• Version 1.0
  • Publication date 15 February 2024

The German term ‘Festsetzung’ refers to the restriction imposed on Sinti and Roma in Germany on 17 October 1939, ordering them not to leave their place of residence or domicile with immediate effect. The Immobilisation Decree [Festsetzungserlass] was imposed by the Reich Security Main Office in preparation for the deportation of all people stigmatised as gypsies and gypsy Mischlinge’, which was planned to begin shortly after the beginning of World War II. The decree remained in force until the end of the war.

According to the immobilisation decree, every local police authority and gendarmerie in the Reich was required to issue a written order to the Sinti and Roma living or residing in their area of responsibility not to leave the place. In order to implement the order as quickly as possible, search days [Fahndungstage] were held from 25 to 27 October 1939. On these days, Sinti and Roma were either picked up and brought to the police station or, if their addresses were already on file, summoned in writing. The persons concerned were registered by the police and had to sign a declaration acknowledging that they would be deported to a concentration camp if they violated this requirement.

Because of the identification and racial-biological registration that went hand in hand with the arrest, those affected, once registered, could no longer escape the grasp of the persecution authorities. If they nevertheless attempted to do so, they were threatened with internment in a concentration camp, which was usually carried out.

Sinti and Roma were thus completely at the mercy of the local authorities, especially since there was no possibility of moving away and their options for action were becoming increasingly limited in view of the racial policy and the war. The consequences were serious. Since Sinti and Roma were forced to stay where they were on the day the order was issued, many were separated from their families. The enforced residence in a place where neither housing nor work was available and where, as a rule, their presence was not desired, led to segregation, often in the poorest conditions.

Everyday life was seriously impaired for all those affected, even for those who were able to continue living in their home towns. Private relationships could no longer be maintained across the city limits. Family cohesion, generally important for survival under the pressure of persecution by the Nazi regime, was made impossible; all family duties – whether caring for elders or dependent children, whether celebrating births, marriages or deaths – could no longer be carried out. The social exclusion that had already been strongly enforced since 1933 was thus further intensified. Elements of daily life that were taken for granted could no longer be realised, or only with great difficulty and depending on the attitude of the local police officers. This affected, for example, hospital stays that required leaving the city or municipal district and that were not possible without police permits.

The immobilisation also meant a dramatic deterioration in the economic situation of those affected. It was no longer possible to pursue an independent trade or occupation, and seeking employment outside one’s place of residence was only possible with the permission of the employment office. Not infrequently, such applications were rejected and those affected were forced to take up another form of paid work, usually at a lower income.

Since the police authorities exercised systematic and mostly fine-grained, even personalised control over those registered, the life of Sinti and Roma in the Reich who were not deported was lived under prison-like conditions until their liberation. They were under the complete control of the criminal or local police authorities, who could dispose of their living, working and other living conditions as they saw fit. For those affected, this meant years of psychological stress. Observing the many occasions when the criminal police arbitrarily picked up and interned individuals, they had to live and try to survive in the knowledge that they too could be snatched from their home or workplace at any moment.

In spite of this traumatising history of persecution, survivors did not receive any compensation for the years of immobilisation.


Karola Fings: Immobilisation, in: Enzyklopädie des NS-Völkermordes an den Sinti und Roma in Europa. Hg. von Karola Fings, Forschungsstelle Antiziganismus an der Universität Heidelberg, Heidelberg 15. Februar 2024. -

17. Oktober 1939In Deutschland verbietet der „Festsetzungserlass” allen Sinti:ze und Rom:nja unter Androhung einer Inhaftierung in einem Konzentrationslager den Wechsel ihres Wohn- oder Aufenthaltsortes.
25. – 27. Oktober 1939Auf staatlich angeordneten „Fahndungstagen” werden in Deutschland Tausende Sinti:ze und Rom:nja erfasst.