Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for A Gypsy in Auschwitz (Published By Monoray/Octopus Books 4th August 2022) By Otto Rosenberg. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part, you make being apart of this community just lovely.
A Gypsy in Auschwitz
Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’.
Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and BergenBelsen. He works, scrounges food whenever he can, witnesses and suffers horrific violence and is driven close to death by illness more than once. Unbelievably, he also joins an armed revolt of prisoners who, facing the SS and certain death, refuse to back down. Somehow, through luck, sheer human will to live, or both, he survives.
The stories of Sinti and Roma suffering in Nazi Germany are all too often lost or untold. In this haunting account, Otto shares his story with a remarkable simplicity. Deeply moving, A Gypsy in Auschwitz is the incredible story of how a young Sinti boy miraculously survived the unimaginable darkness of the Holocaust.
About The Author
Otto Rosenberg was born in East Prussia in 1927 and grew up in Berlin. He was 9 when he was sent to the Roma and Sinti camp in Marzahn, ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games, and 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He was then detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being freed in 1945. In later years, Rosenberg was the chairman of the Regional Association of German Sinti and Romanies Berlin-Brandenburg and fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.
Otto’s daughter, Petra Rosenberg, is the current Director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg.
This inspiringly powerful true story of survival follows Otto Rosenberg, a boy of 9 who is living a happy, peaceful life in Berlin with his family when in the middle of the night Stormtroopers along with the police raid his home. His family is torn apart and loaded onto trucks with other Roma and Sinti families. They are taken to Berlin-Marzahn Rastplatz were they are dumped and detained, being forcefully told that they are forbidden to leave. The camp in Marzahn is known as the gypsy camp and Otto is quickly forced to adjust to the dire living conditions. Then people start to go missing, whispers of them being sent East and before he knows it it’s Otto’s turn. When Otto arrives in Auschwitz he is 15 years old. He is later transferred and detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before finally being freed in 1945. He was the only member of his immediate family, besides his mother to survive the war. This is his story.
Narrated in first person Otto tells his story of how he was born in Draugupönen, East Prussia, in 1927 and as far back as he can remember they have been a German Sinti family. His father, Herman Herzberg was a horse dealer and his mother, Luise Herzberg was a housewife with a sideline in peddling goods and telling fortunes. His parents separated when he was around 2/3 months old and he was sent to live with his Grandmother in Berlin. Otto adores his Grandmother and was closer to her than his own parents. Wherever she went, she always took him with her. Later his sisters and brothers came to live with them too. A lot of Sinti people moved around with their caravans but his Grandmother didn’t want that sort of life. They lived a simple life on privately rented sites. It was a peaceful existence. Their final move was to Sandbacher Weg in the Altglienicke-Bonsdorf district where they rented an apartment and a plot of land. They were never rich but had what they needed. Otto learns quickly that if he is helpful and does something for someone you might get something in return. Little did he know back then that this skill helped him survive the horrors of the camps in the years to come.
Otto tells the reader of his time in Marzahn and how more and more people kept arriving bringing with them infections and diseases. He was always hungry as a boy but if he wanted something to eat he needed to work long and hard for it. At 13 years old Otto had to leave the camp’s school as his Grandmother was dependent on welfare. Otto felt that he was all grown up now and had to help support her. He found work and got along well with his workmates. However as things began to change in the outside world and a misfortune on Otto’s part of being spotted with something he should’t have taken ended him up in Moabit Prison, Berlin. His aunt Camba visited him and told him that most of his family had been removed from Marzahn. He spent 4 months in solitary confinement in a cell. When he was released he was immediately arrested again and taken back to Dircksenstrafe and told he was going where his parents had gone. He was put on a train to Auschwitz, he was nearly 16 years old. When he arrived his parents were not there.
Otto’s personal account of being taken to Grob-Auschwitz, the big main camp that you come to first is heartbreaking to read. He tells of how they are sorted right away, Sinti, Jews, Poles and put into groups. He comments on how it was a well-oiled operation as all of a sudden the children were nowhere to be seen and he was surrounded by young people about the same age as him. He later learned the unspeakable fate that awaited those who were sent to the gas chambers. Thousands upon thousands of suitcases left on the platform, never to be opened by their owners. It is beyond barbaric what happened to those innocent souls.
Otto was given a number that was tattooed onto his arm Z 6084 and assigned to the main camp where he attended bricklaying classes. After a month he was taken to the gypsy camp, Birkenau. The reader learns of the inhuman way of life that they were forced to live. They had to sleep on sacks stuffed with shredded paper and wood shavings. Lice were everywhere. They were not allowed to drink water, it was forbidden because it was contaminated with typhoid. If you were caught drinking it you were beaten to death. The food was awful and sparse. They were given small pieces of bread, stinging nettles and bits of cabbage floating in a dishwater-like slop. At one point Otto fell ill and collapsed. He bluntly says that you ether recovered or you didn’t and no one cared which it was. Those who managed to not get sick and stayed strong enough to work had a bigger chance of survival. That’s what being in the camp was all about. Survival. Otto would do all he could to make it through to the next meal, the next day, to get what he could when he could without getting caught. He looks back and keeps coming back to the same single question, why did I survive? But he doesn’t have the answer. He thinks about how his family was taken and finds it hard to find joy in the world. No one should have to suffer such pain and loss at such a young age. It broke me when Otto finds out later that his family was wiped out in the camp. His words show strength and an instinct to fight, to survive, to not give in to the evil that has consumed his life. It is a difficult book to read but these stories must be told, heard. So many people had their whole worlds destroyed in seconds and we must honour their memories, their stories. They will never be forgotten or silenced again.
I give A Gypsy in Auschwitz By Otto Rosenberg a Five out of Five paw rating.
This book had me in tears, I was a mess because it’s a true horrific story. It’s our history, it happened to thousands of innocent men, women and children. Otto’s words are honest and speak from the heart. He tells the reader how it is, he is to the point in a simple but deeply moving way. His account is shocking and you realise quickly that Otto was a strong, resilient little boy who was forced to grow up before his time and was surrounded by death daily. A powerful story of survival, you HAVE to read this dear reader, you have to!
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!
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