Otto Deutsch was born in Vienna in 1928 to working-class parents living in the Favoriten district, with relatives concentrated in the Leopoldstadt. The family was well integrated until 1938, when antisemitism hit them.
His father was denounced to the Nazis after the Anschluss by a close friend and neighbour, a comrade from World War I. Otto Deutsch was hurt and bewildered by his sudden ostracism at school. After his father was arrested for the second time during the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht,) his mother arranged for him to leave on a Kindertransport in July 1939, but his parents and elder sister remained behind and were later deported. In England he was cared for by a poor, devoutly Anglican family in the small Northern mining town of Morpeth. He came to London in 1944, and joined the printing trade, also becoming a tour guide and settled in Southend where he was an active member of the community.