Abolition of Slavery and Homelessness

Up to this point in time, though, only few Roma had been able to escape slavery in the Balkans in the first place. For most, the situation remained unchanged until far into the 19th century. While the European Enlightenment denounced the slave trade in America, hundreds of thousands of Roma were held as slaves right in front of their own European door, especially in the different provinces of Romania and Bulgaria – only in 1864 was slavery finally abolished by law. The Roma had to pick the smaller of two evils: Remain where they were, without possession, without education, without employment and being exposed to the centuries-old prejudices of the citizens – a de facto slavery – or to move away, but to where? To a foreign land, to try their own luck, engage in odd jobs or beg for a minimum of existence?

Many chose the second way: They moved away, and their fate was similar to the fled Roma slaves, who had come to Central Europe several centuries ago. They were excluded; denied permission of residence. Professionally, they were only allowed limited activity. If their children begged for a piece of bread, they were immediately declared unwelcome as criminals and were sent back on their way, expelled and deported. Freed slaves turned into homeless people, who traveled around the countries of Europe not because of an innate desire to wander, but because no one was willing to take them in.

This new wave of Roma refugees was again met with edicts and decrees. A central police station was established in Munich in 1899 with the sole purpose of surveying the Roma. 1926 saw the creation of the Bavarian "Law for Combating Gypsies, Vagabonds and Idlers”.

This law was meant to put Cinti who owned the German citizenship for a certain amount of time into so-called “work houses”, while their children were sent to foster homes. Foreign and stateless Roma should be deported immediately, according to the law. Thus, the authorities started to separate “domestic” and “foreign” Roma, to prevent the immigration of homeless Roma refugees.