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A Gypsy In Auschwitz: How I Survived the Horrors of the ‘Forgotten Holocaust’

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There was an element of luck too, of course and throughout the book there are times when it is evident just how close to death he became.

I’ve read a few Auschwitz books now, this one is more straight to the fact it doesn’t dramatize the life inside of the camp in the way that some of the other books do. Nazi anthropologists and scientists collected his genealogy, but after the war they refuse to recognise his relationship with his mother and siblings due to the lack of paperwork. I thought, ‘You lot never accepted that we were Germans, so when we get out, we’ll kill you Germans in turn. 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.Mengele's selections, lice infestations, humiliation, torture, extreme hunger, beatings and murder which happened so regularly he became numb to it.

Mengele conducted scores of experiments on Roma and Sinti children and in just a few paragraphs it's chilling to note how he won their trust; Otto himself acknowledges that he only heard about his experiments after 1945 and at the time would never have believed he had such evil intent. Otto describes his life living mostly with his loving grandmother who meted out unique "punishment" when necessary.From the early post-war period when he was once more forced to work and faced demands to show his papers, despite them having been taken from him, through to his long fight for reparations and recognition of the genocide committed by the Nazis against the Sinti and Roma and then ongoing civil rights issues, his struggle is powerfully expressed. The bureaucracy that stops the nomad community from receiving their financial dues, ergo still oppressing them with the efficiency of the Nazi party. 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. Minorities were usually treated bad throughout history, but the Romani population still have a terrible time integrating in all European countries today. Transported to other camps, through luck and determination Otto manages to live, he manages to survive to tell his story.

This is a strikingly honest book and Otto painfully discloses how the constant exposure to violence and death dehumanised everybody in the concentration camp, prisoners and guards alike. At one point he even understands he was experimented on, but he can only see the kindness in the doctors’ behaviour and feels that it counts. There was certainly a great deal of luck involved, but I believe there was something else, too - a protective hand held over me, shielding me from harm. He shares happy memories of his first holy communion and the wonderful food his teachers shared with him.Thank you to Monoray Publishers for allowing me to read A Gypsy In Auschwitz: How I Survived the Horrors of the “Forgotten Holocaust “ through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I feel almost as if he whitewashed some of his experiences to make them less gruesome to the reader.

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