorities was to push Roma out of their jurisdiction. Prior to the summer of 1941, groups of Roma were expelled to the Soviet-occupied territory. The District of Radom secretly discharged a group of Roma into the neighbouring District of Lublin, hoping it would eventually be forced over the Soviet border.

A note from November 1940 suggests a degree of bewilderment over the lack of pre-war Polish legislation singling out Roma. Those in charge in the GG saw to it that Berlin finally decided to treat Roma as Jews, as the euphemism went. In December 1942, one finds that the head of the Security Police and the Security Service of the GG favoured such a decision. However, no decision concerning a policy of extermination had been made as late as 29 June 1943. Such a decision would be made approximately four months later by the Reichsicherheitshauptamt (the Reich Security Central Office).

Because there was no state definition or registration of Roma in Poland, the Nazis had to create their own categories to pursue the persecution. They would usually intervene after denunciations or complaints from the local population, often because of somebody’s “Gypsy” appearance or because of a “nomadic” way of life. Zimmermann claims that most Roma who were killed by the Nazis in Poland were shot by the Wehrmacht, SS, police, or gendarmerie. Polish and Ukrainian police units seem to have played only a minor role. Zimmermann has analysed “the number of the killings, their geographical allocation, their time line and the engagement of various German detachments, particularly Ordnungspolizei” (the Order Police). He assumes there were instructions concerning the persecution of Roma in the GG due to a sudden peak of shootings in 1942 (forty-three shootings) and 1943 (eighty-two shootings), accounting for eighty-four per cent of all documented shootings of Roma in 1939-45. The peak occurred in parallel with groups of Roma being placed in ghettos alongside Jews in all districts. Many were executed with Jews when the ghettos were liquidated.

In the DG, it remained up to “the local authorities” along with police and gendarmerie to shape the policy towards Roma. As a result, Alexander Kruglov finds that the district was less deadly for Roma than the neighbouring Reichskommissariat Ukraine, although killings of Roma did still occur. Kruglov makes an estimate of “a few hundred” Roma murdered in the district. Philip Friedmann, a Holocaust survivor and a pioneer of Holocaust studies, remembers Roma roaming the streets in Lemberg unrestrictedly “as late” as 1944. However, the nearby small towns of Rawa Ruska and Gródek saw the executions of at least forty-nine Roma. Roma in Stanisławów and Kołomyja counties are assumed to have been deported to the Bełżec death camp alongside the Jews. Kruglov stresses the autonomy and heterogeneity in the approach of local authorities towards Roma. Piotr Kaszyca mentions six mass executions of up to 350 Roma in 1942 and 1943 in the area of Lubaczów in the northwestern-most part of the DG (Kreis Rawa Ruska), bordering the District of Lublin. A master’s thesis by Sara Grandke on Roma persecution in the DG delivers a synthesis of the literature on the subject. Working within a constrained time frame, the author employs the interviews with Roma survivors that were also used in this article and offers insights into a handful of cases against Roma from the special court in Lemberg. An article on survival strategies of Roma by Grandke further explores the survivors’ testimonies.

The radicalization of the persecution of Roma in 1942 in the GG mentioned above was also valid for other territories occupied by Nazi Germany in the east, such as Reichskommissariat Ukraine and the rear zone of the front farther to the east. In the DG, Roma persecution spiralled into several shootings of Roma in the countryside, and perhaps registration of Roma and deportations. These measures paralleled the increasing anti-Jewish violence in the district. Sometimes, they were an indirect result of policing of areas where many Jewish fugitives were likely to hide—such as the region of Rawa Ruska, in the vicinity of the rail tracks leading to Bełżec from main population centres of the DG. This study, however, adds to both the similarities and the differences when it comes to anti-Roma policy in the DG, and in Lemberg in particular. For the sake of comparison, the developments referring to Galician Jewry are briefly described below. The differences in treatment of Jews and Roma are abundant in the material. They hardly change the picture of intensified Roma persecution in Central and Eastern Europe occupied by Nazi Germany on the general level. They do, however, call for distinct and careful study of Roma persecution in various administrative units, for instance on the Kreis and Stadthauptmannschaften level, and then on the district level, before making far-reaching conclusions. Another proposition that arises from the differences is that the persecution of Roma should be studied intrinsically, within its own, rather than artificially ascribed, dynamics. While parallels with Jews might constitute a powerful political tool, they hardly stimulate research.

The persecution of Jews in the DG followed the developments both in the Soviet Union and in the GG. After the invasion in June 1941, there were mass shootings of Jews, suspected communists, and other unwanted elements by Einsatzgruppen. Once the killings moved eastwards, a policy familiar from the GG followed, including mass discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds, separation from the rest of the population in ghettos, restrictions on movement, deprivation of the means to live, forced labour, and extermination. The killings culminated in August and September 1942 but continued until basically all Jews remaining in the ghettos and labour camps were murdered in the summer of 1943. Compared to other districts in the GG, there was a high proportion of mass shootings in the DG. They went on at the same time as deportations to Bełżec death camp in the neighbouring District of Lublin, where up to 200,000 of the 540,000 East Galician Jews perished, and continued throughout 1943, long after Bełżec ceased operations in December 1942. As few as two to three per cent of Jews of the DG survived the war. Following the GG pattern, Judenjagd (the hunt for Jews) took over once the ghettos were liquidated, starting from the summer of 1942. At the Sondergericht (the special court) in Lemberg, death sentences were exacted on those who hid Jews in July 1944, only days before the evacuation of the Nazi apparatus.

