As per my reading resolutions for 2019, I am determined to read more non-fiction this year. A non-fiction book that I was incredibly fortunate to read ahead of official publication was The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield.
The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield
Publication Date: 24th January 2019
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction
Format: Review copy from Netgalley
Synopsis: Where there is family, there is hope…
Vienna, 1939. Nazi police seize Gustav Kleinmann, a Jewish upholsterer and his son, Fritz, and send the pair to Buchenwald in Germany. There began an unimaginable ordeal that saw the pair beaten, starved and forced to build the very concentration camp they were held in. When Gustav was set to be transferred to Auschwitz, a certain death sentence, his son refused to leave his side. Throughout the horrors they witnessed and the suffering they endured, there was one constant that kept them alive: the love between father and son. Based on Gustav’s secret diary and meticulous archive research, this book tells their incredible story for the first time – a story of courage and survival unparalleled in the history of the Holocaust.
Thanks to my enthusiastic GCSE history teacher, World War 2 history is one of my favourite topics, and I can never resist picking up a new book that shines a light on a previously unknown aspect of that time. When an email from Netgalley landed in my inbox, promising a “moving, heartbreaking true story of Auschwitz”, I wanted to know more. Luckily for me, I managed to be one of the first 200 readers who could instantly download a copy of The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz, and I am incredibly grateful to Michael Joseph for giving me a chance to read this book.
This is a true story. Every person in it, every event, twist and incredible coincidence, is taken from historical sources. One wishes that it were not true, that it had never occured, so terrible and painful are some of its events. But it all happened, within the memory of the still living.
Vienna, 1939. Gustav Kleinmann and his eldest son Fritz are arrested by the Nazis. Transported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, their unique bond as father and son provides both of them with the strength to survive the daily beatings and routine starvations. When Gustav is selected to be transferred to the already notorious camp Auschwitz, Fritz volunteers to be transferred as well, in order to stay by his father’s side.
Mixing historical facts with a style of storytelling, The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz is an emotional and harrowing tale of life inside hell on earth. Meticulously researched with no stone left unturned, Jeremy Dronfield brings the stories of Gustav and Fritz to life in a vivid and compelling manner. Against all odds, Gustav managed to keep a written diary of his time in the camps, which was used in conjunction with other survivor testimonials and written records to make The Boy who Followed his Father into Auschwitz into a substantial account of survival and hope. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time and research that was put into this book, and I applaud Jeremy Dronfield for his dedication in ensuring Gustav and Fritz’s stories were treated with the respect and sensitivity they deserve. It took me around 3-4 hours in total to read this book, almost double the time it took me to read last year’s bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz isn’t just an account of the Kleinmanns’ time in Auschwitz, but it also covers the period of history before their imprisonment. It includes events such as the annexation of Austria to Germany, the slow rise in anti-semitism and the Kristallnacht. At times it was not an easy read, and it goes without saying that there are scenes of a violent and upsetting nature. After I finished reading the book I had to have a moment to digest what I read, as well as to remind myself that this book wasn’t a work of fiction.
Some may argue that we do not need another book about the Holocaust in 2018, but personally, I think we need books like this more than ever. The quote above summarises it perfectly; there are still some people living today that survived this time, and this is a memory to them. We have to keep remembering the atrocities committed so we can ensure they never happen again. The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I would implore you to read this as well.