In 1939, Gustav Kleinmann, a Viennese upholsterer, and his 16-year old son Fritz were arrested by the SS, along with hundreds of other Jewish men. Torn from their family, Gustav and Fritz were sent initially to Buchenwald concentration camp.
It was the beginning of an unparalleled six-year odyssey, the story told for the first time in this book. After three years surviving in the hell of Buchenwald, the ageing Gustav and 400 other Jews were selected for transfer to Auschwitz – a certain death sentence. Fritz couldn't bear to be parted from his father. In an act of extraordinary love and courage, Fritz volunteered for the Auschwitz transport.
So began a new ordeal for them both, even more brutal and horrifying than their experiences thus far.
The Kleinmann family in 1938; left to right: Herta (age 16), father Gustav, Kurt (8), Fritz (14), mother Tini, Edith (18)
The incredible true story of Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann's unparalleled odyssey of survival is told in full for the first time by Jeremy Dronfield.
The book also tells the story of how this close, loving family suffered under the Nazi regime; how they were split apart from one another; and how those who survived eventually came back together, changed forever by what they had been through.
Based on Gustav's diary, Fritz's memories, interviews with surviving members of the family, and extensive archive research, the book stands as a testament to the courage, luck and human devotion that can keep people alive and enable them to resist and outlive their oppressors.
Brilliantly written, vivid, a powerful and often uncomfortable true story that deserves to be read and remembered. It beautifully captures the strength of the bond between a father and son.
Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Heart-wrenching, yet compelling, the vivid true story of a father and son’s survival of absolute horror. Beautifully written, deeply poignant in its detail, it is a necessary testament today in the fight against Holocaust denial.
Dr Helen Fry, historian and author of The London Cage: The Secret History of Britain's WW2 Interrogation Centre
The horrors of the Holocaust are effectively conveyed on a human scale in this gripping account … accessible even to those with no knowledge of the relevant history.
A thoroughly researched, deeply grim account of the Kleinmanns, a Viennese family devastated by the Holocaust … One of the most moving aspects of the book is the relationship between Fritz and his father; both struggled mightily to stay together, and neither was interested in abandoning the other … The resulting swift, novelistic narrative clarifies the brutality in ways that traditional histories sometimes do not.
Today, when studies are showing many Americans know little about the Holocaust, this will serve as a compelling remedy: a personal and universal account of brutality at its worst and of family devotion at its best.
Kirkus starred review