The Source Material

Most documents used in the analysis presented here were produced by the courts operating in Lemberg during the German occupation. The jurisdiction of the special court encompassed allegations where the interest of the German state might have been affected. The range of allegations was wide—from illegal trade to murder, or hiding Jews. The judges of the special court were always German, and the court operated in accordance with German laws, and the regulations issued particularly for the GG. The so-called “non-German courts,” the town court (Burggericht) and the county court (Bezirkgericht), dealt mainly with legal procedures where German interests were considered unharmed. The Polish pre-war penal and civil code applied, provided it did not contradict German law or the regulations of the GG. The county court also functioned as a court of appeal for the town court. Most of the judges in non-German courts were Ukrainian, in line with the German policy of favouring Ukrainian personnel. The material covers detention protocols, investigations (including interrogation protocols), and frequently processual and other documentation. What makes the material particularly interesting is that every suspect’s address, profession/employment, citizenship, and family members were registered. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and the Criminal Police of Lemberg also frequently heard witnesses, including Roma not under investigation. From the documents, one can gain a rough picture of Roma life in the town from the spring of 1942 to June 1944. Additional documents produced by the government of the DG and the Headquarters of the Police in Lemberg were also used. Documents deposited at Bundesarchiv Ludwigsburg were used when exploring Roma persecution in the DG. Oral testimonies complement the material. They are stored under the category “Roma and Sinti Survivors” at the Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. Poland was picked as the “country of interview,” and interviews covering developments in Lemberg (“Lwów”) were chosen.

Persecution of Roma in Distrikt Galizien Outside Lemberg

The 133rd Reserve Police Battalion of the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei) was deployed in the DG in February 1942. Originally designated to guard important infrastructure, deal with marauders, and fight partisans, it was also used during the liquidation of Galician Jews. A search platoon was moved from Kamionka Strumiłowa to Rawa Ruska some sixty kilometres north of Lemberg once all of the Jews of the former were forcibly removed, killed, or sent to extermination camps in the summer of 1942. One of the platoon’s standing orders was to conduct area searches called “systematic combing through localities.” The main purpose was to find runaway Jews. Sometimes, Roma were encountered. It is known that twenty-four Roma were executed in July, and six were arrested in August 1942. However, testimonies of police officers from the early 1960s suggest that there were more Roma victims.

In these testimonies, one learns that the head of the 1st Company, Captain Ernst Lederer, and the truck driver Johann Weizenegger carried out their own actions against Jews and Roma. Sergeant Johann Rohracher recalls the shooting of a group of six or seven Roma who were captured by Schutzpolizei (Protection Police, a branch of the Ordnungspolizei) in Kamionka Strumiłowa. Because they were musicians, they were forced to play before being taken to a forest, where they dug their own graves and were shot. Rohracher also recalls a group of around thirty Roma men, women, and children who were stopped close to the railway station in Kamionka Strumiłowa. They were driven to the forest nearby, made to dig their graves, and executed. Lieutenant Walter Ungnade was probably in charge. A squad from 1st Company executed about “forty Gypsy women with their children in a forest.” Captain Lederer led an execution of thirty-four or forty-three Roma, mainly women. Shootings were carried out either by chance, when Roma were encountered, or after a denunciation. Fritz Beyerlein recalled that his squad “stumbled onto a group of Gypsies, probably 10 to 15 men and women” during an area search. They were ordered shot by Captain Lederer. Lieutenant Ungnade recalled a group of Roma rounded up and shot after a town mayor complained about a “Gypsy plague.” Captain Lederer was again in charge. A short while later, there was an order from the 24th Regiment that such procedures with Roma would be reprimanded. Had the group been found only days later, it would not have been executed, Ungnade maintained. He probably refers to the order issued centrally from Cracow on 13 August 1942 to all units in the GG by the head of the Order Police. Referring to the determination (Willensmeinung) of the head of the police and SS, Heinrich Himmler, the order instructed that Roma were not to be engaged by the police other than if they were engaged in criminal activities, were partisans, or were partisans’ aides. Only then could they be dealt with “so severely as other law breakers.” Himmler’s reaction seems to have been no more than pure legalism, depending on the fact that while the handling of the Roma population in the GG had not yet been decided upon officially, the executions of Roma were on the rise. A group of Roma found in a barn were shot shortly before the order was issued. Police officers supposedly regretted that the group was not found a few days later, when the shooting “would not have been necessary.” The Roma asked the officers why they were being executed. The above testimonies suggest that there was a practice of shooting Roma in the summer of 1942, and supposedly this was cut short by the order. One also finds that by August 1942 there were Roma who did not view travelling in the countryside as potentially dangerous. It was likely to be a recent introduction. The loose formulations of the order of 13 August left plenty of room for interpretation, however, and it can be presumed that shootings continued.

