– When I was young, my parents told me not to say anything about my origin. Jansen says it was to protect myself.
She lived in Norway all her life, but did not want to call herself Norwegian.
– I’m from a common country. I am spacious and really proud of it.
Today there are about 500 Norwegian Gypsies and 10,000 Roma people in Norway. Two out of five are minorities.
Their story is a black chapter in Norway’s history. Many people do not dare to speak about their background for fear of stigma.
Characterized by bias
Natalina lives in Sarpsborg and has raised a family. She says that growing up was characterized by discrimination.
– We were often in the camps, because we liked to be outside. To be accepted, I had to say I am from India, rather than say I am Roman. Sometimes we had to go. It was a bad feeling.
She still feels the same way with her today. When the family goes camping, they prefer to stay inside the car.
– I have many examples. When we enter a shopping mall, I often feel like the guards are keeping a close eye on us.
She thinks it’s improved, but thanks to more people who have dared to stand up and talk about who they are.
– We are a people who have been in Norway for several generations, and we will always be here, says Jansen.
In 2015, she worked for Norwegian authorities to make a public apology to Norwegian Roma for the way they had been treated.
The trip that changed everything
In 2010, Janssen went on vacation to Israel. It was a more personal journey than I expected. There she saw photos of her grandfather and large parts of the family taken during World War II.
Grandfather Babu was incredibly spared the atrocities of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
The story was hidden from Janssen.
– He never told his children and grandchildren about the war, he tried, but he began to cry.
When she understood why he was crying, she started crying herself.
– There were my grandparents, their parents, my brothers and my cousins on the transfer rolls from Malines, a concentration camp in Belgium. From there, they were to be sent for destruction in January 1944.
As a result of the “gypsy clause”, 68 Romanians were denied entry to Norway via Denmark in 1934. The Janssen family was among them.
More than half of the applicants were born in Norway and most had papers linking them to the state.
The Nazi authorities deported 66 Romanian Norwegians from occupied Belgium to Poland. Only four of them survived. They were not allowed to enter Norway until 1956.
– Had Norway not refused entry to my family, many relatives would most likely have survived the war.
norwegian rom / romanian
Gypsy or gypsy or gypsy or gypsy?
- Norway has had groups of Roma-speaking people for several hundred years. Today there are two main groups in the country. These describe themselves as rom and romani.
- ROM Forms the Eastern European branch of the Romani people, to difference for Northwestern Europe Romanian/ tater.
- Researchers hypothesize that both of these races have origins in India, and that they came to Norway in the 16th century. Initially, the Norwegian space was called “Gypsy”. The origin of the term is debated. In Norway, “space” has become the official name for the ethnic group today.
- During a six-year period, from 1921 to 1927, the Norwegian authorities designed a consistent “Gypsy policy”. In short, the policy was that the Norwegian state systematically registered the Roma, deprived them of their civil rights and expelled as many of them as possible, and then denied them access to the country.
- This policy was solidified by the so-called “gypsy clause”.
- Referring to the “Gypsy clause”, 68 Romanians were denied entry to Norway via Denmark in January 1934. More than half of those refused were born in Norway and most had identification documents linking them to the state.
- They sometimes traveled to the European continent, but wanted to return to their native Norway. After several expulsions, all Roman-Norwegians were deliberately expelled from the country, without the possibility of legal return.
- For the next ten years, the majority of Roman-Norwegians lived in Belgium, where they were granted temporary residence on a so-called humanitarian basis.
Denied access to Norway:
- From November 1943 to the end of January 1944, the Nazi authorities deported 66 Romanian-Norwegians from occupied Belgium to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau extermination camp. Only four of the 66 deportees survived.
- The first Norwegian Roma returned to Norway in the summer of 1954. The “Roma Clause” at that time remained unchanged in the Norwegian Aliens Act. In 1956, the “gypsy clause” was officially abolished. For some Roma families, the struggle for Norwegian citizenship continued until the 1970s.
- HL’s report Get Rid of Them (2015) documented how the Norwegian authorities pursued an anti-Gypsy policy from 1915 until 1956 characterized by racism and exclusion and how this policy contributed to the mass killing of Norwegian Roma by it. The Nazi regime during World War II.
- As a result of the report, the government came to Erna Solberg on April 8 with a frank apology to the Norwegian Romans. On the same occasion, the government promised that the Norwegian satellite minority would receive collective compensation.
Visiting the Romans from Romania:
- In addition to Roma and Gypsy families, there are several other groups of Gypsies in the country. The vast majority come from Romania. Rome’s visit to Norway began in earnest after Romania joined the European Union in 2007.
- Roma in Romania are widely discriminated against and marginalized. The main reason why so many people leave the country in search of a better life is unemployment and extreme poverty.
- The visit of the Romans was often the subject of negative attitudes in the media and public debate.
Source: Church City Mission
– Norwegian Gypsies suffer discrimination every day
When Janssen returned home from Israel, she decided to continue digging. She visited HL in hopes of shedding light on the history of Norwegian space.
Maria Schwaler Roosephol is the project coordinator at the center. She has worked with Norwegian Space since 2006.
Among other things, she prepared the report “Getting Rid of Them”, which shows what happened to the Norwegian spaces before, during and after the war. Janssen was a consultant for the report.
– I’m sure they are discriminated against every day. People can know very little about rooms in general, unfortunately. There is a small minority in Norway, says Roosevel, which means few have met them.
HL conducted an attitude survey in 2012 and 2017. In both years, Roma were found to be the minority with which Norwegians would have the least contact.
Wherever they go, the guards follow them. Maybe it’s not just a feeling they have, it’s very real. I mean, the Norwegians are missing out on a lot not getting to know the Romans.
Rosvoll believes that something must be done to stop discrimination.
If we want to be kind, we can say that prejudice comes because people have little knowledge. But seriously, discrimination is rooted in active government policy. While the media targets prejudices.
Natalina Janssen now hopes her child will not grow up with prejudice.
I will fight for my people, our history and our identity. I will do that as long as I live.
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