Hungarian Roma during the Second World War, 1939-1945

Between 2020 and 2023, the research team of the National Archives of Hungary carried out a comprehensive investigation of records on the history of the Roma in Hungary during World War II in the framework of the Mapping the Genocide of the Roma in Hungary (IHRA Grant) project. The main focus was identifying sources related to the Hungarian aspects of the European Genocide of the Roma (Roma/Gypsy Holocaust), including records on disenfranchisement, economic restrictions, segregation, forced labour, deportations and mass murder. The research covered primarily the years 1938-1945, but the collection also includes documents from the post-war era, including documents from the People’s Court trial and investigations, as well as sources from the pre-war period (e.g. discriminatory measures following the anti-Roma decrees of 1916 and 1928) that prove the existence of discrimination against Roma long before the Nazis came to power.

The sources related to Roma history are posing specific challenges for researchers and archivists alike, due to their diverse, scattered, and fragmented nature. It derives from various factors, including the problem of the identification of ‘Roma’ sources, the destruction of evidence in the last phase of war, and the late acts of justice and remembrance. Besides, the existing finding aids provide only minimal information on this topic. Therefore, the depth of the identification and the number of explored sources varies from archive to archive. The research will continue with the involvement of additional source groups and archives.

By the spring of 2023, approximately 4,000 documents have been discovered in the Hungarian National Archives and in archives in Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, and are being processed. The database currently contains 1216 records from 14 county archives of the National Archives of Hungary as well as six archives from Romania and Ukraine.

Besides standard search functions, the database is searchable by the following topics and keywords:

Censuses, conscriptions: lists of Roma inhabitants, data on their number and social stratification, categorization (migrant, vagrant, settled, etc.), so-called Roma identity cards and other registries

“Roma policy”: decrees, proposals, concepts, political statements, newspaper articles on the ‘solution of the Roma question’ or discussing local issues

Everyday life: information on housing conditions, schooling, livelihoods, living conditions, building cases, criminal cases, family law cases, mixed marriages, legalisation, etc.

Work and employment matters: sources on employment and other means of livelihood, business licences, peddling licences, work conditions, etc.

Public health: reports, official coercive health care measures, decontamination, quarantine, raids Military service: call-ups, notices of death in action, war care, cases of widows and orphans

Labour service: sources on military (auxiliary) and civil (defence) labour service as well as forced agricultural and industrial labour

Economic restrictions: confiscation of property, restrictions on occupations and livelihoods, prohibitions of peddling and sales at fairs, prohibition of keeping horses, etc.

Residential segregation: segregation and ghettoization measures, efforts and proposals

Restrictions on personal freedom: expulsion, relocation, deportation, arrests, internment

Deportations: rounding up of Gypsies, concentration camps, documents proving transportation to German concentration camps

Local violence and mass executions

Violations of human dignity: humiliating treatment, abuse, sexual violence

Resistance: rescue and relief attempts, escape, hiding, defiance

Justice: primarily, post-war trials, including trials concerning the mass atrocities against the Roma, but also those where Roma were witnesses or possibly defendants

Hungarian Roma during the Second World War, 1939-1945