The persecution and the “necessity” thereof probably depended on “the Ordinance on Registering in the General Government from 17 December 1941.” Every person over fifteen years of age was supposed to register with the local authorities within three days of arrival. If a person was moving between locations, the authorities of both should be contacted. Persons wandering between localities were to register with the authorities within twelve hours of their arrival. “Further regulations” could be issued “on registering of Gypsies and those wandering in a Gypsy way, as well as registering of the work-shy.” The regulation entered into force on 1 April 1942, and violations would result in fines, imprisonment, or police persecution. In addition, Rawa Ruska was an important transport hub. Any transport to Bełżec death camp from southeast or southwest would have to pass Rawa Ruska and the surrounding countryside “combed through” by the units of the 133rd Reserve Police Battalion. Due to the intensive phase that Operation Reinhardt entered in the second half of 1942 in the DG, the transport lines were likely to be extensively watched.

Thus, apart from the already known group of twenty-four Roma murdered near Rawa Ruska, it is possible that the six Roma reported as arrested in August were also executed. The police officers mention numbers of ten to fifteen Roma, “around 30” Roma being shot after being found close to the railroad station in Kamionka Strumiłowa, “40” Roma women and children, “34 or 43” Roma, then a group of Roma surrounded and executed after a supposed complaint by a mayor, and the group that was found in a barn. If one compiles the numbers, a moderate estimate of the number of Roma murdered would be around one hundred. Such an estimation rests on the proposition that a number of recollections refer to the same killings. A less moderate estimate not taking this possibility into account would generate around one hundred and fifty murdered Roma. The anti-Roma measures presented above were undertaken within a rather short time span, in July-August 1942, and in a comparably small territory, as the distance between Kamionka Strumiłowa and Rawa Ruska by road is less than seventy kilometres. They were also close in time to the shooting of twenty-five Roma by the gendarmerie in Gródek Jagielloński, a town situated on the Lemberg-Przemyśl highway, in June 1942. Finally, there were shootings of Roma in the vicinity of Lubaczów in the northwestern-most part of the DG in 1942 and 1943. The majority of the latter occurred along the railway line running towards Rawa Ruska.

Roma survivors frequently recalled German detachments disturbing caravans in the region surrounding Lemberg. Those encounters often resulted in killings. However, the chronology and the numbers cannot be reconstructed. Testimonies published by Krzysztof Bukowski support similar types of anti-Roma measures being employed, with round-ups, violence, dispossession, internment, and killings.

It has been presumed that the order to provide statistics on foreign Roma issued by the government of the DG in February 1942 was a preamble to a murder campaign. Roma living in the Kreis of Drohobycz and Stanisławów are assumed to have been sent to Bełżec death camp. I suggest that the order to register foreign Roma actually aimed at the expulsion of Romanian, Hungarian, and Slovak Roma. Kruglov has found that the intensified police interest resulted in some of the Romanian Roma leaving the area and returning to the District of Cracow. Such activities were probably a result of the GG ordinance concerning police response to foreigners, as cited by the central district order to register foreign Roma. In order to be able to remain in the GG, persons over fifteen years of age who were not citizens of Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, or former Poland had to register with the authorities and apply for a permit. The local authorities could refuse such a permit, and non-compliance would lead to police persecution and/or deportation.

According to an order from 19 March 1942, the districts were to report on “discovered Gypsies of non-German citizenship.” This indicates that a number of the 3,000 German Sinti and Roma deported to the GG in May 1940 might have reached the district. In a report to Lemberg from 24 March 1942, an official from the Kreis of Drohobycz reported that apart from Romanian Roma who were being registered by the Criminal Police, there were sedentary Roma living in two parishes “who did not come into question for a deportation.” On 27 March, Lemberg reminded the Kreishauptmannschaften to deliver the lists of foreign Roma. On 4 April, the Kreis of Drohobycz reported that they found no foreign Roma prior to 16 March. However, between 16 and 28 March, eighteen Romanian Roma families of about one hundred and fifty people arrived. Fourteen families with 115 members were registered by the police. They left hastily for an “unknown destination,” while the remaining four families “did not bother” to extract their rationing coupons. It was gleefully suggested that soon enough they would also leave once an investigation of illicit exercise of profession and black market trade was initiated. Kruglov claims that 132 Roma from Borysław were sent to a forced labour camp in August 1942, maintaining that it is possible that Roma were executed alongside Jews when the ghettos in the DG were liquidated in 1943, as it probably happened in Sambor (Sambir). This text shows that at least with respect to Lemberg, the latter development did not apply.

According to the compilation of all registrations from the DG made on 30 April 1942, there were 536 foreign Roma, most of them Romanian and Hungarian, and 670 Polish Roma in the DG. Most of the latter lived in the districts of Kołomyja (306 individuals), Czortków (313 individuals), and Złoczów (thirty individuals). Several districts reported no Roma, among them Kamionka Strumiłowa, while there were no reports at all for several districts, among them Rawa Ruska. Almost a year later, on 1 March 1943, seventy-seven Roma were reported in the District of Kołomyja. Fifty of those provided for themselves either by full-time or part-time agricultural work or through rations, while the remaining twenty-seven were “neither fully nor partially self-supporting.” The whole population was estimated to be 386,648, including fifteen Jews. The entries about the degree of self-sufficiency applied to all population categories. Inquiries into the degree of engagement in agriculture and self-sufficiency suggests that nomadic Roma probably took the first brunt of persecution. As to the dwindling numbers of Roma, they probably migrated to other parts of the DG or the GG, over the border to Romania, or—less probably—to the Reichskommissariat Ukraine or were sent to concentration camps or executed. Kołomyja and Czortków to the north were administrative centres along the former Polish-Romanian-Soviet border. There were groups of Roma with good knowledge of “green” border passages, and there were probably illegal border crossings of Roma from Romanian territory during the interwar period.

