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By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz

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In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz comes a new memoir by Canadian survivor More than 70 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 I, the infamous “death march” in January 1945, the In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz comes a new memoir by Canadian survivor More than 70 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 I, the infamous “death march” in January 1945, the painful aftermath of liberation, 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 family compound with his parents, his two younger brothers, his baby sister, his paternal grandparents and his uncle and aunt. In the spring of1944--five and a half years after his region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after the 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 he 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 physician, 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 in the operating room. After his liberation and new trials in Communist Czechoslovakia, Eisen immigrated to Canada in 1949, where he has dedicated the last twenty-two years of his life to educating others about the Holocaust across Canada and around the world. The author will be donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding.


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In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz comes a new memoir by Canadian survivor More than 70 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 I, the infamous “death march” in January 1945, the In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz comes a new memoir by Canadian survivor More than 70 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 I, the infamous “death march” in January 1945, the painful aftermath of liberation, 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 family compound with his parents, his two younger brothers, his baby sister, his paternal grandparents and his uncle and aunt. In the spring of1944--five and a half years after his region had been annexed to Hungary and the morning after the 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 he 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 physician, 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 in the operating room. After his liberation and new trials in Communist Czechoslovakia, Eisen immigrated to Canada in 1949, where he has dedicated the last twenty-two years of his life to educating others about the Holocaust across Canada and around the world. The author will be donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding.

30 review for By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    ***** **EDITED on March 28, 2019******** This morning BY CHANCE ALONE has been declared the Winner of CANADA READS 2019! I think that you can watch the recording of this on YOUTUBE. ********** "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." - Heinrich Heine BY CHANCE ALONE:A REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF COURAGE AND SURVIVAL AT AUSCHWITZ by Max Eisen has been long listed for Canada Reads 2019. Thanks to Canada Reads for bringing this book to my attention. '"My father reached out across t ***** **EDITED on March 28, 2019******** This morning BY CHANCE ALONE has been declared the Winner of CANADA READS 2019! I think that you can watch the recording of this on YOUTUBE. ********** "Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." - Heinrich Heine BY CHANCE ALONE:A REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF COURAGE AND SURVIVAL AT AUSCHWITZ by Max Eisen has been long listed for Canada Reads 2019. Thanks to Canada Reads for bringing this book to my attention. '"My father reached out across the wire and blessed me with a classic Jewish prayer: "May G-d bless you and safeguard you. May He be gracious unto you. May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace."... Then he said, "If you survive, you must tell the world what happened here. Now go."' These last words that Max heard from his father stayed with him throughout his life. More than seventy years after the Nazi camps were liberated by the Allies, Max Eisen wrote this Holocaust memoir telling about being deported from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau, back-breaking slave labour in Auschwitz I, the "death march" of January 1945, the painful aftermath of liberation, and a journey of physical and psychological healing. BY CHANCE ALONE is Max's way of honouring his father's last request,"You must tell the world what happened here." I highly recommend this book to everyone. 5 stars⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️ "Max Eisen's important, timely memoir reminds us that horror does not happen overnight and that no one is immune to it. BY CHANCE ALONE is a testimony to the human experience of needless, senseless suffering.May we learn from it." -Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran "Of all the evils of our evil days the Holocaust is the deepest. There is nothing to place against the scale of its vast cruelty, its bestial embrace of hate and murderousness. But it is the very enormity of the Holocaust, its gargantuan horror and bottomless depredations that challenge our ability to 'take it in,' to pierce the immense shadow of its near unspeakable degradations. We need an entrance guide to this inferno, and it is here in the memoir BY CHANCE ALONE, by Max Eisen, who endured imprisonment and passage through the Auschwitz inferno as a boy. BY CHANCE ALONE is a story of great pathos, and told with directness and simplicity, of the sufferings and grief and fear of one boy in a terrible time and a terrible place." -Rex Murphy, former host of CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup

