The Auschwitz Escape

Written by Joel C. Rosenberg
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Agnostic German Jew Jacob Weisz joins the Resistance after his family is killed during the Nazis’ rise to power.  Sent to Auschwitz, he endures and then falls in with Jean-Luc Leclerc, a French Protestant pastor in the camp, helping Jews to flee.  The pair prepare a plan to escape from the camp to tell the world what is happening beyond the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate to induce the Allies to salvage European Jewry.

Wikipedia calls Joel Rosenberg a “communications strategist,” and, indeed, a communications strategist, not a novelist, wrote this book.  Every riff of the death camps is laid out in a distancing style, shown not told, banishing emotion for those who suffered.  A character whose lack of belief we know from the beginning will be shown to be wrong-headed in fact does little heroic or bright deeds throughout and ends up where faceless manipulators – few of them Nazis – want him.  Leclerc’s blond-haired faith needs no examination and receives none.  An evangelic heroism, like French-manicured lawns and driveways and T-shirts and German Jewish hunting lodges, seems transplanted to make mid-American evangelicals feel good about their role in the Holocaust.  Nothing here helps us comprehend the genocides that have happened since, that are happening now, by saying “if these people found faith, these things wouldn’t happen to them.” The Holocaust didn’t happen to true-believing Nazis.