His Sixteenth Birthday

On his 16th birthday on 18 March 1945, Otto Mehrstein was in the concentration camp. The young Sinte from Alsace had been arrested in occupied Belgium in late 1943 and deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau “Gypsy Family Camp” in January 1944 along with his parents, three brothers and one sister. In the spring of 1944, the SS had transferred him and his older brothers Étienne and Antoine to the Ellrich-Juliushütte subcamp. It was there that they also brought the boys’ father Ignace Mehrstein in August 1944 after dissolving the family camp in Auschwitz.

By the time of Otto Mehrstein’s 16th birthday, however, only his brother Antoine was still alive. Étienne had already perished in July 1944, their father Ignace in November 1944. Otto and Antoine survived the concentration camp and the death marches and returned to France in the summer of 1945. They were the only members of the family left.

(Jens-Christian Wagner)

Reference: Laurent Thiery (ed.), Le livre des 9000 déportés de France à Mittelbau-Dora, Paris 2020.