A refugee from Nazi Germany who is a regular speaker in schools has published a book for children to counter prejudice against Gypsies.
Ruth Barnett, who came here on the Kindertransport from Berlin at the age of four in 1939, draws parallels between the Jewish and Gypsy experience in Jews and Gypsies, Myths and Realities.
“I have been going into schools for Holocaust education to tell my Kindertransport story for over a decade,” she explained, “and I don’t think it has its full value unless I link it with what we… are allowing to happen today.
“The persecution of Gypsies is over halfway to genocide. I think it is appalling how people are indifferent.”
Both Jews and Gypsies were ethnic groups without a land, she pointed out. “The Nazis persecuted both as landless people and having poisonous blood that would spoil the purity of the master race they wanted to create. That’s why six million Jews and around a million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis.”
But the fate of the Gypsies has often been ignored, she believed.
It was an “absolute myth that Gypsy survivors have not contributed to the Holocaust literature,” she added. “I have a collection of testimonies by Sinti and Roma Gypsies but nobody takes notice of them.”
She cited the recent high-profile case of a little blonde girl called Maria, who police removed from a Roma community in Greece, suspecting she had been abducted, as an example of the problems encountered by Gypsies today.
The girl had been legitimately placed by her Romani parents with another Romani family, Mrs Barnett said.
“There are plenty of blondes in Roma circles.”