Alfred Lessing was born in Germany in 1921. His autobiography, Mein Leben im Versteck: Wie ein deutscher Sinto den Holocaust überlebte, published in 1993, tells of his life spent navigating his identity as a German Sinto in a homeland where he was a target of persecution. He remembers how, when he was four years old, his father was beaten to death in a racially motivated attack. After that, he lived with an uncle in northern Germany.

Lessing played jazz guitar and became a professional musician. From 1936 to 1939 he travelled with an American band before voluntarily joining the German army in an effort to hide his Sinti background at a time of escalating danger. After his identity had been revealed, he spent the Second World War imprisoned first in Lviv, Ukraine and later in Germany. Between periods of detention in Germany he played music with a KdF (‘Kraft durch Freude’/Strength through Joy) group and once went to Buchenwald to perform in a concert for the guards, but thanks to his strategic hiding of his true identity, he was spared any further exposure to the concentration camps.

After the war, he travelled and performed with his wife. Although he long sought compensation for the persecution he experienced, all that he ever received was a small stipend.


Lessing, Alfred. 1993. Mein Leben im Versteck: Wie ein deutscher Sinto den Holocaust überlebte. Düsseldorf: Zebulon.