Yeniche people

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Two Jenische in Muotathal, Switzerland, ca. 1890
Jenische Dörfer und Lebensräume in Europa.png

The Yeniche (French spelling), or Jenische (German spelling), are the third-largest population of nomadic people in Europe, living mostly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Wallonia and parts of France. They are some of the most geographically widespread in Western Europe. They often claim to be descendents of the Celts and it is commonly believed that they are descended from Scottish Travellers.

Culture[edit]

The Jenische have been concentrated mostly around the Rhineland.

Mostly through important taboo systems, the Yeniche also differ culturally and ethnically from the Roma and are considered a different group, though they may fall under a more generic but often more loosely defined category of Gypsy. They live within extended families.

Their Yeniche language or jargon (argot, cant) is Rotwelsch enriched with distinctive vocabulary, partially based on other languages. The adjective jenisch is first attested in the early 18th century in reference to a jargon of this kind. Use as a self-designation arose by the end of the 18th century, first recorded by Johann Ulrich Schöll, who published a treatise on itinerant groups in Swabia in 1793.

Switzerland[edit]

Today 35,000 Jenische live in Switzerland, mostly concentrated around Graubünden. Only about 5,000 of them currently live the traditional traveller lifestyle.

Until the 1970s, the Swiss government had a semi-official policy of institutionalizing Yeniche parents and having their children adopted by more "normal" Swiss citizens, in an effort to eliminate Yeniche culture.[1] The name of this program was Kinder der Landstrasse ("children of the road"). In all, 590 children were taken from their parents and institutionalized in orphanages, mental institutions and even prisons.[2]

Film and television[edit]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ On Swiss Crimes against Yeniche (in German)
  2. ^ Le Temps (Geneva), December 12, 2007, "Le passé enfin écrit des enfants enlevés en Suisse", an historical study spanning the years from 1926 to 1973.