The book is titled, The Auschwitz Escape. It is set for release on March 18th.
Unlike any other novel I’ve written, this is a work of historical fiction. It was inspired by two sets of true and deeply-moving stories from World War II.
The first involved a small group of German Jews, members of the underground, who made it their mission to rescue their fellow Jews, and sabotage the Nazis at every turn, until they were discovered by the Gestapo, arrested and sent to concentration camps.
The second involved a small group of Protestant Christian pastors and their families in a small town in south-central France who also made it their mission to rescue Jews escaping the Nazi nightmare, and until they, too, were discovered by the Gestapo, arrested, and sent to the camps.
After visiting Auschwitz in the fall of 2011, I became intrigued with reading everything I could get my hands on about these two groups of people, talking to Holocaust experts, tracking down out-of-print books, meeting with Holocaust survivors, watching old documentaries, and trying to understand who these folks were, what they did, and why they did it.
What I would come to discover were stories of such pain and heartbreak inside the death camps, but also stories of such courage and hope and unbelievable heroism. Until I set out on this journey, I had no idea that an entire town in France was awarded “Righteous Among the Nations” status by the Israeli government for their efforts to rescue Jews fleeing the Holocaust. I had no idea that over 800 people tried to escape from Auschwitz, and that a handful of them actually succeeded. I had no idea that some of those who escaped did so not only to save their own lives, but to tell the Jewish communities of Europe, the Allied leadership in London and Washington, and the free world of the terrible atrocities being committed in the death camps, and to urge the world to act decisively to liberate the death camps before it was too late. Yet the more I learned, the more intrigued I became and the more determined I became to somehow convey their profound stories.
This spring will mark the 70th anniversary since those men — long-since forgotten by the world, if they were ever known at all — made their daring, spectacular, indeed miraculous escapes from the world’s most infamous death camp. This year will also mark the 70th anniversary of the release of their eyewitness account, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” as well as of D-Day and the Allied effort to liberate Europe and end the Third Reich once and for all. And next January — 2015 — we will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and shortly thereafter the fall of Berlin, the death of Adolf Hitler, the Allied victory and the end of World War II. Thus, I decided if there were ever time to write such a book and try to help people remember this history, to be drawn into it, to experience it emotionally and even to draw lessons from it for our time, it seemed like this was the moment.
While The Auschwitz Escape is a work of fiction, it is based on several years worth of research, including meetings with scholars at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the world’s foremost Holocaust memorial and archive. It is a very different book from anything I’ve ever written before, and was by far the most difficult novel I’ve ever attempted. But whether you’re Jewish or Christian, of another faith, or no faith at all, I hope you’ll find this journey into the heart of darkness and back again as compelling as I have. What’s more, I hope you’ll find this book to meditate on and discuss with others. Above all, my hope is this book will inspire you to press in and learn more about the real men and women whose lives inspired me, and ask yourself what you would do if darkness fell and evil rose and all that you knew and loved was swept away in a breath-taking, heart-stopping instant of time.