The Nazis’ extermination of Gypsies was nearly as complete, proportionally, as the Nazis’ extermination of European Jews. Yet the commemoration of Gypsy victims of the Holocaust has never come even close to the memorialization of Jewish victims.
In her fine book on gypsy life, Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca describes the resistance by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council to the inclusion of Roma, or gypsy, victims of the Nazis in the museum that the council supervises in Washington.
I tended to judge Wiesel for this opposition, till a few days ago, when I read his book on his father’s murder in a concentration camp, Night (1958). In it, he describes his first night in Auschwitz, after saying goodbye to his mother and one of his sisters for the last time. He and his father are moved to a barracks where Gypsy inmates assisted the German guards, or kapos. His father is suffering from colic and approaches a Gypsy to find out where the bathroom is.
Night‘s great theme is the son’s guilt at surviving while his father dies. It includes another scene of cruelty by Gypsies. I wish Wiesel could have gotten past his anger at Gypsies when he held a position of authority; and yet I find that I also excuse him.