The Nazis built on longstanding prejudices when it came to the persecution of Gypsies. Treated as social outcasts and inferiors, Gypsies faced brutal discrimination in the Third Reich, including sterilization and detention. Then, in late 1942, Heinrich Himmler ordered the deportation of most Gypsies from Germany: from late February 1943, some 14,000 men, women and children were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau and put into the so-called Gypsy camp. Among them was the Sinto Walter Winter, who arrived with his family in spring 1943. Conditions were horrendous, as Winter wrote in his memoirs, and by the end of 1943, some 70 per cent of the prisoners were dead. Most survivors were murdered in the following year, when the SS liquidated the Gypsy camp.

056 – The Sinto Walter Winter on his arrival in Auschwitz in 1943

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Birkenau. It was March. We saw the camp, all the blocks standing there.[…] We siblings stuck together. I received the number Z3105, my brother Z3106, and my sister, among the women, the number Z3470. We also had two cousins with us. We said to ourselves, “we must remain together if we can.” After receiving a prisoner number we were allocated to a block.[…] For three months we had no water or toilets. We washed when it rained, making do in the puddles, this being our only chance of getting a little water on our faces. The women left the blocks at night to wash as best they could. Adults and children had to relieve themselves outside, to the rear of the blocks.

Source: W. Winter, Winter Time (Hatfield, 2004), pp. 46–7