A Gypsy in Auschwitz – How I survived the horrors of the ‘forgotten Holocaust’ by Otto Rosenberg.

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 Bergen-Belsen. 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.


Any book or novel that deals with the Nazi persecution of not just Jews but others such as gypsy’s, is difficult to read and review, simply because of the horrific nature of the story. It is impossible to read books like A Gypsy in Auschwitz and not become overcome by anger as well as horror and still be able to give a balanced review of the book. Emotion takes over as it should.

In his account of growing up under the horrors of the Holocaust, he tells his story with startling honesty, the emotion in the writing almost dispassionate, which has the adverse effect of making what we’re reading have less impact. In fact it makes it all the more horrifying, because we know, that having endured unimageable suffering, he would have as many did, found it difficult to talk about his experiences. That he did, was an act of bravery.

As you read, you know that behind the simplicity of the writing, is another layer of untold emotion, buried deep and it is utterly heartbreaking! He leaves nothing out, but writes in such a way to educate, not crush the reader. What I found so remarkable about his writing was how it brought across the psychological trauma he and so many suffered from, pushing back at the horror, lifting the shroud that he and others wrpped around themselves in order to survive what they had witnessed and endured. The trauma not ending when he was liberated, but all through his life and this led to his remarkable retelling of events within the camps. It is this trauma, still affecting him, that shapes his writing and it feels as you read that you can feel and see much it took for him to survive and eventually move on. The pain seeps into your mind and your heart and the writing and story will haunt me for a long time.

Otto Rosenberg is telling Nazi persecution of his people, to remind us that their hatred of ‘outsiders’ did not stop with the Jews, but led to the murder of many other groups. The story is powerful and emotional , one everyone should take the time to read, because as those that suffered and survived die, the risk is people will forget, so it is upon us to keep those events alive, so they never happen again. Otto Rosenberg legacy was his bravery in telling his story to the world, to overcoming the trauma he suffered, so others don’t ever have to again.

It’s power coming from the remarkable act of bravery it took to face those events again and speak out to us as readers.

You can purchase A Gypsy in Auschwitz from Amazon, Waterstones and all good independent bookshops.

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 16 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-Brandenburgand fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.

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