Jacob manages to escape and join his uncle in his resistance efforts. When a sabotage mission goes terribly wrong, Jacob ends up trapped on a train bound for Auschwitz. Jacob's resistance efforts don't end one he reaches camp. He is selected to be a part of an escape plan to help spread the word about the death camps and warn other Jews.
Why I liked it: I think I've mentioned before that I love historical fiction. Maybe I've also mentioned my slight obsession with literature surrounding WWII and the Holocaust. If I haven't mentioned those things before, now I have and you can understand why I just had to read this. I was also recommended to me by a teacher friend's mother.
As I read the first few chapters, I struggled to continue reading. The author's writing, particularly the main character's internal monologue, felt forced. But once events unfolded and the action began, I had to keep reading. The resistance effort is fascinating, and Jacob's plan to sabotage a train bound for Auschwitz is just amazing. There are only 144 known successful escapes from Auschwitz and this is my first time reading about one, despite it being fictional. I also appreciated the author's notes at the end about fact versus fiction in the novel.
Classroom application: Your high school boys will love The Auschwitz Escape. It is full of action, adventure and a little violence (without being too gruesome). If you use literature circles in your classroom, this would be a great choice for a unit on the Holocaust, but also for the theme of heroism or survival.
The end of the novel focuses on the world's lack of response to the Holocaust despite having concrete knowledge about what was happening in the concentration camps, so this could also be used in an ELA or history unit on genocide.The resistance efforts, escapes, and attempts to warm the world would counter beliefs that Jews just passively accepted their fate and help answer your students questions, when they ask, "why didn't anyone do anything to stop this?"
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