Kinder der Landstraße

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From 1926 to 1973 the Swiss child welfare foundation Pro Juventute (founded in 1912 and still functioning) promoted and carried out, with the active co-operation of the federal, cantonal, and local authorities, the mass kidnapping of what they called the Kinder der Landstraße (children of the highways).

These Roma (or Gypsy) children were initially placed in orphanages and then some at least were fostered or adopted. The purpose was to destroy the Swiss Roma as a people: "If you want to stop nomadism you must scatter the community of the traveling people. As harsh as this may sound, there is no other way than to terminate their family structures" (Andre Siegried, initiator of the policy).

Estimates of the number of children stolen from their families range from 600 to 3,000+.

The Swiss government has apologized to the Roma and paid SFr 11,000,000 compensation, but still refuses to allow them access to the records which would enable the families to be reunited. A side effect of this policy was that a number of Roma families fled across the border into Germany, fell into the clutches of the Nazis, and were exterminated in the Shoah.

Similar policies of attempted cultural genocide were operated against Australian and Torres Strait Islander Children and Native American and Alaskan Native Children by their governments.


Lappin, Elena. "The Man with Two Heads," Granta, 66 (Summer 1999), pp. 7-65
"nettime More Weirdness from Switzerland." Available at: . Apparently based on or extracted from articles by Pierre Hazan in Le Temps, June 1998
"Patrin: Timeline of Romani History." Available at:


20th Century
21st Century
Birth Identity Disputed or Deliberately Concealed
Ethnic or Religious Identity Confused or Concealed, Racism
Exile or Persecution (religious, Political or Social)
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Formal, American/European-Type Fostering
Birth or Infancy
Pre-school Years
School-age Years, Adolescence
Child Removed from Home by Social Services
War or Persecution
Government Policy, Assimilation
Others ("Strangers")
Trans-Racial, Trans-Tribal, International or Trans-Cultural Adoption or Fostering
Institutional Care
Parents Married (or Partnered) to Each Other
Tracing Impossible or Birth Family Extinct
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