#BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour A Gypsy in Auschwitz by Otto Rosenberg, as told to Ulrich Enzensberger and translated by Maisie Musgrave.

About the Author

Otto Rosenberg was born in East Prussia in 1927 and grew up in Berlin. He was 9 when he was sent to the Roma and Sinti camp in Marzahn, ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games, and 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He was then detained in Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps before being freed in 1945. 

In later years, Rosenberg was the chairman of the Regional Association of German Sinti and Romanies Berlin-Brandenburg and fathered seven children. He passed away in 2001.

Otto’s daughter, Petra Rosenberg, is the current Director of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Berlin-Brandenburg.

About the book

Otto Rosenberg is 9 and living in Berlin, poor but happy, when his family are first detained. All around them, Sinti and Roma families are being torn from their homes by Nazis , leaving behind schools, jobs, friends, and businesses to live in forced encampments outside the city. One by one, families are broken up, adults and children disappear or are ‘sent East’.

Otto arrives in Auschwitz aged 15 and is later transferred to Buechenwald and Bergen-Belsen. He works, scrounges food whenever he can, witnesses and suffers horrific violence and is driven close to death by illness more than once. Unbelievably, he also joins an armed revolt of prisoners who, facing the SS and certain death, refuse to back down. Somehow, through luck, sheer human will to live, or both, he survives.

The stories of Sinti and Roma suffering in Nazi Germany are all too often lost or untold. In this haunting account, Otto shares his story with a remarkable simplicity. Deeply moving, A Gypsy in Auschwitz is the incredible story of how a young Sinti boy miraculously survived the unimaginable darkness of the Holocaust.

Review

Otto is a mere nine years of age when he and his family are ripped from the comfort of their community and forced to fight to survive in the Marzahn camp. A labour camp with no housing or facilities that was filled with Sinti and Roma. They were targeted with a similar frenzy as the Jews were, because of their alleged racial impurity.

This is the story of a young boy who managed to survive the most vicious and deadly of concentration camps. A child who lost his family and friends, and yet despite his age was brave enough to try and stand up for himself and others by joining a revolt against his captors.

It’s not unusual for someone who has suffered extreme trauma to disassociate themselves from the events, which is why autobiographies and first-hand accounts can sometimes appear a little to be told or written with a lack of emotion. It’s a coping mechanism, keeping the memories and distress at bay, whilst making sure loved ones and victims are never forgotten.

What’s equally important is the intergenerational trauma – epigenetic trauma is fascinating and tragic. Imagine being so traumatised that it seeps into the very fabric of your being, your chemistry even. Post-war Holocaust generations are aware of this and the impact, despite often never being privy to the real details and finer details of said trauma.

It remains vital that the stories of Holocaust survivors are told and heard, regardless of whether they are alive or not. Documentation, eyewitness accounts and first-hand stories are pivotal, as the years pass and the younger generations are introduced to either a whitewashed version, alternative facts such as ludicrous denials or simply no information at all. 

I have read a lot of Holocaust accounts, and am simultaneously disappointed and disturbed that there are still so many facts and stories hidden in the folds of history. The Roma and Sinti persecution tends to stand in the shadow of the other persecuted groups. I think what really rattled my cage about Otto’s account was recognising the bureaucracy of the German nation, which is still a foundation of their structure today. The bureaucracy that stops the nomad community from receiving their financial dues, ergo still oppressing them with the efficiency of the Nazi party. 

The way they meticulously transcribed everything, and as we can see in this book those records and the use of that data, become relevant and remaining so for many years afterwards. Also that the way these war criminals, and they are criminals, just slid into important roles in every industry in the post-war era. No punishment or accountability, instead the victims were victimised further by having to watch the guilty live without the burden of trauma, and what’s worse they have to live with the murderers among them.

It’s an important read – one that should be taught in school and one we should be telling and retelling, so Otto and his experience never fall foul of the system that forgets and history that swallows up the voices of so many innocents. I won’t forget Otto, his family or his community.

