Mongo’s journey starts in the town of Guntramsdorf, close to Vienna, where he was born into an Austrian Catholic Lovara Roma family on 20 May 1929.
In 1939, Mongo and his family settled in Vienna.
In March 1943, his mother and his five siblings were detained in Rossauerlände detention centre in Vienna.
Later that month, they were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland.
In April 1945, Mongo and his brother, Karl, were forced to set out on a death march
In August or September 1944, Mongo and his brother, Karl, were deported from Auschwitz-Birkenau to Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.
In early April 1945, Mongo and Karl were sent from Buchenwald to Flossenbürg concentration camp, where they were incarcerated for around 10 days. They were then forced to set out on a death march.
In May 1947, they received a letter from their mother telling them that the family was in Hohenauergasse, the 19th area of Vienna. On 20 May that year, Mongo and Karl returned to Vienna and were finally reunited with their family. Six months later, they all moved to Gymnasiumstrasse 23, in the 18th area of Vienna.
Mongo died in Vienna on 16 March 2014.
The brothers fled during a death march and ran for their lives through the forest. They were liberated by the American army near Rötz, Germany, in April 1945 and later taken in by a family there.
In 1946, they made their way back to Paletzgasse in Vienna in hope of finding their family but their search was unsuccessful.
Rossauerlände was one of thousands of detention centres used by the Nazis and their collaborators where people were detained before either being released or sent elsewhere – often a concentration camp.
Lovara (sometimes Lovari) is a word that describes a group of Roma people who originally resided in the area of present-day Hungary and Slovakia and are associated with having been horse traders. The term ‘lovara’ is related to the Hungarian word for horse – ‘ló’, meaning a horse dealer. Many Lovara Roma speak a Vlach-Romani dialect and are of Catholic faith. It is believed that they migrated to central Europe and elsewhere increasingly from the 19th century onwards.
Flossenbürg Concentration Camp was established by the Nazis in spring 1938 with an intention to detain males and particularly those classified as ‘asocial’ and criminals for forced labour. Between 1938 and 1945, approximately 100,000 ‘asocial’ prisoners, criminals, political prisoners from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, gay people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews and the Roma and Sinti people were imprisoned at Flossenbürg, of whom 16,000 were women. The SS oversaw prisoner functionaries, which resulted in corrupt and brutal administration and running of the camp. Many prisoners died due to illness, living conditions, forced labour, and arbitrary beatings and punishments as well as shootings. An estimated 30,000 prisoners died in Flossenbürg. When the US Army approached the camp, prisoners from Flossenbürg and those who had recently arrived from Buchenwald were forced to death marches. The US troops liberated the prisoners remaining in Flossenbürg on 23 April 1945.
The Bergen-Belsen camp in the north of Germany was established in 1940 as a prisoner of war camp. In 1943 it was handed to the SS, and it became a ‘detention camp’, primarily for Jewish prisoners, although Roma people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay men, ‘asocials’ and criminals were also imprisoned. Due to the Allied forces approaching other camps, the population of Bergen-Belsen grew from approximately 7,300 to over 90,000 between July 1944 and April 1945. Already inhumane conditions deteriorated, with diseases spreading rapidly. When British troops liberated Bergen-Belsen on 15 April, they found 53,000 prisoners, the majority of whom were emaciated and suffering from disease. As documented in Richard Dimbleby’s famous broadcast, thousands of dead bodies lay unburied on the ground. Another 13,000 died over the days following the liberation. Ultimately, more than 70,000 people were murdered there.
As Allied troops approached the concentration camps, the Nazis attempted to destroy evidence of their crimes, and this included evacuating the camps, forcing prisoners to walk from wherever they were in Europe towards Germany. Anyone who could not keep up was shot, and, with limited food and inadequate clothing, many thousands died on these enforced death marches.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp was established by the Nazis in 1937 and was one of the largest camps in Germany. Jews, Roma people, political prisoners, gay men Jehovah’s Witnesses and prisoners of war were imprisoned at Buchenwald, as well as ‘asocial’ prisoners who were incarcerated due to their inability to find work. Between 1937 and 1945 approximately 250,000 people were imprisoned at Buchenwald, over 56,000 of whom were killed. Many prisoners died due to illness, malnutrition, executions, medical experimentation, and the hardships of slave labour. In January 1945 approximately 10,000 prisoners – mostly Jewish – arrived at the camp after being forced to endure death marches. In early April, as US forces approached the camp, the Nazi paramilitary group SS began to force inmates on further marches out of Buchenwald. The US Army liberated 21,000 prisoners from Buchenwald on 11 April 1945.
Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was built in 1939 and was the largest women’s concentration camp. A small men’s camp was added in April 1941 and a youth camp, Uckermark, became part of Ravensbrück in June 1942. In total around 120,000 women and children and 20,000 men from over 30 different countries were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, including Jewish and Sinti and Roma people. Around 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners died in Ravensbrück, through starvation, from having been experimented on, from being worked to death, or selected for death for being considered too weak to work. A gas chamber was built in January 1945 and approximately 6,000 prisoners were gassed here. Shortly before the end of the war, the International, Danish and Swedish Red Cross evacuated around 7,500 prisoners to Sweden, Switzerland and France. Around 20,000 prisoners were taken on death marches. The Soviet Troops liberated the camp on 30 April 1945 and found around 2,000 prisoners who had been too sick to go on the death marches.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of all Nazi camps and consisted of three main camps, known as Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Auschwitz III – Monowitz-Buna. There were also around 45 sub-camps around these sites. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, and over 90% of them were Jewish.
In early 1940, Hartheim Castle in Austria was converted to be used as a killing centre for those with physical or mental disabilities (or those perceived to have these). From May 1940, people were killed using carbon dioxide in gas chambers. It is estimated that around 30,000 people were murdered in Hartheim Castle.
Historians estimate that between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti (historically often labelled as ‘Gypsies’) people were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in what is now called the Roma genocide. Many more were imprisoned, used for forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation. Roma and Sinti men, women and children were already being targeted for persecution and imprisonment before the Second World War. As the Second World War began, the genocide of Roma and Sinti people intensified – including in occupied territories such as Austria. The persecution of Roma and Sinti and the Roma genocide took place alongside the Holocaust that saw the murder of six million Jews.
Dachau Concentration Camp was established in March 1933, initially to house political opponents. Dachau was used as a model for all later concentration camps. In the 12 years of its existence, over 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Dachau, including gay men, Sinti and Roma, ‘asocials’, criminals, Jews and, later, Soviet prisoners of war. Once the Second World War started, living conditions in Dachau drastically worsened. Approximately 41,500 people were murdered in Dachau; one third of these died in the final six months of the war. Approximately 25,000 prisoners were sent on death marches as Allied troops approached. The camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945.
The Nazis planned the mass-deporation of European Jews to extermination camps in German-occupied Poland. The Jews were forced to gather at local sites, such as a synagogue or town square, and then crammed onto freight or passenger trains, with limited or no food or sanitary conditions. Journeys often lasted several days, and sometimes they took a few weeks. Many of those packed onto these trains died during the journey to the camps through starvation or overcrowding.