The brothers Oskar Rose (1906–1968) and Vinzenz Rose (1908–1996) were born in Upper Silesia. The family had operated a cinema in Darmstadt until the National Socialists ruined their livelihood in 1937. In light of the increasing persecution of the Sinti and Roma by the Nazis, the Rose family decided in 1940 to flee, which led them, among other places, as far as Czechoslovakia. But only Oskar Rose managed to escape internment in a concentration camp. Vinzenz Rose and other family members were carted off to the Auschwitz extermination camp. In total, thirteen family members fell victim to the Nazi genocide. Anton Rose, the brothers’ father, as well as Vinzenz’ two-year old daughter died in Auschwitz, while their mother, Lisetta Rose, lost her life on a transport to the women’s concentration camp in Ravensbrück. Vinzenz Rose survived Auschwitz because of his musical talent on the zither, which he had to play for the block senior. He was transferred with a group of prisoners to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in Alsace, part of occupied France, where he was abused in typhus fever experiments. From April 1944 onwards, he was deployed as a forced labourer in the satellite camp of Neckarelz.
Meanwhile, Oskar Rose had gone into hiding in Munich and tried, under the cover name “Adler” [Eagle], to help his interned relatives. In the beginning of April 1943, he made dignitaries of the Catholic Church aware of the mass deportations of Sinti and Roma to Auschwitz. However, they did not take any steps whatsoever to oppose the systematic persecution of the minority. On 30 August 1944, Oskar Rose managed to free his brother Vinzenz from the Neckarelz camp. The two survived the end of the war living in illegality.
After 1945, Oskar and Vinzenz Rose continued to oppose the ongoing discrimination against their minority. Oskar Rose suffered from feelings of guilt towards his deceased relatives throughout his life. After Oskar’s death in 1968, Vinzenz Rose continued his efforts towards recognition of the Nazi genocide. In 1974 he erected, out of his own funds, a memorial on the premises of the former “Zigeunerfamilienlager” [Gypsy Family Camp] in Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 1978, he was the first Sinto to receive the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his efforts towards communication and reconciliation with the majority population. Oskar’s son Romani Rose assisted him in the 1970s to expand his civil rights work – starting with the “Verband Deutscher Sinti” [Union of German Sinti] in Heidelberg. This was the origin of the civil rights movement of German Sinti and Roma, which in 1982 succeeded in having the Nazi genocide politically recognised by Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Vinzenz Rose died in 1996.