Buy A Gypsy in Auschwitz at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Island House by Mary Considine

It’s my turn on the Blogtour The Island House by Mary Considine. ‘An unforgettable new memoir that will transport readers to the wilds of Cornwall and a remote island life.’

About the Author

Growing up in the flat landscape of Bedfordshire, Mary fell in love with Cornwall and the sea on her first visit as a small child. Distracted by the garlands of London, she spent the 90s writing and directing plays in the London and Edinburgh Fringe, and scriptwriting. 

Work included Angels, Time Out Critics Choice, The Other Half, commissioned by The Carlton Tv screenwriting initiative; and a short film The Hand Job, shortlisted for the Lloyds Bank/Channel 4 short film competition. 

The noughties were spent teaching drama in secondary schools in the hills of North Yorkshire and, in pursuit of her now husband, back in London, before realising her impossible dream of moving to St George ‘s Island in 2010.

About the book

Mary and Patrick’s dream was to live in London, have 2.4 children, the nice house, the successful jobs. But life had other plans, and one traumatic year that all came crashing down.

bruised and battered, Mary finds herself pulled towards Cornwall and dreams of St George’s Island, where she spent halcyon childhood summers. So, when an opportunity arises to become tenants of they renovate the old Island House, they grab it with both hands.

life in the island is hard, especially in winter, the sea and weather, unforgiving. But the rugged natural beauty, the friendly ghosts of previous inhabitants, and the beautiful isolation of island life being hope and purpose, as they discover a resilience they never knew they had.

Review

I think the sentence that resonated most with me was – he knows the island is calling. I think at the core of decisions to sever oneself from the societal norm and rat race, which may or may not go hand-in-hand with trauma, stress, burn-out or other great upheavals there can be an element of gut instinct. The instinct that tells us we need to readjust, re-evaluate and seek change.

The isolation seems to adhere to those lines, although in this case it can bring both peace and hardship. Imagine cutting yourself off from the extended world, where you often rely on nothing else but your own strength and stamina. Survival instinct kicks in, but perhaps also a resonance of forgotten ancestral genetic instincts.

I found the story, the memoir, quite fascinating. There must be plenty of people who think of going slightly off-grid and retreating in a way – I know I certainly have. However I am more realistic about being able to cope with the extreme situations, and reverting to more basic comforts. It’s tough, albeit that fact is obscured by the scenery and the fantastical notion one has stepped back in time and staking a claim and place in the unknown. This imaginary fantastical notion of a fantasy life doesn’t do justice to the people who actually do make these choices and live in isolated areas.

Buy The Island House at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Monoray; pub date 9th June 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Octopus Books.

#BlogTour Trouble: A memoir by Marise Gaughan

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Trouble by Marise Gaughan – a stunning literary memoir from an exceptional Irish writer and comedian.

About the Author

Marise Gaughan was born in Dublin in 1991, and began doing stand-up in the open mic nights of Los Angeles in 2016. Now living in London, she continues to perform in all the major UK and Irish clubs and festivals. 

Her award-winning debut show ‘Drowning’ premiered at the Dublin Fringe festival in 2018 and was awarded the Women’s Irish Network Arts Bursary. Se presented a weekly radio segment on Ireland’s lyric.fm during lockdown that the Irish Times called ‘edgy, honest and funny’. This is her first book. Visit marisegaughan.com

About the book

Marise was nine when she first realised there was trouble, 14 when her Dad tried to end it all, and 23 when he finally succeeded.

In a turmoil of conflicting emotions Marise, the child who is left behind, runs – from Dublin to Amsterdam to Los Angeles, leaving a trail of sex and self-destruction in her wake. Until finally, she finds herself facing what she’s become in a California psych ward, a girl imploding through trying to make sense of her father’s suicide.

