Monday, September 07, 2015
About the book:
A terrible darkness has fallen upon Jacob Weisz's beloved Germany. The Nazi regime, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, has surged to power and now hold Germany by the throat. All non-Aryans -- especially Jews like Jacob and his family -- are treated like dogs.
When tragedy strikes during one terrible night of violence, Jacob flees and joins rebel forces working to undermine the regime. But after a raid goes horribly wrong, Jacob finds himself in a living nightmare -- trapped in a crowded, stinking car on the train to the Auschwitz death camp.
As World War II rages and Hitler begins implementing his "final solution" to systematically and ruthlessly exterminate the Jewish people, Jacob must rely on his wits and a God he's not sure he believes in to somehow escape from Auschwitz and alert the world to the Nazi's atrocities before Fascism overtakes all of Europe. The fate of millions hangs in the balance.
I discovered this book on the best books list for historical fiction on Goodreads. Because I enjoy WWII-era European fiction, and I know the author is an excellent writer, I decided to check out the book from the library. I found the story riveting, as expected. The author follows the lives of several main characters with the occasional POV of a villain thrown in to enhance the reader's distress. I loved this book. The story was not overly detailed, but gave enough information to understand the atrocities that happened. The author took a sensitive subject and pulled me into Jacob's world. Though Jewish by birth, Jacob knew very little about his culture and faith. Disillusioned by the death of all of his immediate family, he joined his uncle in a resistance movement and got much more than he bargained for.
The botched attempt to free prisoners from a cattle car allowed some people to escape certain death, while others were shot. Jacob ended up on the cattle car locked in with the others. This portion of the book was intense and emotional as Jacob sensed the people were being deceived into thinking they were going to see family and enter a camp that while incarcerating them, was at least a bit livable. He heard the subtle warnings in the letters as each family member wrote about something that was not true in their letters. An elderly man took him under his wing and he assumed the identity of the man's son who was one of the detainees who fled when the cattle car doors were opened. When he got off the train the horrors were much worse than anticipated. Jacob couldn't help wondering where God was and why he let the Jewish people experience such abuse simply because of their ethnicity.
Soon Jacob was too busy trying to survive to be angry with God. After nearly starving to death and being beaten like the others, one of the fellow prisoners slipped him some extra food and got him a better job. He ended up helping others escape as well as eventually escaping himself. My heart was pounding as he hid from their captors and did everything he could to stay alive and avoid capture. The action increased with their running for the border, but they were both sick and starving. Without God's intervention and the love of a few Christian people, Jacob would not have survived.
When he brought evidence of the horrors of the camp and the massive killings and genocide of the Hungarian Jews, the apathy of so many people amazed him. The truth is the Russians ended up liberating the people of Auschwitz and by the time they arrived there were only a few thousand still alive. The story remained true to history and the characters were likable. Their characterization made sense. I would highly recommend this book to fans of WWII fiction. It amazes me how people survived such conditions and some lived to share their stories.
The Auschwitz Escape was published by Tyndale House and released in March 2014.