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A review of Joel C. Rosenberg’s “The Auschwitz Escape”

“And don’t waste your time thinking about how to escape this place. It’s impossible. The only way out is through the chimney.”

According to block senior Gerhard Gruder, the only way out of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a Nazi concentration camp in Poland during World War II, was by dying. No prisoner had the freedom to walk out and most who tried to escape were shot by guards.

Gruder, of course, is a fictional character, and this story is only inspired by the Holocaust and the events that took place. However, Rosenberg reminds readers of the forces that helped Allied nations break down the Nazi regime and liberate the estimated 1,200 concentration camps under its control.

Many people learn the basics of the Holocaust in junior high or high school, but there is one detail that Rosenberg focuses on in this story that most people aren’t taught: It was possible to escape Auschwitz, and some people did.

Jacob Weisz, the leading fictional character, learns by the end of the story that surviving in a death camp is possible but by no means easy. With the lice, rats, disease, starvation, difficult work, and the fact that guards could beat and shoot any prisoner for no apparent reason, it was difficult to survive.


Weisz, a young Jewish man from Berlin, is first thrust into the horrors of the war during Kristallnacht, known as “The Night of Broken Glass,” when his little sister Ruthie is beaten to death. Shortly after, his mother and father are killed by Gestapo after they will not tell them where Jacob’s uncle Avraham “Avi,” who is a member of the Resistance, is hiding. Luckily, Jacob escapes from his home and locates Avi, who then recruits him into the Resistance.

From that point forward, Jacob becomes an advocate for the freedom of Jewish people. Unfortunately, after an attempt to raid a Nazi train carrying prisoners to Auschwitz, Jacob gets locked into one of the cattle cars and finds himself a prisoner, as well.

The story also tells of a Christian man, Jean-Luc “Luc” Leclerc who, along with fellow pastors and townspeople, helps rescue around 5,000 Jews from Nazi hands. Of course, no good deed can go unpunished, and Luc also is arrested and sent to Auschwitz, a place of terror and death—it’s also the place where Luc and Jacob’s fates collide.

I’m not going to lie to you: this book is long. But it is an easy read and so interesting that you will not want to put it down. I have read many Holocaust survivor books, but this one is different. This is the story of the people who escaped in order to help those still behind the electrified, barbed-wire fence. It is the story of how the “Auschwitz Protocol” came about and how the escapees helped convince allied forces that the Jewish people of Europe needed help.

Like the quote that begins the first chapter, “Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide,” this story reminds readers of the evil of the world and the noble people it takes to prevent immoral acts from destroying all that is great.

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