British Gypsies and the State

David Mayall chronicles the uneasy relations between gypsies and the British establishment.

In recent years the long history of the persecution of gypsies has begun to emerge from the shadows of the past. The story of the murder of an estimated half a million gypsies by the Nazis, for so long hidden beneath accounts of the Jewish Holocaust, is now being told in ways that reach beyond the specialist audience where it was once confined. The 'forgotten victims' of Nazi racial policies have become known to a wider public as a result of the campaign activities of the American Romany organisations, the writings of gypsy authors and activists such as Ian Hancock, articles published in popular newspapers and journals, and prime-time television programmes.

Similarly, the persecution of contemporary gypsies in Central and Eastern Europe has also received significant media attention in the wake of the recent dramatic political changes and the re-emergence of the extreme right and racism. A leading Sunday newspaper, for example, recently included a prominent feature on the position of gypsies in former Communist states.

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