Friday, June 27, 2008

Roma fingerprinting and Holocaust death toll: Common Knowledge?

I heard an interview on BBC radio today that brought up the new Italian plan to fingerprint Roma, or Gypsy, children in that country in an effort to punish the parents who may be using their children to panhandle, steal, etc. The interviewer compared the plan to what the Nazis (and participating countries) did to the Roma, Jews, etc. in the 30s and 40s. (Gotta love British interviewing) It got me thinking about the holocaust and its death toll.
It seems to me that most people, when asked how many people were killed during the Holocaust would say "6 million," or "6 million Jews." Which is only about half of the death toll of the holocaust , as most historians estimate. Poles, Communists, Roma, mentally and physically disabled people, and other "undesireables" account for up to 5 million more people. The Roma are probably the hardest to estimate, since there are no hard and fast population statistics on them.
Jewish people were of course most drastically affected by the Holocaust, and have culturally woven that experience into Jewish identity through Yom Hashoa and the other ways. But I don't know that the Poles or the Roma have similarly taken the genocide of their populations into cultural memory.

Have you had similar experiences of the general public being ignorant of the true death toll of the Holocaust?

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