The testimonies of the survivors and the statements of the former police officers all point at 1942 as the year of radicalized measures against Roma in the DG. Particularly if encountered in the countryside, Roma risked being exposed to violence, dispossession, and/or execution. Persecution of travelling Roma by the Order Police in the area of Kamionka Strumiłowa and Rawa Ruska was unlikely an isolated phenomenon, and there was likely a practice of persecution and killing units with similar tasks and operational routines to those described above. The persecution was likely to be more intense in the proximity of important transport links, such as the region of Rawa Ruska. From the documents of the government of the DG, it is impossible to see whether its interest in Roma depended on plans to deport them, to amass them in ghettos, or to execute them. The ordinance on registering, in force since April 1942, was applied against itinerant Roma, while the ordinance concerning police response to foreigners also covered foreign Roma. The wording of the former opened for further regulations concerning “Gypsies” and “the work-shy.” It is not possible to ascertain what caused the dwindling numbers of Roma in Kołomyja, the sole district for which there are comparable numbers. Kruglov’s estimate of “a few hundred” Roma killed in the DG seems justifiable, but impossible to prove. The interrogations of the former police officers suggest that the numbers could be higher. It seems that nomadic Roma constituted the foremost target of the persecution, and as we shall see, dramatic and tragic experiences drove many of them to Lemberg.

Surviving Lemberg: Roma in the Capital of Distrikt Galizien

Professor Tadeusz Zaderecki, a Polish professor of Hebrew Studies, recalls Nazis considering treating Roma in the same way as the Jews. As the latter were forced into a ghetto, a plan to concentrate the Roma population in one single area was also being realized on Balonowa and Kotlarska Streets (both within the limits of the greatest extension of the ghetto from the autumn of 1941 to August 1942). However, the policy suddenly shifted towards favouring Roma, and the restrictions were lifted. Roma were “raised from a discriminated part [of the population] into the ranks of privileged, almost all of them becoming … Volksdeutsche.” The professor claims that Roma earned their living by engaging in illegal currency trading and smuggling from the Nazi-allied states of Hungary and Romania bordering the DG. “During those machinations,” Zaderecki continues, “they all had perfectly legal papers and passes; all had German names.” Those who engaged in this trade were said to be Romanian citizens, but this seemed far from certain for Zaderecki. The local Germans reacted irritably when asked about the practice towards Roma. The professor reasoned that because curiosity could have dire consequences, and the whole process was of no harm, further investigation was not worth the risk.

There are reasons to believe that Roma he claims to have been Volksdeutsche were German or Polish Sinti or Roma brought to Lemberg by tragic fate. It seems more probable that the former would be de facto treated as Volksdeutsche because this had occurred in other districts of the GG. As for Lemberg, Mieczysław Goman, a Roma boy who spent extended periods of time in wartime Lemberg, recalls “German Gypsies” (niemieckie Cygany) who enjoyed good relations with “the German commandant,” whom they bribed with gold and Persian carpets. Consequently, they were safe from the local Nazis and could help Polish Roma. The “German Gypsies” lived in the town’s centre, while Polish Roma lived in former Jewish houses or on the town’s peripheries. Those areas the Germans would rather not visit due to high security risks, Goman recalls. Zaderecki’s and Goman’s accounts sound plausible. There were Sinti and Roma in Lemberg coming from the territories annexed to the Reich, including parts of Poland that belonged to Germany prior to the First World War. They were likely to have been among the Polish citizens deported from those territories in 1939-41, amounting to over 360,000 persons, most of them from Wielkopolska and Pomerania. Although not necessarily German, they might have known the language due to the proximity of the border and their roots in Kaiser Germany. Maria Kwiatkowska, who, just as Goman did, lived temporarily in Lemberg, recalls “German Gypsies” being better off. There were indeed Roma and Sinti from the Reich in Lemberg. One finds Pohl Gaja, born in Breslau (Wrocław), supposedly a Hungarian citizen, in 1944. Oskar Janosch was using his Reich German passport when pretending to be a Security Police officer and extracting fines from Poles at Lemberg railway station in May 1942. The last two cases show that Sinti and Roma from the Reich, with good mastery of German, were living in Lemberg during the Nazi occupation. They back up the accounts of Zaderecki, Goman, and Kwiatkowska, and confirm a possibility of “the German Gypsies” supporting their Polish compatriots.

Lemberg as a Refuge

From interviews collected by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, one learns that Roma lived mainly in the Lemberg hamlets of Zamarstynów and neighbouring Zniesienie, where there traditionally had been Roma settlements. For instance, Gypsy Street (Cyganówka) appears on the wartime map of Lemberg and remains to this day. A police report from May 1944 refers to Zamarstynów as “the district where Gypsies live.” In 1944, houses on Szpitalna Street south of Zamarstynów were said to be “massively populated” by Roma. Several Roma—at least during a transitional period—lived in their wagons in Kleparów and Zamarstynów. In December 1941, a local newspaper noted that Roma “again” had appeared in town.