  2. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I can't possibly rate this. What I can say is that we are exceedingly LUCKY that Mr. Eisen took the time and effort to record his experience in WWII as a Jewish refugee. It's horrific to read, but necessary that he did this. I'm honoured to read his work, and embarrassed to be human, considering the unimaginable horrors that humans laid upon fellow humans in this time. I'm horrified, shocked and embarrassed. The book leaves a sickening weight in the stomach about what we are capable of.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    In his powerful memoir, Holocaust survivor Max Eisen details his early years, his internment in Auschwitz and his emigration to Canada. When the 2019 Canada Reads longlist was announced, I had hoped By Chance Alone would be selected for the shortlist.  I suppose I would have read it eventually, but in a year where the theme was “one book to move you”, By Chance Alone seemed to fit perfectly.  I look forward to Ziya Tong’s defence because I believe this is a heavy favorite to win (although, I’ve y In his powerful memoir, Holocaust survivor Max Eisen details his early years, his internment in Auschwitz and his emigration to Canada. When the 2019 Canada Reads longlist was announced, I had hoped By Chance Alone would be selected for the shortlist.  I suppose I would have read it eventually, but in a year where the theme was “one book to move you”, By Chance Alone seemed to fit perfectly.  I look forward to Ziya Tong’s defence because I believe this is a heavy favorite to win (although, I’ve yet to read the other four titles). Books detailing the Holocaust are never an easy read and Max Eisen’s account is no exception.  Like many, Max’s journey to Auschwitz is heartbreaking to say the least.  The confusion surrounding his family’s removal from their home to the absolutely horrendous travel conditions leading to their arrival in the concentration camp is heavily detailed.  The smell of death in the air coupled with the disappearance of over half of his immediate family unit set the stage for a period of time that will test the absolute limit of the human spirit and its fight for survival. By Chance Alone is the perfect title for this book.  There are several moments where Eisen’s longevity in captivity depends entirely on chance.  That isn’t to say his survival is entirely random as there are long stretches of time where he perseveres through hope alone, but the moments where he lucks into more favorable (and I use the term very loosely) living conditions repeatedly save his life.  Even after he is liberated from the Nazis, life doesn’t suddenly become magical.  There is  deep-rooted antisemitism that continues to grip Europe following the war as well as the advent of Communism in his home country of Czechoslovakia.  Leaving for a new life overseas proves difficult and his road to resettlement is not a smooth one. Obviously things work out in the end for Max, but that doesn’t make his journey any easier to digest.  By Chance Alone is a compelling story of a life lived through the sheer power of endurance.  I would not be surprised if it wins Canada Reads this year, but given its competition, it may be a difficult path to victory.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Canadian

