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Never Again What?
By Jett Rucker
Germany, October 1938. It's almost kick-off time for the Holocaust, which most of its fans date from the night of November 9, the infamous Kristallnacht "national pogrom" against Jewish synagogues, shops, and some homes. But less well known among devotees of the lore of Kristallnacht is the chain of events that was initiated by ... Poland.
Upon the annexation of Austria by (Nazi) Germany, Poland's government took alarm at the prospect that many of the Polish Jews then living in Vienna would flee the Nazis and return to their country of origin. The Sejm passed a law in March 1938 providing that the citizenship of expatriate Poles would lapse when they had been outside Poland for five years continuously. A return to Poland would suffice to "start the clock" over again. On October 6, the Polish government announced that this law would take effect (retrospectively) on October 29. There were at the time some 56,000 Polish Jews in the German Reich (see http://tinyurl.com/33xz53h).
By October 28, the German police had rounded up some 18,000 of these Polish Jews then residing within its borders and transported them to the Polish border, for them to return to Poland. But the Poles refused to allow these holders of Polish passports freedom of movement within Poland, instantly giving rise to refugee camps along the German-Polish border at several locations, most-notably at a small village known as Zbaszyn (http://tinyurl.com/2auztrt). These first concentration camps for Jews were Polish, not German. Poles imprisoned Polish Jews in Poland.
Flash forward, now, to 2010, to France, a member, with Romania and Bulgaria since 2007, of the European Union. The 300 or more encampments are in France, and they contain Romas (gypsies), most of whom hold Romanian and Bulgarian passports. They aren't confined in the camps, except to the extent that they would be charged fees to establish their customary mobile dwellings (trailers, or "caravans") elsewhere in facilities designed and licensed for such use. One reason such fees are so onerous for them is that French law still prohibits most employment to Romanians and Bulgarians, despite their citizens' right to travel and live in France under provisions of the EU, and French employers are in most cases apparently averse to employing Roma in any case (as are Bulgarian and Romanian employers, too)..
Pursuant to publicized policies of the Ministry of the Interior, French authorities have launched a campaign to clear the camps of their occupants and persuade them to return to the countries of their origin. In scenes reminiscent of the famous Israeli use of bulldozers on Bedouin settlements, the French authorities have razed and removed whatever remains of illegal Roma encampments after their evacuation.