In the testimonies, one finds indications of a push and pull effect on the migration to Lemberg. The former was a result of persecution experienced in the District of Cracow and the countryside, while the latter was a result of the rumour that Lemberg could offer viable shelter. Bronisława Siwak recalls persecution in the area of Jarosław and Przemyśl, and a train trip to Lemberg, which she had to leave once the persecution began there, too. No less dramatic was the journey of Franciszka Siwak. Her family was hiding in the woods before being taken to a camp when passing Tarnów in the District of Cracow. Her parents were killed, and she was handed over to her maternal grandparents. Her sisters stayed with their aunts in Szczurowa, where they were all murdered in 1943. Franciszka arrived in Lemberg by train with her grandmother.

Ludwik Doliński recalls that his family had the opportunity to rest in Lemberg after being on the run for a long time. Fleeing persecution, they arrived in Lemberg crossing through Tarnów, Bochnia, and Dębica. His family stayed in Zamarstynów and Kleparów. His father and brothers played music for German soldiers at the casino, while he roamed the streets begging, claiming he came “from the other side” (the ghetto). According to Mieczysław Goman, there were more than one hundred Roma hiding in Lemberg, mainly in abandoned houses once occupied by Jews. Antonina Bogdanowicz recalls staying with her family in Zamarstynów in Lemberg, where many Roma lived. Maria Kwiatkowska claims that Lemberg saved her family and that Roma there supported each other and warned each other of danger. While the push effect rested upon persecution experienced in other districts and in the countryside, the pull effect depended on the actual possibility of survival and higher chances of doing so thanks to mutual support.

Roma with Hungarian documents were viewed as citizens of an allied country. Because one informant’s mother had such documents, it was even possible to obtain “German” food rations. Roma who could produce (genuine or false) Romanian or Hungarian identity documents could sometimes even work at the railway. This possibility remained out of reach of Roma with Polish documents. They were usually shot on the spot, an informant claims. Foreign identity documents mattered only to the point of time when the order came for all Roma to be exterminated. The police and court documents neither confirm nor deny a common statement found in the interviews suggesting that Romanian or Hungarian citizenship could prove lifesaving. The Roma with Hungarian or Romanian documents who appear in the material often had legal employment, a condition for receiving food-rationing coupons. Over half of the Roma who were under investigation were registered as citizens of the GG, “former Poland,” or “Poland,” suggesting that possession of “Polish” documents was not directly lethal. In several cases, no citizenship was recorded. It is doubtful whether Roma were to be registered as citizens of the GG because they did not belong to the category of protected non-German peoples (as Poles or Ukrainians). Their judicial status in the GG was not defined, and this also applied to Jews.

Several Roma survivors claim that only those with light hair and skin colour left the dwellings to find food. Because Maria Kwiatkowska and her brother-in-law were “non-black,” they could search for food relatively safely. The “black” look could reveal one’s Romani origins, but also carried a risk of being identified as Jewish. One of the informants recalls how she and her brother were saved by their mother from being shot. She arrived at the scene just in time, informing the soldiers in German that the execution candidates were “not Jews, [but] Gypsies.” They were released. Another informant recalls how German soldiers stopped her several times because of her “Jewish” appearance, but her identity card stating she was Polish Roma saved her. Many dressed in a “Polish” way rather than wear clothes that gave a “Romani” impression. The finding that most of the Roma women who were detained were probably identified as “Gypsies” due to their dress and appearance hardly contradicts this claim, but it also shows that many Roma did not employ such security measures. Among them was Franciszka Siwak, who empathically claims that she and her family maintained “the Gypsy” outfits.

Several survivors recall a general understanding among Roma that they were next in line after the Jews. They recall hiding within the territory of the former ghetto, either in empty houses or in specially built bunkers. One interviewee recalls: “There was such a thing where it was written that Gypsies and Jews are on the same list,” and she also said that Roma could travel in the countryside up to 1942. Władysława Jeglenicz’s family was native to Lemberg. In late 1941, they were moved to the ghetto, probably because they were Roma. Her mother had mentioned other Roma in the ghetto—including the Doliński, Korsun, and Goman families. After bribing German or Ukrainian guards to look the other way, they escaped to their Lemberg kin. Her mother arranged things with an ID and a job.

However, no Roma are mentioned in the published recollections of the Lemberg Jews, either in diaries or in memoirs compiled after the war. Zofia Trembska, who was forcibly resettled to Zniesienie when the ghetto was being created, recalls that the “non-Jewish population” viewed the Jews “as their private booty.” Compared to the parts of the ghetto populated more densely by Jews, the Jews of Zniesienie like herself fared rather badly at the hands of local Ukrainians. However, “the Gypsies constituted a particular plague—a big lot of them lived in Zniesienie: they stole from us and harassed us terribly—later they also were persecuted.” This suggests that Roma were not resettled to the ghetto, but already lived within the territory of the ghetto when it was created. Zaderecki’s account suggests that a plan to settle Roma in the ghetto was abandoned. The possible time point for abandoning such plans would be September 1942, when areas designated for Roma fell outside the reduced ghetto territory and the construction of a fence began.

