I’ve mentioned the author Joel Rosenberg in another blog, and he continues to be among my favorite novelists. I thought I had read all his fiction, but I happened upon a 2014 book called The Auschwitz Escape and ordered it. Most of his novels have been series, but this is a stand-alone book that is based on historical records. It’s hard to read, but totally worth it in every respect.
Rosenberg’s style of writing brings readers into a situation as though they are experiencing it themselves. The Auschwitz Escape is graphic and scary and evil, exactly as it should be. There’s no way to whitewash the Holocaust and the Nazis who performed their duties at Auschwitz with sadistic pleasure. The author gives his readers a stark look at the trains filled with Jews and Gentiles (the latter mostly political prisoners) and the arrival process where some go to the right and others to the left, never to be seen again. He describes the belching smokestacks of the crematoria, the struggle to stay alive on meager rations while being worked to death, and a faint glimmer of hope as a few people risk their lives to help the others.
From the title, you can expect an escape attempt – more than one, in fact. The men planning the escapes – both Christians and Jews– do so with precision, trying but failing to anticipate every possibility. Tension and excitement build as the story races toward its climax. Good things turn into disasters, bad things end up providing help when least expected, and you, the reader, can only breathe again when things are over.
It’s a tough story to read because Rosenberg’s words force you to feel the pain and suffering. Your eyes see the wanton disregard for life and dignity, and you’re angry, and bitter, and you pray to God nothing like this will ever happen again.