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In May 1944 when Max Eisen was 15, he and his family (his parents, younger siblings, grandparents, uncle, and aunt) were transported in a cattle car from their home territory near the Czechoslovakian-Hungarian border to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. There were nearly forty train cars in this particular transport, and each of them was packed with a hundred people. For the three years prior to this, Max’s father and uncle had been forced to work (with no remuneration) in German labour battalions. Meanwhi In May 1944 when Max Eisen was 15, he and his family (his parents, younger siblings, grandparents, uncle, and aunt) were transported in a cattle car from their home territory near the Czechoslovakian-Hungarian border to Auschwitz II-Birkenau. There were nearly forty train cars in this particular transport, and each of them was packed with a hundred people. For the three years prior to this, Max’s father and uncle had been forced to work (with no remuneration) in German labour battalions. Meanwhile, the women, elders, and children struggled to make do at home. In August 1942, Max and those family members not doing forced labour had already been ordered, along with other Jewish families, to make an alarming three-day train journey, one whose destination was unclear. The deportees were eventually told they were being resettled on farms in Kamenets-Podolsky in western Ukraine. In fact, this is one of the places where the Einsatzgruppen—the Nazi death squads responsible for carrying out “the Holocaust by bullets”—executed Jews en masse. (Since the ongoing shooting was labour intensive and had proven “too traumatizing” to the executioners, an impersonal, more mechanized approach to the liquidation of “useless eaters” had to be devised. Hence the gas chambers and crematoria. Eisen actually provides a document in the supplemental material at the back of his book related to this. It’s a letter to Nazi officials from Karl Prufer, the inventor of some crematoria furnaces used at Auschwitz, in which Prufer requests a bonus for his work—after all, it was done at home and in his free time.) As it turned out, the 1942 train journey did not end in Kamenets-Podolsky. The Hungarian government had second thoughts about sending the transport on to the Ukrainian killing fields. The Eisens and other Jewish families were returned home for the time being. That was perhaps the first time chance worked in Max’s favour. As the title of his memoir indicates, Eisen believes that he survived by chance alone. In telling his story, he highlights the mysterious turns of events that allowed him, the only member of his immediate family, to survive the Holocaust. At times, he even uses the word “luck” to characterize his experiences. When Max arrived at Auschwitz II-Birkenau in the middle of a spring night in 1944, his mother, younger siblings, grandparents, and aunt were “selected”—for death. Max was directed to the right—to join the men’s column. For the first little while in Auschwitz I, he was in the same work unit and barracks as his father and Uncle Eugene, whom he regarded as his guardian angels. However, when his father saw that the guards had noticed the bond between the family members and were likely to engage in sadistic torment of the Eisens, he arranged for Eugene and himself to join a different work unit from Max’s. Eventually, Max’s father and uncle would be sent to the gas chambers. Before he died, Mr. Eisen was able to bestow the traditional Jewish blessing on his son. He also exhorted the boy, should he manage to survive, to tell what happened in this place. Later, a guard’s bludgeoning Max on the head for a lapse in working would prove to be another stroke of “luck” for Max. The under-kapo on the work unit took pity on him. He told the boy how to staunch the profuse bleeding and subsequently arranged for him to be taken to the camp surgery. There Max was operated on by Dr. Tadeusz Orzeszko, an extraordinary figure about whom I’d like to know more. Dr. Orezeszko was a young surgeon, a political prisoner, and a member of the Polish resistance. He had feelers out, even in Auschwitz, and apparently assisted many in the camp. (At great risk to himself, he even performed an abortion on a Polish Jewish woman, as he knew that pregnant women were immediately marked for the gas chambers.) Max’s meeting Dr. Orezeszko may be the most significant event in his life. Not only did the Polish doctor perform surgery on Max, he also intervened when the SS arrived three days post-surgery to transport Max to the gas chambers. Dr. Orezeszko ended up employing the boy as an operating room assistant. The young medical student/political prisoner who had been doing the job up to that point was about to be released, and he trained Max before leaving. Max was responsible for the disinfection and sterilization of surgical instruments and materials, as well as the sanitization of the premises between surgeries. He assisted in prepping patients for operations, was called upon to dispose of tissues and body parts, and sometimes even administered ether. His work in the operating room saved him. As a member of the medical team, he slept in the same quarters as the doctors and orderlies, and he had access to more than 300 calories’ worth of food a day. In addition to information about his medical work at Auschwitz, Eisen tells about the heavy labour required of him in the work units. He also describes the October 7, 1944 rebellion of the Sonderkommandos, the Jewish inmates forced to carry out “the most gruesome and soul-destroying job” of all: disposal of the victims of the gas chambers. The memoir goes on to detail the protracted nightmare of the “death march” during the early months of 1945, when the Nazis knew they were losing the war and evacuated Auschwitz. The liberation of the camps, the years following the war which left Max an orphan (including his time at a Jewish school in Marienbad), and the challenges he faced in getting to Canada are also covered. By Chance Alone recently won “Canada Reads”, the annual "battle of the books" competition organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Well organized, lucidly written, and accompanied by five helpful maps and other useful supplementary material, the memoir is an extraordinary testament to courage and endurance and an important historical document. In writing it, Max Eisen was able to carry out the final request of his father: to tell the world what happened.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BookHound 🐾

