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First published online July 28, 2016

Romani Refugees and the Postwar Order


Scholarship on Romani (Gypsy) migration has typically focused either on longue durée patterns of persecution and marginalization or on Roma migrants within Europe since the fall of communism. This article shows how the westward migration of Roma after the Second World War and during the early years of the Cold War breaks with several common assumptions about the history of displaced persons, refugees, and Roma alike. Contrary to claims about unbroken continuities in the persecution of European Roma, in the immediate postwar years officers of the International Refugee Organization used ‘Gypsy' as a privileged category that improved an applicant’s changes of getting support from the organization. Internationalization thus offered a brief respite from discrimination for one of the only ethnic refugee groups without its own lobby. This situation changed by the 1950s, when national refugee administrations replaced the earlier international refugee regimes established in the wake of the war. Roma became an exception at a time when West European governments were accepting asylum-seekers from Eastern Europe as part of their ongoing Cold War propaganda efforts. In this period government officials concerned with protecting national interests reverted to earlier classifications of ‘Gypsies' as nomads who were, by definition, not refugees.

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Ari Joskowicz is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and European Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Modernity of Others: Jewish Anti-Catholicism in Germany and France (Stanford University Press 2014) and co-editor of Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times (University of Pennsylvania Press 2015). He is currently working on a book on the relations between Jews and Roma during and since the Holocaust.

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Article first published online: July 28, 2016
Issue published: October 2016


  1. Cold War
  2. displaced persons
  3. International Refugee Organization
  4. migration
  5. refugees
  6. Roma and Sinti (Gypsies)

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© The Author(s) 2015.
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Published online: August 3, 2015
Published OnlineFirst: July 28, 2016
Issue published: October 2016



Ari Joskowicz


Ari Joskowicz, Vandebilt University, 390 24th Ave, South Nashville, TN 37212, USA. Email: [email protected]

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This article was published in Journal of Contemporary History.


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