3.3.1. Roma and Hamburg during the National-Socialism

The pressure on the Sinti and Roma in Hamburg grew after the National-Socialists came to power. On April 8th, 1935, a standard procedure for the “support” of the gypsies was agreed upon. Special norms were introduced for the social welfare of gypsies. Apartments should no longer be mediated to Roma, and the trade police was instructed not to issue trade licenses to them anymore. All gypsies who received support from welfare had to do “duty work” five days of the week, for which adults received five Marks and children two Marks per week.

All special forms of support which existed for example for families with many children were generally declined “for gypsies because of categorical considerations”.

The idea of uniting all Sinti and Roma living in Hamburg in one collective camp by force already came into being in 1937. On November 4th, 1927, the head mayor of the district Wandsbek wrote “… if it wouldn’t be purposeful to bring all the gypsy families living in the general vicinity of Hamburg to one bigger collective camp, which should be located as far away from the other living areas as possible”. A year earlier, the “Research Center” of Robert Ritter had begun its work in Berlin. In December 1937, the Reich Minister for the Interior issued the so-called “General decree for the pre-emptive criminal combat by the police”. This decree arranged for the pre-emptive incarceration of anybody who “endangers the public by his anti-social behaviour”. The decree further declared that “the pre-emptive incarceration by the police should be enhanced according to the insights gained through the analysis of criminal-biological research and the experiences made before”. The decree paved the way for random arrests of Roma and Sinti and their deportation to concentration camps, where they were supposed to be made available for the “race research” of Ritter and his employees.

While the police began with numerous arrests according to the decree, plans for a collective camp for Roma and Sinti were discussed at the social agency of the city of Hamburg. Not until September 22nd, 1939, though, did the Hamburg Senate finally decide on creating a “Gypsy camp” in the district of Billstedt-Oiendorf. Work their began in October 1939, but was stopped again only a few days later under order of the head police councillor Bierkamp. On October 20th, 1939, he wrote:

“Yesterday we received an express letter from the SS security council, according to which all the gypsies in Germany have to report on the 25th, 26th and 27th of October 1939. All gypsies shall be removed to the East. This decree from Berlin has completely changed the circumstances.”

Picutre of Police Station where Roma and Sinti deportations began.

Mr. Gottfried „Friedel“ Weiß died in March 2003, after a short but fierce disease.
This book is dedicated to him and his brother Helmut, his sister Waltraut and his little nephew Robert.

“Your suffering, your pains
Are the scars in the flesh of the world”
(Lani “Goldschabi” Rosenberg)

Memorial Day of the first deportation of Roma and Sinti to the extermination camps of National-Socialism
May 16th, 1940

Himmler issued an express letter on April 27th, 1940, that ordered the “resettlement of the gypsies”.

This order went out to the police departments of the cities Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

The order was put into action on May 16th, 1940. Several hundred Roma and Sinti from Hamburg were deported to the extermination camps of the Nazis from the collective camp of the police in the Nöldekestraße in Hamburg.

The first station of the deportation was the fruit warehouse at the Baaken bridge in Hamburg harbour, today at the corner of Kirchenpauerstraße and Baakenwerder. The fruit warehouse does not exist anymore. The Roma and Sinti waited there for five days after they had been rounded up at the police station Nöldekestraße and brought to the fruit warehouse in busses.

The warehouse became the central collective camp for all Roma and Sinti from Northern Germany before their deportation to Poland.

Mr. Gottfried Weiß remembers:

“The whole place was surrounded by the SS men, the Gestapo people and policemen, and we had to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. We were told that they would resettle us, that we shouldn’t take anything with us and were not allowed to. They told us we would find everything there and didn’t need to pack anything. The adults anticipated nothing good and said: ‘Let’s at least pack the most essential stuff for the children.”

May 16th, 1040, at 4 o’clock in the morning, the square at the Wasmerstraße in Hamburg.