    What an amazing story. Despite going through all the hardships of the Auschwitz concentration camp at such a young age, Max Eisen courageously defied the odds and survived life in what has been known as the worst concentration camp of World War II. With each hardship that Max describes, the reader wonders if the next hardship would be the one that Max couldn't overcome. But through luck and the help of others, Max overcame each hardship that life put in his path and was a survivor. Ever since his What an amazing story. Despite going through all the hardships of the Auschwitz concentration camp at such a young age, Max Eisen courageously defied the odds and survived life in what has been known as the worst concentration camp of World War II. With each hardship that Max describes, the reader wonders if the next hardship would be the one that Max couldn't overcome. But through luck and the help of others, Max overcame each hardship that life put in his path and was a survivor. Ever since his father told him at the concentration camp to tell others about what happened there, Max's determination kept him alive for him to survive and to be able to tell others about his experiences and to keep the memories alive of those who experienced the hardships of Auschwitz concentration camp. Max narrates his experiences in a simple, straightforward manner and makes the reader feel like they're having a candid discussion with Max about his story. This has got to be one of the best Holocaust survivor memoirs that I've read so far. It was an emotionally hard book to read, but it was worth it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    I've read of the horrors suffered by people in the Nazi concentration camps so I knew I was in for some terrible moments in this author's life. Max Eisen lost his entire family in 1944, after they were all deported to Auschwitz from Hungary. Eisen's matter-of-fact writing in this memoir of the daily horrors and dehumanization he and other inmates suffered actually accentuates the cruelty of the people in charge of the camp, and of the horrific mindset of Hitler and everyone involved in the "Fina I've read of the horrors suffered by people in the Nazi concentration camps so I knew I was in for some terrible moments in this author's life. Max Eisen lost his entire family in 1944, after they were all deported to Auschwitz from Hungary. Eisen's matter-of-fact writing in this memoir of the daily horrors and dehumanization he and other inmates suffered actually accentuates the cruelty of the people in charge of the camp, and of the horrific mindset of Hitler and everyone involved in the "Final Solution". I kept wondering how does one survive amidst such horror; Eisen relates how he kept focusing on one small thing each day to make sure he never lost his will to live. I found it fascinating how Max kept coming so close to death during his time in Auschwitz, only to be saved unexpectedly. Like the time he was pulled aside by one of the camp doctors. These camp doctors were not involved in the sickening experiments one thinks of when one thinks of the death camps; rather, these doctors had to administer to fellow prisoners, knowing fully well that these people would likely be killed soon enough by the brutality of the Kapos, and the guards. Max and others were liberated on May 6, 1945, ironically, by a squad of African American soldiers (themselves grandchildren of slaves), part of the 761st Tank Battalion, known as the Black Panthers. Max's long struggle after liberation reminds us that survivors of war don't get to magically return to their former lives. Max suffered continued anger interspersed with some kindness amongst the Hungarian and Chechoslavkian population, illness, and great emotional trauma, before eventually making his way to Canada. This was a terrific memoir; deeply painful for Max Eisen to write. But, as he states, it's important to not forget, whether it is the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, or any of the other genocides that we visit upon each other with depressing regularity. Especially with the rising intolerance and nastiness that surrounds us, we need to remember these can lead to some truly terrible places.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shaina

    This man is my hero because he never gave in. He did it. Remarkable story under dismal circumstances. Very eye-opening. Would love to see/hear him speak.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺

    I will admit I was disappointed with three nonfiction picks on the Canada Reads shortlist this year. I was especially hesitant to read this memoir about life at Auschwitz, but you know what? We all need a good dose of reality now and then. Eisen’s story of survival is both horrible and wonderful, but perhaps even more importantly, he is telling that story and helping the world to never forget.

