News & Current Affairs

August 23, 2008

Gypsies are ‘Europe’s most hated’

Gypsies are ‘Europe’s most hated’

An effigy of a Gypsy caravan on fire during bonfire night

An effigy of a gypsy caravan is burnt, leading to racial hatred allegations

Gypsies are the most hated minority in Europe despite centuries of persecution and the Holocaust, it has been claimed.

Up to half-a-million were killed by the Nazis – but their plight is often forgotten and they remain “demonised”.

The comments were made by Dr James Smith of the National Holocaust Centre, where a conference on the treatment of gypsies and travellers is being held.

It is hoped the event will help promote greater understanding of both the gypsy and traveller communities in the UK.


Dr Smith said: “If we don’t learn from the past, we run the risk of repeating its mistakes in the future.

“Sixty years ago, after centuries of persecution, Europe’s gypsies faced extermination under the Nazis, simply because of who they were.

When hysteria is whipped up against a minority by politicians and the media, people get hurt and they are getting hurt, right now
Dr James Smith

“Up to half a million were killed. Yet even after the Holocaust, gypsies remain perhaps the most hated minority in Europe.

“When hysteria is whipped up against a minority by politicians and the media, people get hurt and they are getting hurt, right now.”

‘Overcome problems’

Delegates are being asked: “Are these Britain’s most demonised people?”

Organisers say issues covered include the Holocaust and recent media coverage of controversial traveller camps.

Among participants are National Travellers’ Action Group chairman Cliff Codona, recently seen on a television documentary about travellers with Robert Kilroy-Silk.

He said: “It’s important for people in the traveller community and the wider community to work together a lot more.

“The only way it’s going to happen is through conferences of this kind taking place, and through good media coverage of what we’re doing to overcome the problems.”

‘Memory alive’

He added: “The experience of our community during the Holocaust is often just completely overlooked, and it shouldn’t be forgotten.

“The more that can be done by places like the Holocaust Centre to keep the memory alive and to provide education about this, especially in schools, the better the prospects for equality.”

As well as negative media reports and being ostracised, the issue of attitudes to gypsies was raised during a controversial bonfire night celebration in 2003.

A caravan bearing effigies of a gypsy family and the number plate P1 KEY was burnt in Firle, East Sussex.

This lead to 12 members of a bonfire society being arrested and accused of inciting racial hatred.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ruled they would not be prosecuted because of insufficient evidence.

The bonfire society insisted there was no racist intent behind its actions.


  1. The problem of anti Gypsy racism will not be solved by yet another conference of professionals. The problem for the majority of settled people in the UK is basically a clash of cultures,poverty and ignorance. Obviously this leads to all to common anti Gypsy racism.
    The provision of sites for and by Gypsies together with access to health and education is important but the Gypsy community must also accept that they must also contribute to changing attitudes.
    The mess left after some Gypsies and travellers move on from illegal sites does cause friction, the noise of large number of travellers on some sites, The parking on playing fields, football pitches etc excacerbates the already existing tension. Gypsy organisation must learn to police their own communities to reduce this aggravation. They must also always contribute, along with non racist sympathisers to counter the all to common, hate fest of letters, often orchestrated by the BNP, in local papers whenever Gypsies appear in the news. I usually see my own and maybe one or two letters in up to 100 letter of hate and intolerance.
    Whenever a Traveller/Gypsy site is proposed, Gypsy/traveller organisation must not just appear at official meetings but go out and meet the local community, invite them to visit already existing sites where both communities live without problems.
    Equally, mainly Irish Travellers must realise that the mass visiting to hospitals,as a Alder Hey with up to 60 Travellers at a time to visit one patient does cause unnecessary friction. Similarly the mass invasion of pubs when they settle understandably annoys locals. For example,my quiet local in South London was visited by up to 40 travellers at a time. Never in smaller groups. Always a large noisy singing group ! OK at first but after the tenth Saturday night of raucous singing even I was getting a bit fed up so you can see the fertile ground created for the Gypsy/Traveller haters.
    The importance of family to Gypsies must be explained in the context of the need for sites where the more communal life style of Gypsies can continue. It is an easy argument to win with the establishment emphasis on ‘family values’. No one values the family more than the Gypsy.
    Also explaining that Gypsies do pay rent and bills on legal sites, that Gypsies have as much right to a communal life on site as large families have a right to large houses.
    It is the sum of these smaller issues dealt with within communities that will change attitudes not top down lectures and debates between professionals who are easily dismissed as ‘not having to live with the problem’.
    Ask yourself’ How would you like and deal with your kids local playground taken over by travellers and left covered in rubbish and the odd pile of crap. That is the real problem to most people. The mass murder of Gypsies is only denied or justified by the minority of fascists and BNP supporters.

    Comment by Norman Biddlecombe — August 24, 2008 @ 7:44 am

  2. Hi i am a Romani Gypsy i am also the Chair of a local group for the south west of England,
    But it dose not matter if you invite people in to your home as you will still get that minority that will use what ever you say to them aginst you, i live on my own private site with planning permition for 1 family, i did not brake any planning rules i did it all by the book, but i still encountered a lot of bed feelig and still do from some local villagers, who feel it is ok for them to say or do whatever thay like, and you have to exept it, and if you respond thay then acuse you of being agressive, but a lot,
    you would not pick up a a pin brick of paper at my home and now becouse i do not fit the steryo tipe thay say i am not realy a Gypsy, so you cant win,but a lot of local people fly tip around me
    . with regards to pubs and local people not liking a lot of Gypsy going to pub at the same time, what is the difrance in a lot of local people going to pub , the land lord is there to provide a servace to whom ever and i also thought a pub was somwere to go to enjoe your selfs,
    With regards to hospital visits British Romani Gypsies also visit to show respect to the sick person,
    With regards to a childrens park being took over by Travellers and leaving rubish i think it is a discrace but we are not all the same, but if there were legal places for these families to go i would think there would be no problem, but i do thank you as you have been fear with your coments,

    Comment by sally — August 24, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  3. Thank you Sally. I agree with everything you write. I put those questions because I know they can be easily answered and with the effort by people like yourself you can convince the majority that more regular council and private sites provide the only answer to the major conflict between Gypsies and the settled population in the UK.

    The minority of racists will always blame Gypsies/Immigrants/Blacks/Muslims/any poor people for all their problems.
    I have read you letters to various papers whenever a new Gypsy site is proposed and the amount of abuse given you. I also write in support of sites but am vastly outnumbered by the racists. As I said many more Gypsy/Travellers and other fair minded people must always counter the racist arguments and never allow them to go unchallenged. That way we can gradually bring over the majority of people who bring up the arguments I have put and you have answered.
    The broader issues of the Gypsy Holocaust needs to be raised in the context of education but the majority of people would not deny or justify it, they just don’t want a Gypsy family or families living in caravans next door or even near to them because of the fear of people with a slightly different lifestyle.
    That is the problem we face and the more people meet, listen to and read letters from Gypsies like yourself the more they will be forced to face up to and overcome their prejudice.
    Good Luck and I hope to read your letters in some local paper again soon.

    Comment by Norman Biddlecombe — August 25, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  4. Judging from the comments on a story where 2 children drowned on an italian beach while bathers yawned and were indifferent at their corpses reflects the true nature of europe.

    Comment by stephen — September 24, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

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