Saturday, January 2, 2010


When I was a hungry child during World War II living with partisans and
others on the run from the Nazi regime, we stole from peasants who were
hoarding their food. The Catholic Church called that 'Mundraub', theft
for food, and declared it not a sin. When the partisans hunted wild boar
and rabbits in stretches of forests owned by German and Polish
aristocrats, who were the only ones allowed to hunt in their own
domains, the former called it poaching, the partisans called it 'law of
road'. When I moved from the poor to the wealthy side of the fence in
Italy after the war, the wealthy expected their servants, drawn from
within the poor, to steal a certain amount. In Sicily the poor,
exploited by absentee landlords, formed the Mafia and called theft even
murder justice. In the European proletariat theft was often accompanied
by murder. Theft is as old as civilization: it is usually a function of
poverty and hunger.

So why do so many paste that label on to the Gypsy/Roma minority, as if
theft were a Gypsy gene. Whenever I lived among Roma, I was never afraid
to leave my belongings with them. The Roma I talk to, consider having to
steal or beg to survive an act of shame. Even Hitler knew that among
nomadic Gypsies there was no crime. It was only after they were forced
off their treks into places of confinement and given only the poorest
possibilities to survive, that petty crime entered their way of life.
And petty crime it is, because, unlike theft by non-Gypsies, theirs is
of hunger and not accompanied by killings. So in the New Year let's
pull that unjust label off the Gypsy/Roma name, make sure that those who
have shared our living space for centuries are given the same rights and
opportunities. Close the gap that has separated us for so long.

1 comment:

  1. the poor always suffer the rich get off with it!
    while the theif is beaten to death !
    a robber is feared!

    while hte robbers keep getting rich, the thief are subdued further!