The recollections of Jews living in the ghetto do not suggest that the Lemberg Roma were massed within a fenced area created for the Jews that remained alive in September 1942, which from January 1943 was renamed Judenlager. The Lemberg ghetto was created in November 1941, when 65,000 Jews were to join their 25,000 compatriots already inhabiting Zamarstynów and Zniesienie. The process of relocating large parts of Lemberg’s population (the “Aryan” Poles and Ukrainians were also to move out, but many remained) was stopped in December 1941 because of the outbreak of typhoid fever. The ghetto territory was not fenced or watched as closely as, for example, the Warsaw or Litzmannstadt (Łódź) ghettos—not until after the murder or deportation of large parts of the Jewish population in the spring and August of 1942. In September 1942, an order was repeated that Jews who lived outside the ghetto should immediately move there. This suggests that ghettoization was not yet completed. After his first escape from the Janowska Camp in Lemberg, Leon Weliczker Wells walked to his parents’ home in what appears to have been April 1942. On the day preceding the August 1942 Aktion, Rabbi David Kahane walked from his ghetto dwelling in Zniesienie to the hamlet of Łyczaków to arrange refuge for his daughter at a Greek-Catholic nunnery. Considering the prevalence of traditional Roma quarters in the area, the recollection of Zofia Trembska about Roma already living in Zniesienie, and the late fencing of the ghetto, it can be claimed that Roma were not resettled to the ghetto. Instead, the ghetto came to them, just as it did in the case of Poles and Ukrainians living in the area.

It is not known how many, if any, Roma were executed in Lemberg. Tiahlyi provides a figure of “approximately one hundred” and refers to Bukowski. However, in the latter’s compilation of testimonies, no such numbers refer to the town. The evidence points at Janowska Street Camp as the place where Roma were placed. For instance, the references to staying in barracks with Poles and Jews in a fenced camp area with watchtowers suggests that this is the case. It seems that perhaps one of the three survivors actually lived within the territory of the “greater” ghetto. Hryciuk mentions rumours of “approximately ten thousand” refugees from Soviet Ukraine and Italian prisoners of war supposedly executed in the second half of October 1943, a group of Roma being among them. A more substantial piece of information about Roma persecution comes from the Table of Contents of the folders of the Criminal Police. One finds “Registering of Gypsies” among the entries, and this explains why the frequent appearance of Roma hardly seems to astonish the local police system; Roma and their whereabouts were well known. For instance, Roma elders were consulted for information about Roma of their respective groups.

One finds sporadic information on Roma in 1942 in what remains of the files of the registration and identification office of the Police of Lemberg. Four town districts provided their population statistics, and the major population categories were Poles and Ukrainians, but also Volksdeutsche, Reichsdeutsche, and “others” (Andere). Under the latter category, one finds Roma in at least three hamlets; Jews were not reported. The numbers delivered on 26 September were compiled into “Total numbers of indigenous population of Lemberg on October 1st 1942,” with the German population excluded and Jews recorded as “-”. Total numbers of “others” category as delivered on September 26 can be found in Table 1.

Table 1. “Others” population category in Lemberg as reported on 26 September 1942, DALO 58-2-6, 7-10.

Apart from Roma, “others” probably contained Soviet citizens brought to the town in 1939-41 and not evacuated in the summer of 1941. In the report of Bezirk (District) IV from 5 June 1942, Germans, Volksdeutsche, Poles, Ukrainians, and “others” are summed under “Aryans,” as opposed to “Jews,” both numbers equalling somewhat over thirty-two thousand individuals. The “others” category was obviously non-Jewish, and this means that rules and practices that applied to Jews did not apply to “others.” Roma were grouped with “Aryan” population categories when counted. One might also presume that the official numbers of Roma were comparatively low, probably only a few hundred, given that the whole “others” category in September 1942 equalled only 1,323 individuals.

There is some more scattered evidence of Roma presence in Lviv. A registration campaign of foreign Roma was carried out in the spring of 1942 in all of the DG. The town of Lemberg reported one Russian Roma and twenty-three Romanian Roma residents. In the daily accounts of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, Station no. 7, “detention of a Gypsy woman” (6 April 1944) and “notification about ruination of a building by Gypsies” (15 April 1944) can be found. In a file of the Criminal Police, one finds that sixteen bullets were fired when three Roma were detained on 5 May 1943. They were taken to the Headquarters of the Criminal Police “with help of two SS soldiers,” and eventually appeared in the Sondergericht. Those cases illustrate that there was a continuous interest in the Roma group over the period studied. The last incident also shows that one can hardly ascribe the police apparatus murderous intent per se. Roma were not simply executed.

