By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz
Written by Max Eisen
Published by HarperCollins Canada
On a spring morning in 1944 after his family’s Passover Seder, fifteen-year-old Max Eisen and his family were thrust upon an inescapable path to Auschwitz. Nearly all of his family died, but courage and chance allowed Max to survive and write this remarkable memoir. By Chance Alone is depressing, and induces the incredulity and anger one expects from a memoir of the Holocaust. Yet the book possesses unique power that comes from its candour, its lack of pretension, its spare prose, and the author’s sharp memory. One surprise is Eisen’s description of how hard it was for him to endure the years after the war under Communist rule before he finally found his home in Toronto. A compelling book, By Chance Alone recalls in direct and measured language how one young man confronted horrible atrocities and personal grief. It reminds us how fragile the world we know is, and how terrifying its breakup can be.
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From the Publisher’s Summary: More than seventy years after the Nazi camps were liberated by the Allies, a new Canadian Holocaust memoir details the rural Hungarian deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau, back-breaking slave labour in Auschwitz 1, the infamous “death march” of January 1945, the painful aftermath of liberation, and a journey of physical and psychological healing. Tibor “Max” Eisen was born in Moldava, Czechoslovakia, into an Orthodox Jewish family. He had an extended family of sixty members, and he lived in a compound with his parents, his two younger brothers, his baby sister, his paternal grandparents, and his uncle and aunt. In the spring of 1944—five and a half years after the region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after his family’s yearly Passover Seder—gendarmes forcibly removed Eisen and his family from their home. They were brought to a brickyard and eventually loaded onto crowded cattle cars bound for Auschwitz-Birkenau. At fifteen years of age, Eisen survived the selection process and was inducted into the camp as a slave labourer. One day, Eisen received a terrible blow from an SS guard. Severely injured, he was dumped at the hospital, where a Polish political prisoner and surgeon, Tadeusz Orzeszko, operated on him. Despite his significant injury, Orzeszko saved Eisen from certain death in the gas chambers by giving him a job as a cleaner and an assistant in the operating room. After his liberation and new obstacles in Communist Czechoslovakia, Eisen immigrated to Canada in 1949, and has dedicated the last twenty-two years of his life to educating people across Canada and around the world about the Holocaust.
was deported to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. He is a passionate speaker and educator who volunteers at the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, participates in the annual March of the Living event, and lectures for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center of Canada on their annual From Compassion to Action mission to Auschwitz. He currently resides in Toronto with his wife, Ivy.