  9. 4 out of 5

    ❀ Susan G

    By Chance Alone truly is "a remarkable true story of courage and survival at Aushchwitz". It is hard to imagine the devastating loss and unbelievable abuse of human beings. Max "Tibor" Eisen has truly shared the experience of the concentration camp and honoured his father's last instruction. It will be difficult discussion at the Canada Reads table dealing with such serious topics in 2019 and I can't wait for the debates to begin!

  10. 4 out of 5

    ❤️

    We all know about the holocaust. It's no secret. Still, I find that whenever I read anything from a holocaust survivor, there is always something new I learn, more horrific details I hadn't yet known of, about what happened during the war and in the concentration camps. Max Eisen's memoir, which details his year in Auschwitz at fourteen/fifteen years old, is both a memoir full of the horrors we've come to know (and some we - at least I - didn't) about the holocaust as well as his unique experienc We all know about the holocaust. It's no secret. Still, I find that whenever I read anything from a holocaust survivor, there is always something new I learn, more horrific details I hadn't yet known of, about what happened during the war and in the concentration camps. Max Eisen's memoir, which details his year in Auschwitz at fourteen/fifteen years old, is both a memoir full of the horrors we've come to know (and some we - at least I - didn't) about the holocaust as well as his unique experience of unexpectedly becoming an assistant to the camp's surgeon (a Polish political prisoner) after having been sent to the makeshift "hospital" with a head wound caused by an SS guard, and how by that chance alone he was able to avoid the gas chambers long enough to see liberation. By Chance Alone is an incredibly moving story of survival - the courage of a young boy, and the perseverance that young boy went on to have as a grown man who has dedicated his life to educating others and making sure that the horrors of the holocaust he survived never happens again. And through Mr. Eisen's story we are also reminded of the millions who did not get the chance to share their stories. Every single survivor's story should be told and remembered, and so I am grateful to Max Eisen for having shared his story through this book. As far as Canada Reads 2019 goes, now that I've read all five of the shortlisted books, I can say now that I'm officially hoping that this will be our winner.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Paul Langevin

    Alice Munro, in her Selected Stories, once wrote: “A story is not like a road to follow … it's more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or Alice Munro, in her Selected Stories, once wrote: “A story is not like a road to follow … it's more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” This quote lends itself to the reading of Max Eisen's By Chance Alone, as we read about a topic that seems to have been explored at length and, in my ignorant opinion, in greater prosaic form by the likes of Levi and Wiesel. But my interest in this text aligns itself with its "sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity". It provides details of the Hungarian Jewish experience, which came much later than those of other European Jewry of the time. I also relished his time in Barrack 21, working with the Polish political prisoner Dr. Orzeszko. What a fascinating opportunity to see how these doctors, unlike their Nazi counterparts, worked against all odds to fulfill the Hippocratic Oath. "I marveled at the quick thinking and stamina of the doctors who performed under these circumstances, and I learned an important lesson about how to act in situations for which you're unprepared, and how to use the resources that are at hand"(128). It was with great personal pleasure that the Afterword explains that the good doctor actually survived the death march and the war itself. His separation from Max was disappointing for me as a reader, and the idea that Max reunited with his family brought some sense of closure. This closure was one of few in the novel as Max experiences constant upheaval and ostracization. His inability to say goodbye to his mother and siblings at the platform is mild in nature, forming a tragic juxtaposition for the reader. There is no emotional outpouring, no final gesture, no locking of eyes. "Everything happened swiftly and we had no time to think. I didn't have an opportunity to speak to my mother-nor did our eyes ever meet-and I wasn't able to say goodbye to her. We simply moved forward in a single column toward an SS officer wearing white gloves...At that moment, I'm sure Father realized that my mother and the rest of our family had been murdered soon after our arrival, but it took me a few days to understand the processes of this killing machine"(71-76). The entire novel walks forward as if in a dream, and this is where the initial weakness of the narrator's voice becomes its strength. You are expecting to be confronted by the shocking events piled upon each other like the scenes from Auschwitz, and yet it is the enormity of the bureaucratic and systemic elimination of human beings that reveals the greatest truth. We have become anesthetized to tragedy and more specifically to ideologies that threaten to chip away at the rights and freedoms of all groups. We must, as visitors to this metaphorical home Max has built, be altered by "being in this enclosed space".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Schwartz