Treatment of Roma as it Appears from the Police and Court Documents

The court cases are evenly distributed over time. The first Roma case starts on 9 April 1942, and the last ends a week before the arrival of the Soviet troops on 17 July 1944. The material does not suggest there was a period of intensified interest from the side of the local police and court system towards Roma. The number of Roma who appear in the documents as suspects, family members, relatives, neighbours, or witnesses is about one hundred and sixty persons. The actual number of Roma was probably considerably higher because one can expect only a portion of a given group to encounter the police and the court system. All in all, forty-nine persons were detained. Fourteen of those were acquitted or released for being a juvenile. For instance, Malia Chorwat was subjected to an age test by the court and found to be a maximum of fifteen years old. Her verdict was changed from three months at a house of correction for juveniles into an educational talk between her parents, a social worker, and herself. Adam Doliński was the only Roma who served his sentence of ten months (time of incarceration included), before being released in March 1944. In a case including twenty-six persons, it is impossible to see what happened to them. For instance, some were released after the first court proceeding, but did not appear in the second one, such as Anela and Karolina Kolompar along with Tsihuha Lakatosz. Because Anela was a juvenile, Iwan Tabaczek was appointed as her guardian. In another case, three minors were claimed by their parents and kin after being placed at the shelter of the Polish Guardian Committee, an aid organization, in 1943, and thus they did not appear in the court. Michael Dziordz, a Romanian citizen, was reported to have left for Warsaw with his family due to the dangers posed by the aerial bombardments of Lemberg in the spring of 1944. This was a fully possible development due to the proximity of the front. In the cases of Rozalia Lakatosz and her mother and a group of Roma and Sinti accused of murder, the police found no evidence and the court proceedings were not initiated. While the latter case was passed to the special court, a police officer wrote: “As soon as any clues are found, further investigation will be carried out, and the court will be notified subsequently.” Because both cases occurred close to the evacuation of Lemberg by the German administration, it is possible that they were never settled. This was the case for Karolina Anghel, a Romanian Roma, who passed through the system as late as 17 July 1944 during the ongoing German evacuation.

It would be an exaggeration to claim that all Roma in these cases fared well, just as it would be ungrounded to assert that they were transferred to a concentration camp or executed. In fact, two cases in which a detainee was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp were documented. Bronisław Goman was accused of stealing rationing coupons in a case heard at the town court. He was also incriminated in the illicit trade of rationing coupons for Germans and Volksdeutsche, and he was brought to the attention of the special court. Danuta Anghel was detained, supposedly wearing clothes stolen during a robbery and given to her by her boyfriend Jan Doliński. She was incriminated in robbery and trading in stolen goods. She was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp but was released in February 1944 before the order of transfer was issued. Goman was arrested only after being discovered with the German rationing coupons. The officer of the Criminal Police described him as Volksschädling. This could render Goman a much stricter sentence, as this legal term referred to offences committed when the conditions of the state of war were deliberately exploited. He supposedly gave an impression of being a liar and obdurate, and he could not demonstrate any proof of employment. Therefore, he was sent to the Janowska Camp on 4 August 1942 for a period of nine months. Because both cases are well documented, there are good reasons to believe the remaining Roma were not sent to concentration camps.

A useful perspective on the treatment of Roma in Lemberg can be extracted when comparing Roma, Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian cases. While cases against Jews developed over time towards a very brief procedure, the structure of cases against Roma, Poles, and Ukrainians remained the same. An examination of cases against Jews indicates similar lengths of time both before and during the introduction of the special courts in the DG. The case of Samuel Garfunkel, detained on 22 September 1941, ran over half a year. The case occurred just as the institutionalized persecution of Jews was being introduced in the DG, so there were several failed attempts at passing the case of the fifteen-year-old to the recently created special court (it passed the first sentences in November 1941). Garfunkel was released because no viable proof of a crime was found. He was summoned to the court again in March 1942. After protracted correspondence between the court and the police, it was found that the boy no longer lived at the address in the ghetto where he was forcibly resettled while awaiting trial. Samuel Szmajok, a Jew who was detained on 8 July 1942 for selling stolen goods at the local market, disappeared while at a labour camp, to which he was transferred after detention. The case reached the town court in December 1942, but Szmajok was nowhere to be found. These cases show the transitional period during which incriminated Jews still faced the court that was largely a relic of the Polish Republic. The mass murder of Jews was running in parallel with the court proceedings. The latter continued, although it must have been obvious to the personnel and the police officers that the prospects of bringing the defendants to the court were unlikely. With the special court operational, the cases concerning the Jewish population became its domain.

The contrast to the transitional period described above is stark when one studies the proceedings of the special court against people who hid Jews in 1944. The cases were very short. Poles and Ukrainians who hid Jews were passed through the court system, very likely towards a death sentence. The Jews disappeared after an interrogation, during which they were made to “confess” that they were Jews using a standard phrase. The story of their hiding was registered in the search for prospective helpers. “I admit being of Jewish origins,” Mania Godzin starts the account of her and her husband Aaron hiding in a flat on Łyczakowska Street. Being a Jew qualified as incriminating evidence. It sufficed to interrogate the suspects and to deliver Jews whose hideouts had been compromised to their death.

This contrasts with cases against Roma in 1944, which were undertaken with all procedural pains, rich in documentation, and spanning over weeks and months. These cases could, as in the case of Garfunkel, which started in September 1941 (before the special laws were firmly established), drag on for months, often resulting in suspects or the accused being released. An investigation of, and case against, several Roma suspected of murder makes a good illustration. After seven Roma women and two men were interrogated, no evidence binding them to the crime was found. When the case of Adam Doliński and two other Roma (cattle theft, illegal slaughtering, and breach of rules of agricultural business during wartime) was put before the special court on 31 January 1944, the investigation had been ongoing since April 1943. One of the suspects was released during the investigation. Another was released after the court found the evidence against him too weak. Doliński was convicted to ten months’ imprisonment, his incarceration time during the investigation included, and he was released in March 1944. The structure and length of the Roma cases are similar to those of Poles and Ukrainians, even if the special court is taken into account.

