Vinzenz Rose

Vinzenz Rose is one of the few Sinti who managed to escape from a concentration camp. He was born in Schönau (Upper Silesia) on 2nd June. His parents, Anton and Lisetta Rose, later moved to Darmstadt and ran a cinema there. Vinzenz was good at school. His musical talent stood out in particular. However, his parents, who were highly respected, were forced out of business in 1937: their cinema was closed for "racial reasons", and they were prohibited from opening a textile business.

Systematic persecution of the family began three years later. Anton Rose was able to forestall an initial deportation attempt. Nevertheless, Gestapo officers were back at the door within a few days, and the family decided to flee. Their path took them to Czechoslovakia. Vinzenz Rose and his brother, Oskar, separated from their parents there. The two men were permanently on the run between 1941 and 1942. They succeeded in obtaining false identity papers in Saarbrücken in 1942 and returned to their family, who were living in Schwerin in the meantime. However, his parents and his brother, Oskar, had to leave the city in a hurry after a denunciation. Vinzenz Rose was arrested in a hotel and taken to Großstrelitz prison in Mecklenburg. From there, he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Most of the members of his family were arrested at the end of 1943 and also deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, including his parents. Anton Rose was murdered in Auschwitz. Lisetta Rose was transported to the women's concentration camp in Ravensbrück, where she died of debilitation shortly afterwards. Vinzenz Rose's two-year-old child also fell victim to the genocide in Auschwitz.

Oskar Rose

Vinzenz Rose was taken to the main camp in Auschwitz several weeks after his arrival in Birkenau. Weakened by the inhuman living conditions, he was almost sent to the gas chamber. But by some miracle he survived and was taken to Natzweiler concentration camp as a forced labourer. Once he had arrived at Natzweiler-Struthof, Eugen Haagen abused him in typhus experiments. The SS sent Vinzenz Rose with a group of 50 prisoners (including 29 Sinti and Roma) from Natzweiler to the external camp in Neckarelz on 18th April 1944. There he had to unload barges and load up trucks by the Neckar.

His brother Oskar Rose, who had been able to escape arrest, had gone underground in Heidelberg in the meantime. From a situation of illegality, he made all efforts to help his deported family members. He obtained false papers and thereby received additional food coupons for his detained relatives. When he heard that his brother, Vinzenz, had been deported to Neckarelz, he called on the camp commandant. He claimed he was an Italian war invalid and said he had promised a wounded comrade that he would pass on personal greetings to Vinzenz Rose. And he actually managed to have a brief talk with his brother.

They agreed on an escape plan, for which they were able gain the support of a conscripted Pole, who was a truck driver and transported war matériel to the tunnels. During a work shift inside the tunnel, Vinzenz Rose managed to slip away unnoticed and hide under the driver's seat of the truck and thus escape the closely guarded camp. In Heidelberg, Oskar Rose had prepared everything for their getaway in the meantime. Posing as Italian war invalids, they were able to survive underground until the end of the war.

When the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany did not recognize the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, the Rose brothers refused to accept this. Together they founded the "Verband rassisch verfolgter nichtjüdischen Glaubens" (Association of Racially Persecuted non-Jews) in 1956. The "Verband der Sinti Deutschlands" (Association of Sinti of Germany) later emerged from this - the first civil rights movement of the Sinti and Roma in Germany. Vinzenz Rose continued their work after the death of Oskar Rose. In 1974, he paid for a memorial to the murdered Sinti and Roma to be erected on the site of the camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau out of his own money.

It was not until 1982 that Helmut Schmidt, the Federal Chancellor at that time, officially recognized the genocide of the Sinti and Roma for reasons motivated by racism. Vinzenz Rose was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for his work on 4th December 1978. It was the first time in the history of Germany that a member of the Sinti and Roma had received such a high distinction. Vinzenz Rose died in 1996. The Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the Documentary and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, which was opened in the historic quarter of Heidelberg in 1997, continue the political legacy of the brothers, Oskar and Vinzenz Rose, and carry on the fight against discrimination and for human rights.