    I can't give this terrifying book anything less than a 5 star review. The story that Max Eisen tells of his early life as a young Hungarian Jew who spent over a year in Auschwitz is horrific and graphic, but very, very real. Mr. Eisen is a Canadian citizen now, and he lets us see, in graphic detail, his journey from Moldava, Czechoslovakia to Aushwitz-Birkenau, to camps in Melk and Ebieseee and post-war Marenbad, Prague and finally Canada where he finally arrives in 1949, will make your blood ru I can't give this terrifying book anything less than a 5 star review. The story that Max Eisen tells of his early life as a young Hungarian Jew who spent over a year in Auschwitz is horrific and graphic, but very, very real. Mr. Eisen is a Canadian citizen now, and he lets us see, in graphic detail, his journey from Moldava, Czechoslovakia to Aushwitz-Birkenau, to camps in Melk and Ebieseee and post-war Marenbad, Prague and finally Canada where he finally arrives in 1949, will make your blood run cold. Young Max was only 15 when he was taken from his family home, with all the members of his family in the spring of 1944. Upon arrival in Auschwitz, after a horrendous journey of many days, Max is separated from his mother, two younger brothers and 9 month old baby sister Judit. He doesn't know that he will never see them again. His father, uncle and young Max were kept in another part of Auschwitz and used for slave labour in various work projects near the camp. Max's survival instinct is strong, and with the help of his father and uncle, he manages to keep on going, living in the horrendous conditions of Auschwitz. He finds himself alone after a few months when his father and uncle were also chosen for the gas chamber and the crematorium, but he still manages to go on. The writing in this book is simple and direct, but that makes this horrible story even more difficult to read. I was given the chance to read and review this book by the National Post Reading Society, and I am honoured that I was given this wonderful opportunity to read this heart-wrenching story. Max's incredibly difficult journey from his birthplace to Canada depicts the true strength of the human spirit. I didn't think I needed any reminders to fully understand the full extent of human depravity, but this book has enlightened me much further than I thought possible. I think everyone in the free world needs to read this book, and then we must make every effort to ensure that the absolute nightmare of the Holocaust can never occur again. I have just found out that this book has made the 2016 RBC non-fiction shortlist. Well deserved! Read it, please. It's worth it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jen Boucher

    There are countless lessons to be learned from reading this book, these are a mere handful: - Where there is an opportunity to marvel in the wonder of a true, remarkable, unbelievable survivor, do it. Which is to say, read this book. Suck it up, and do it. It will hurt deeply at times. Do it anyway. - Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. - There’s no way on earth I have anything to complain about ever again, ever ever ever. (I’ll own this lesson but if you don’t share it, well....). - There are countless lessons to be learned from reading this book, these are a mere handful: - Where there is an opportunity to marvel in the wonder of a true, remarkable, unbelievable survivor, do it. Which is to say, read this book. Suck it up, and do it. It will hurt deeply at times. Do it anyway. - Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. - There’s no way on earth I have anything to complain about ever again, ever ever ever. (I’ll own this lesson but if you don’t share it, well....). - Meditate on the gratitude always....if a person who has survived what Mr. Eisen has survived can focus on being grateful for those few people who aided in his survival of the holocaust, how can anyone ever do differently? This lesson is endless and everything.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Magdelanye