In this brave and powerful memoir Marise retells her unravelling, from child to adult, she strips back her identity and her relationship with her father, layer by layer, until she starts to understand how to live with him, years after he has gone.

Written beautifully, with wit and unflinching honesty, Marise has produced one of the most profound coming-of-age memoirs of recent years, a stunning new voice in Irish writing.

Review

If you read a lot of memoirs and biographies, then you will know the difference between a memoir written with boundaries and one without. Boundaries can mean holding back for friends, family or even yourself, and there can even be a certain level of dissociation. Then there are memoirs like this one that are so open, brusque and frank, that the reader can feel all ranges of the emotions acutely.

The author reveals her journey from childhood to young adult, and the impact her relationship with her father and his subsequent suicide has on her. Coming to terms with her anger, disappointment and lack of control over the his actions, takes its toll on her and the relationships she cultivates. It’s sometimes a hard journey to comprehend that your parent may have trauma, mental health issues that lead to destructive coping mechanisms.

I had to remind myself that there is such a thing as cultural divide when it comes to the interactions between parent and child in this book – Irish banter is very much a thing unto itself. It makes snark look like high-profile sniping. In the context of this family it is also what the family feels comfortable with, where perhaps others wouldn’t.

The author has no filter, which means it can often be crude, explicit and viscerally challenging. In the same breathe it is also extremely honest, which could mean the difference between someone taking something away from this or nothing at all. I thought it was exceptional – a deep dive that will hopefully lead to some peace and healing.

Buy Trouble at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Monoray, pub date 7th April 2022 | Hardback | £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Very Bad People by Patrick Alley

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Very Bad People: The Inside Story of the Fight Against the World’s Network of Corruption by Patrick Alley, with a foreword by George Soros. ‘Thrilling corruption exposé by co-founder of Global Witness.’

About the Author

Patrick Alley co-founded Global Witness in 1995 with Charmian Gooch and Simon Taylor. Since then Global Witness has become a global leader in its field. Patrick has taken part in over fifty field investigations in South East Asia, Africa and Europe and in subsequent advocacy activities.

Patrick conceived several of Global Witness’ campaigns and focuses on corruption, conflict resources, forests and land, and environmental defenders. He is a board director of Global Witness and is involved in the organisation’s strategic leadership. Alongside his two co-founders, Patrick received the 2014 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Follow @paddy_alley on Twitter, Visit globalwitness.org

About the book

Three friends, Patrick, Charmian and Simon came together in 1993 with a joint obsession with the Cambodian civil war plus a big vision, a collective naivety, a shared anarchy, anger at injustice and a love of a good time. 

Setting up a tiny office above a junk shop in old Clerkenwell, and finding their first laptop in a filing cabinet they salvaged from a skip, they came up with an improbable scheme by which they planned to help bring down the Khmer Rouge by cutting off their funding from the illegal Thai logging trade and thus help bring the war to an end. Going undercover on the Cambodian border, with basic spy equipment, and risking their lives, against all the odds they pulled it off. Global Witness was born.

Global Witness is one of the world’s leading investigative organisations dedicated to rooting out corruption and environmental abuse around the world. Patrick Alley is co-founder of Global Witness and in his book Very Bad People: The Inside Story of the Fight Against the World’s Network of Corruption, Patrick exposes how warlords, kleptocrats, banks and governments work together to maintain a corrupt status quo, with global implications. Part memoir, part exposé, it shows us how the world really works.

Review

I’m not sure how anyone else will feel about this book after reading it, but I went away feeling disappointed at the level of destruction, depravity and greed that cements our world. In equal measures I am incredibly glad there are people like Patrick and his associates who are willing to do their bit to expose, change and throw a spanner in the machinery of these criminals – and make no mistake they are are criminals.

