THE AUSCHWITZ ESCAPE by Joel Rosenberg

Joel C. Rosenberg
Tyndale Publishers
Currently Available

The Auschwitz Escape is a riveting novel by best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg. Using the Holocaust as a backdrop it becomes a psychological, political, and historical thriller intertwined with the mystery of how the concentration camp victims escape and whether they will survive. As Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 28th is observed, readers can reflect on this powerful story that is about the choices made in the course of one’s life.

Through the contrast of the characters Rosenberg highlights the different attitudes and reactions of those involved in this nightmarish part of history. The unlikely hero is a shy, obedient, seventeen year old German Jew, Jacob Weisz. He is caught in the middle of an on-going argument between his father and his uncle. His father represented those Jews who never faced up to the realities, instead coming up with rationalizations, even though there were enough warning signs to go around. On the other hand, Jacob’s Uncle Avi saw the dangers, and constantly tried to get his brother’s family to leave before it was too late. Avi, a part of the Jewish resistance movement, refused to be submissive and saw it as his duty to help Jews escape.

Readers are taken on a journey with Jacob’s character from having to endure the German anti-Semitic laws to entering and surviving Auschwitz. It is based on the April 7, 1944, true escape by Rudolf Vrba, aka Rudolf Rosenberg, and Alfred Wetzler followed by the May 27th, 1944 escape of Arnost Rosin and Czeslaw Mordowicz. As with the real escapees, Jacob writes an eyewitness report, “The Auschwitz Protocol,” detailing the extermination camps and the threat to the Hungarian Jews. Although 300,000 Hungarians Jews were killed it is believed that 120,000 were saved.

He also points out through his different characters how they all endured the same atrocities even though they had different attitudes about religion. Jacob was a secular Jew who questioned that if there is a G-d how could the Nazis get away with taking away “his name, his clothes, even his dignity. But only he could give away his will to fight.” Contrast that with Abby Cohen, who falls in love with Jacob, a religious Jew who did not doubt G-d. She is described as someone thoughtful, insightful, intuitive, full of hope, with depth and purpose. There is also the character, a Protestant pastor, Jean-Luc Leclerc, who with others living in the French town of Le Chambon helped to rescue approximately 5000 Jews. He was eventually captured, tortured, and sent to Auschwitz where he meets up with Jacob, becoming his partner during the escape.

Rosenberg believes no book can do the Holocaust justice; yet, The Auschwitz Escape comes close. In a suspenseful novel with heart wrenching characters he is able to individualize the six million who died. The readers can think of the six million simply not as numbers but people who should never be forgotten, as they form a bond both emotionally and intellectually with the characters.

Elise Cooper