    On the day of our departure, we picked up our meager bundles and were taken to the loading area where the cattle cars were waiting. p66 In calm and measured prose, ME recounts the horrifying disintegration of his family in Auschwitz after Hungary was finally unable to protect 'their Jews', and they were deported to death and slave labour. It took him 70 years to write, during which time he married and their children had children. Still he could not forget his fathers urgent command, to survive to On the day of our departure, we picked up our meager bundles and were taken to the loading area where the cattle cars were waiting. p66 In calm and measured prose, ME recounts the horrifying disintegration of his family in Auschwitz after Hungary was finally unable to protect 'their Jews', and they were deported to death and slave labour. It took him 70 years to write, during which time he married and their children had children. Still he could not forget his fathers urgent command, to survive to tell the world, and so he has. It is a miracle and a blessing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mj

    Short Version I agree with the Quill & Quire review where Dorny Cerny writes that By Chance Alone “is an astounding narrative, though more for its substance than its style.” Eisen’s book is well worth reading, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust or have not yet read many or any books on the subject. That being said when reading memoirs, making emotional connection with the author is a personal preference. I have read other books outlining the Holocaust happenings and substance a Short Version I agree with the Quill & Quire review where Dorny Cerny writes that By Chance Alone “is an astounding narrative, though more for its substance than its style.” Eisen’s book is well worth reading, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust or have not yet read many or any books on the subject. That being said when reading memoirs, making emotional connection with the author is a personal preference. I have read other books outlining the Holocaust happenings and substance and am looking for more personalization. I would have preferred to read more emotion in Eisen’s story and for him to share further details about himself and his feelings. At times, the book felt like Eisen was writing about someone other than himself. Observational, reserved and emotionally constrained is how I would describe the writing of Eisen's experiences in his memoir. Such dispassion, is understandable given what Eisen had to endure. Perhaps he was trying to protect his own vulnerability. Nonetheless, I think making an emotional connection in a memoir is important. Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely empathetic with Eisen and his story. I just didn’t get an emotional sense of who he really is. Perhaps he did it intentionally because he seems to be a humble and private man and maybe wanted the book to be about those who were murdered and not about himself, a fortunate survivor. Cerny also says it better than I when she says “What’s missing from Eisen’s account is a sense of the emotions that must accompany his recollections. That he is still holding his feelings in check is both justified and understandable, but it does render the storytelling a bit flat.” I a felt the similar lack of emotional connection and found the writing rather straight-forward and dispassionate and decided to round down a 3 1/2 star rating to 3 stars for this reason. Longer Version By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz by Max Eisen is one of the five short listed 2019 Canada Reads books. It is a first person memoir written by Eisen about his experiences during the Holocaust. The Nazis enslave him in his early teens and take him to a concentration camp with his father and uncle. He describes how his immediate family of Hungarian Jews, a close knit family of three generations who live together, share a family farm and business, are all killed by the Nazis within a few short years. His family is murdered simply because they were Jews - first his mother, aunt, younger brother and sister. Because female adults and children were of no value for Nazi work crews and therefore not worth spending any money on to feed and keep alive, the Nazis killed them immediately. Eisen writes in a simple and direct manner and clearly describes the Nazi’s inhumanity against other human beings - important but difficult to read. Eisen, his father and uncle are taken together in a cattle car farther north, without essentials during their journey (food, water, toilet and shower facilities), crammed like cattle into cattle cars. When people die en route, they fall down on the floor and the survivors have to live on top of them. Eisen, his dad and uncle remain alive for the arduous journey until they disembark at a concentration camp where many are further tortured and murdered. Early on, Eisen’s father and uncle voluntarily separate from their son and nephew because they fear their familial closeness will result in his murder by the Nazis. Eisen’s memoir about his enslavement in his early teens and murders at his own camp were part of a mass murder of 6 million people, for no other reason than because hey were ‘members of an undesirable faith and bloodline’. Keeping