Concluding Discussion

This study has focused on Roma survivors in the capital of Distrikt Galizien Lemberg (Lwów/Lviv), while also discussing the persecution of Roma in the whole district. A new set of sources was introduced, mainly constituting police and court material. Starting in 1942, Roma in the DG were stopped, abused, dispossessed, and murdered by German police and gendarmerie, as they were elsewhere in the GG. It is unlikely—as the German police officers interrogated in the 1960s proposed—that the killings in the open ceased in August 1942. Foreign Roma were registered in the spring of 1942, while the number of indigenous Roma, at least for the Kreis of Kołomyja where statistics are available, dwindled considerably between 1942 and 1943. The persecution and mass murder in the neighbouring districts and in the DG had driven many Roma into hiding or to seek refuge in the town of Lemberg. This town was rumoured to be relatively safe, and many came from afar, such as Sinti and Roma from the parts of Poland incorporated into the Reich. Most Roma in those territories were deported to the GG in 1940-41.

The Roma mainly resided in the hamlet of Zamarstynów—which had been a Roma settlement for almost a century—and in the neighbouring hamlets. Much of the territory of these three hamlets was part of the farthest extension of the Lemberg ghetto prior to September 1942. There are no indications—as the testimonies of Roma survivors suggest—that Roma were placed in the fenced ghetto that was created in the autumn of 1942. It seems that for a transitional period (1942-43), some Roma lived in “Gypsy camps” in the town’s outskirts, sleeping in wagons. Around one hundred and sixty Roma (suspects, witnesses, family members, convicts, etc.) can be traced through the police and court documents of 1942-44, opening for a low estimate of a few hundred Roma permanently living in the town.

Along with other ethnic categories, Roma in all four police districts of Lemberg were counted in 1942. Unlike Jews, they were placed in the “Aryan” category (i.e. Polish and Ukrainian) and in the “others” sub-category. Although the Roma survivors stress the great caution they observed in town, the documents show that Roma roamed the town openly far beyond their home quarters. The treatment of Roma by the court system was different from that of Jews, and there are several cases where Roma were acquitted and/or released. For two cases out of the twenty-five cases studied here, there is evidence that Roma were placed in concentration camps. The police knew where to look for Roma, and where to find their elders, who were frequently asked about the whereabouts of various members of the Roma community. These developments point at sharp differences between the treatment of Roma and Jews in the town. While the latter were grouped in the ghetto, had their movement restricted, and were treated as a subhuman category in the special court, this seems not to have applied to the local Roma and Sinti.

The case of the Lemberg Roma shares several features with patterns of Roma survival elsewhere in the GG and in the so-called Eastern Territories. While clear instructions for dealing with Roma were apparently missing, the way was often laid open to improvisation from the side of the authorities. Such situations could lead to disaster as local initiatives spiralled into mass murder, but it seems that it could also be the other way around. In Lemberg, although a registration of Roma was carried out in early 1943, they seem to have been spared the deadliest violence.

No documents explain the situation that occurred in Lemberg. What one can find are the practices that indicate a lower degree of persecution than in the other centres of the GG.  A few interpretations are still possible. Nazi Germany considered Roma to be racially inferior, impure, and potentially dangerous, a view resulting in the demise of many of them in death camps, concentration camps, and in the open. In the Reich, including Austria and the Czech lands, Roma were least likely to survive. In Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Latvia, the chances of survival were much higher, leading to the survival of approximately half of the Roma. For a bigger group of Roma to survive, besides their own survival skills, a relative disinterest from the side of the local civil administration and the police and military apparatus was needed, either due to insufficient ideological zeal, work overload, or both. It is known that the German administration in the GG was overstretched, and that it was not among the most competent and adept. It suffered from shortages of staff and was deeply corrupt.

However, these factors did not prevent it from playing an important role in the Holocaust. It is likely, therefore, that the Lemberg Roma were simply not considered to be a “problem” as extensive as the Jews. They were being spared for the time being because they no longer challenged the security perceptions of the Nazis; they lived a sedentary life where they could be monitored, and their whereabouts were known, and thus they could be contained and controlled. Residing at known locations, they made less of an “anomaly” in the world order envisioned by the Nazis. Many Roma seem to have settled only after a painful and frequently lethal trial-and-error process—after being stopped, searched, battered, and robbed of their possessions by various German police and military units in the countryside. In this context, the considerably more restrained practice towards the (non-Jewish) population of Lemberg as compared to the population of other centres of the GG should be mentioned. For instance, relatively few street executions intended to intimidate and terrorize the “Aryan” population of the town were carried out. The first execution took place in November 1943, which was very late in the occupation. Lemberg remained calmer than the rest of the GG, and even the eastern Galician countryside. The “non-German” local courts also played a role, operating mainly with pre-war Polish legislation that lacked anti-Roma features. However, their role would have been diminished had the police apparatus, particularly the Ordnungspolizei or Sicherheitspolizei (the Security Police), intervened with all of the regulations at hand. For now, there are few if any traces that they did.

The results of this study, irrespective of explanatory shortcomings, indicate that the history of the persecution of Roma during the Nazi occupation should be studied with a sensitivity to the given context, while considering what explanations, interpretations, and knowledge it is possible to draw from the available sources. Although often fruitful, generalizations may obscure perspectives during the research process. This article also opens the way for comparison with similar source material collections (in particular those left by the courts) that are available in the main archives of the former GG administrative centres, notably Lublin, Cracow, and Warsaw.