A Gypsy In Auschwitz: How I Survived the Horrors of the ‘Forgotten Holocaust’
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Otto's story became heartbreaking even more when they were deported to Auschwitz a place no one ever wanted to come nearby, a place where you enter but you never come out. This is an important addition to the stories told by Holocaust victims and survivors, particularly at a time when far-right populism is on the rise across Europe and anti-Roma prejudice is too often ignored or overlooked. Whilst overall Otto’s story is simplistic in it’s telling, I did find parts confusing as he would be talking about his mother where she would be dead and then literally not much further on he would mention her again but she would be alive. It remains vital that the stories of Holocaust survivors are told and heard, regardless of whether they are alive or not. It’s a difficult read when you learn so much about the livelihood of living and how much these people provided and worked so hard.
I’ll start with Otto’s early memories; they were so heart warming to read and the cheeky chappy that Otto was brought a few smiles to my face. The Sinti included name of his aunts, uncles and other relatives, including his grandmother's sister and her sons.
Later, all of that was banned; they were forced into compulsory labour and received welfare payments instead. Otto will leave the camps unable to speak about his experiences and re-enter society as a voice for his people. This was very hard and sad to read, I have read many WWII books but very few talk about the gypsy (Roma) and how suddenly they were all segregated and cast away from anything they already knew just to hide them from the world. No punishment or accountability, instead the victims were victimised further by having to watch the guilty live without the burden of trauma, and what's worse they have to live with the murderers among them. Ethnic Germans come to sightsee in the camp, as "The camp caused a great deal of curiosity: lots of people would come and take photos, and on a few occasions, they sneaked into the camp itself.
The first moment was reading these words, “The world is full of terrible people, but there are always a few good men among them.It's not unusual for someone who has suffered extreme trauma to disassociate themselves from the events, which is why autobiographies and first-hand accounts can sometimes appear a little to be told or written with a lack of emotion. I have read a lot of Holocaust accounts, and am simultaneously disappointed and disturbed that there are still so many facts and stories hidden in the folds of history.
Everyone should learn and know more about the Sinti and Roma people they’re a remarkable part of history that can be so easily forgotten about due to how many lives were lost. It's a coping mechanism, keeping the memories and distress at bay, whilst making sure loved ones and victims are never forgotten. Through Otto's journey, I was introduced not only to his perspective but to those he encountered along the way from people who persecuted him and/or even tried to ignore what was happening by looking the other way. All because they were viewed as subhuman by the Aryans, and blamed for most of Germany's problems after losing WWI.
I loved his pride throughout all of it, his commitment to help all the others who have gone through the same experience. Perhaps one of the most sobering aspects of his account comes after the camps were finally liberated when he still faced barriers accessing the help and support he should have been entitled to. What's equally important is the intergenerational trauma - epigenetic trauma is fascinating and tragic. Otto lays bare the brutal cruelty of the Nazis and while the appalling conditions in concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau are well-known these days, it's still difficult to contemplate the scale of suffering and calculated, systemic murder of people they deemed to be racially inferior. Additionally, it is interesting to read his thoughts on why some people were able to endure more hardship than others.
Sinti, Rom-families, WW2, Germany, holocaust, nonfiction, memoir, memories, prison, family, survivors, 1930s, kindness, photos, victimization, survival, survivor's-guilt, genocide, historical-figures,.
I do struggle with the names of locations so I found myself googling how to pronounce the places and where they were so I could truly understand everything. But to be denied food, the love of your family, poor health and suffering so unbearable its hard to talk about. A heartbreaking yet captivating memoir from Otto Rosenberg, following his journey of being captured into the concentration camps and how he managed to gain his freedom.