Germany / Biography

Rudolf Böhmer


Rudolf Böhmer was 15 years old when he was deported to Auschwitz in May 1944. The Criminal Investigation Department had traced the boy in a community home and arranged his deportation.

From 1934 Rudolf Böhmer lived in poor conditions together with his mother, stepfather and three sisters in Quedlinburg in the Harz Mountains. Because they were Sinti, the family suffered from numerous racial discriminations. Rudolf worried his parents as he often skipped school and committed minor thefts. At the age of eleven he was therefore committed to the Raphaelsheim, a Catholic community home in Heiligenstadt. His academic performance improved and he became particularly interested in agriculture. While Rudolf was working on his graduation, his family fell into the clutches of the prosecuting authorities. In December 1942, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler ordered all Sinti and Roma living in the German Reich to be deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp.

Three months later, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested Rudolf's parents and his sisters Elsa, Liselotte and Therese and took them to the "gypsy family camp" in Birkenau, which had just been set up. In the spring of 1944, the authorities began searching for young Sinti and Roma in the community homes. Rudolf was no longer safe. Although he lived as a laborer on a farm, he officially was still a so-called institutional pupil (German: “Anstaltszögling”). At the end of May 1944 he was arrested by CID-officers. A few days later he was deported to Birkenau. Upon his arrival, he learned that the SS had already murdered his family. In August 1944, the SS disbanded the "Gypsy Family Camp". Those considered fit for work had a chance to survive,while the others were murdered by the SS in the gas chambers. In order to exploit them as forced laborers, the SS took Rudolf with hundreds of men and boys to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. However, the SS had no use for him.

A few weeks later, together with 199 other young Sinti and Roma, they sent him back to Auschwitz, where most of the boys were murdered upon arrival. Only a few were lucky enough to survive, including Rudolf. In the turmoil of the final evacuation of the camp, he was sent to Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in early 1945. He fled a death march and briefly returned to Raphaelsheim a few months after the end of the war. Later he lived with relatives in Lower Saxony. The ongoing discrimination against Sinti and Roma in Germany made it difficult for him to establish a well-ordered life. Rudolf Böhmer was only 40 years old when he died.