Cover image for In search of the true gypsy : from Enlightenment to Final Solution
In search of the true gypsy : from Enlightenment to Final Solution
Willems, Wim.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Op zoek naar de ware zigeuner. English
Publication Information:
London ; Portland, OR : F. Cass, 1997.
Physical Description:
viii, 368 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
The Dutch original was originally presented as the author's thesis (doctoral)--Leiden.
Subject Term:
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DX145 .W5513 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



It has only been recognised tardily and with reluctance that during the Second World War hundreds of thousands of itinerants met the same horrendous fate as Jews and other victims of Nazism. Gypsies appear to appeal to the imagination simply as social outcasts and scapegoats or, in a flattering but no more illuminating light, as romantic outsiders.

In this study, contemporary notions about Gypsies are traced back as far as possible to their roots, in an attempt to lay bare why stigmatisation of gypsies, or rather groups labelled as such, has continuned from the distant past even to today.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Willems's book is a "gently pruned" translation from the Dutch edition, which first appeared in 1995 and has raised the protestations of both Gypsy leaders and Gypsy specialists ever since. Willems (Univ. of Leiden) attempts to deconstruct the concept of "Gypsy" in Europe, specifically asking how and why they have suffered stigmatization. He chooses three authors, together with their antecedents, associates, and followers, to examine in detail: Heinrich Moritz Gottlieb Grellman, whose 1783 book is considered the first comprehensive work on the subject; George Borrow, the 19th-century English Romantic; and Robert Ritter, a leading eugenicist of the Nazi era. Willems argues that a Gypsy archetype created by Grellman prevailed unchallenged and led straight through Borrow and others like him to the Gypsy Holocaust of WW II. Especially objectionable to many is Willems's denial of the idea of a single Gypsy people with a common origin in India. The Romani language, he suggests, was learned by various groups "as a kind of group ritual." This is a book sure to elicit continued controversy and should be a part of every Gypsy collection, but it will be of limited interest to nonspecialists. W. G. Lockwood University of Michigan