Simultaneously the book also puts quite a few political and historical events into perspective. The manipulations and the true core of certain skirmishes, genocides, conglomerates and heads of country and state, and their offspring – well it is an eye-opener. And if there was any doubt that Global Witness are making a mark – you only have to read the testimonials at the beginning of the book. If you’re declared an enemy of the state by certain ruthless criminal political figures, then you know you’re doing your job.

I think books like these should be part of political science, geography, history and the economic curriculum. Give new generations a true look behind the scenes. I’m sure the majority of people have no idea how few big companies run the world or that behind every conflict of a military nature there are always string-pullers with a hidden agenda. Money, profit, control, power – greed. It’s a fascinating and important read – I highly recommend it.

Buy Very Bad People at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Monoray pub date 17 Mar. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Storm Is Upon Us by Mike Rothschild

‘This is the real story of QAnon – what it is, what it means, and where it goes. And be warned – none of it is pretty.’

It’s my turn on the BlogTour The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything by Mike Rothschild. A must read for the 21st century!

About the Author

Mike Rothschild is a journalist, author, and the foremost expert in this ever-changing QAnon conspiracy theory. He is a contributing writer for the Daily Dot, where he explores the intersections between internet culture and politics through the lens of conspiracy theories. As a subject matter expert in the field of fringe beliefs, Mike has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and Yahoo – among many others. 

He is also a frequent speaker, and podcast and radio guest on the topic of conspiracy theories, including NPR’s weekly show “On the Media” and a Vice documentary. Rothschild has been  studying the QAnon phenomenon since early 2018, and was one of the first journalists not only to reveal its connections to past conspiracy theories and scams, but also to openly address its danger to the American public—and beyond. Follow @rothschildmd on Twitter

About the book

On 5th October 2017, President Trump made a cryptic off-the-cuff remark in the State Dining Room. He called this gathering of top-ranking military officials ‘the calm before the storm’ and refused to elaborate as journalist and politicos inquired further. But on the online message boards of 4chan, elaboration began all on its own. In the days that followed, an anonymous poster spun a yarn inspired by Trump’s remarks satisfied the deepest desires of MAGA-America. Did any of it come to pass? No. Did that stop people from clinging to every word they were reading, expanding its mythology and promoting the theory for years? No.

The first in-depth book on the QAnon phenomenon, The Storm is Upon Us is a guided tour through the conspiracies and cults that first fed the flowering of Q; its embrace by right-wing media and a complex of grifters, gurus, and eventually, former President Donald Trump; the rending of families whose loved ones became swept away by Q’s increasingly violent rhetoric; and ultimately, the storming of the Capitol on January 6, which revealed the full power of the venomous movement for all to see as it unfolded live on national television.

Review

QAnon and their movement are the new extremists. It is a radicalisation of thought and thought process resulting in the willingness to ignore all logic and commit crimes in the name of hive thinking. This is the bane of the 21st century and has been exacerbated in the last year and a half by the pandemic.

In combination with the movement of Q is the rise in the number of conspiracy theorists. Research studies have shown that people who believe in conspiracy theories make connections where non-believers don’t. They see patterns, which then validates the theory, at least in their minds.

The rise of Trump, his ilk and their use of fake news, fake data and misinformation is similar to the way Brexit came to pass, through manipulation and false facts. It has created even more people who believe in the oddest of theories and also those theories that are based on a kernel of truth. When you throw the world into a situation of extreme stress, worry and panic it automatically increases the number of people seeking a solution and to ease their distress. It has created hoards of people willing to flock to the dark side – and it is the dark side.

It is a cult of thought. An extremist movement with the same type of hold as a terror organisation – when they act upon their theories they become domestic terrorists. The problem is they mistake their radicalisation for a revelation.

This should be standard reading material for everyone, trying to open eyes and minds one by one. It is hard when the world around us has become so scary that any safe haven is welcomed, even if it’s a dangerous one. Kudos to Rothschild for saying it like it is.

Buy The Storm Upon Us at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Monoray pub date 22nd June 2021 | Paperback | 14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at octopusbooks.co.uk