this historical truth alive so this atrocity will never happen again is the last wish of Eisen’s father, which he shares after giving him his final blessing shortly before dying. Eisen’s promise to his father is a major reason he wrote his memoir and has been speaking about the Holocaust as a volunteer in many public gatherings to any audiences who would listen. He is a true activist in keeping the story of the Holocaust and its atrocities alive. I thought the included photographs added much to Eisen’s memoir - pictures of all of his family members, now diseased; and pictures of of Eisen and other camp survivors after their release - the starvation and physical weakness was so apparent from the bulging knees and other joints. There was no muscle left on the bones, just skin. The visual impact was visceral and spoke louder than words. Also, the maps of the various camps and the journeys Eisen took to and from these camps made things more real. Visually, it helped me realize how far people walked or travelled in cattle cars and also gave real names to the places that still existing today, where these atrocities occurred. Eisen experiences a number of serendipitous events and kindnesses that help keep him alive during his capture and after release jail time, - help from brave and generous people during a time when others have too a great fear, too horrible a hatred or acting only out of ignorance, selfishness and self-preservation. Eisen’s written recollection shines a bright light in a very dark story. His message and outlook is surprisingly hopeful throughout. HIs hopefulness, positivity and gratitude inspired me. He focuses on the positive aspects of his experience, almost putting aside the cruelties and hardships. His seeming propensity to accentuate the positive and fill his heart with gratitude is likely a major reason why he was able to survive and thrive. Before leaving Europe, Eisen faced more adversity and by chance found addiitonal assistance and kindness. Eisen emigrated as a young man and built a family and life for himself in Canada. In 2019 when I write this, he is 90 years of age. He continues to advocate for the remembrance of the Holocaust as his father wanted and includes trips to the concentration camps in Europe, mentoring young people, including his granddaughters to keep the Holocaust reality alive. I have read a number of memoirs and fictional accounts about the Holocaust. All have been moving in substance, like By Chance Alone, due to the atrocities described, with some being more detailed and graphic than others. However, I wanted to read more emotion in Eisen’s memoir and for him to have shared more details about himself and his feelings. I would describe the writing of his experiences as observational, reserved and emotionally constrained. At times, it seemed like Eisen was writing about someone other than himself. Such dispassion, is understandable given what Eisen had to endure. Perhaps, he is trying to protect his own vulnerability. Nonetheless, I want to make an emotional connection when reading a memoir. I was definitely empathetic with Eisen’s story but did not get an emotional sense of who he really is. It may have been intention because Eisen seems to be a humble and private man and likely wanted his book to be more about those who were murdered and not so much about himself as a survivor. Dory Cerny from a review in Quill and Quire says it better than I. “What’s missing from Eisen’s account is a sense of the emotions that must accompany his recollections. That he is still holding his feelings in check is both justified and understandable, but it does render the storytelling a bit flat.” I too felt the similar lack of emotional connection and decided to round down a 3 1/2 star rating to 3 stars for this reason. That being said my emotional connection desire is a personal preference of mine in memoirs. I have read other books outlining the Holocaust happenings and substance and am looking for more personalization. I also agree with Cerny’s comments in the Quill & Quire where she writes that By Chance Alone “is an astounding narrative, though more for its substance than its style.” Eisen’s book is worth reading, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust or haven’t read many or any books on the subject. For the excellent full Quill and Quire Review that I have been quoting, check out the link below: https://quillandquire.com/review/by-c...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Candie

    Great book! I really enjoy reading books on WWII but they always leave me so sad and depressed because the things that were done are just so extremely awful. I mean you know these things happened but you're reading it and you just cannot understand how this is real? The cruelty. I just can't even understand it. I literally cannot understand how people did and do these things to others. I feel like it is so important to remind people of what was done so that people remember how their actions or i Great book! I really enjoy reading books on WWII but they always leave me so sad and depressed because the things that were done are just so extremely awful. I mean you know these things happened but you're reading it and you just cannot understand how this is real? The cruelty. I just can't even understand it. I literally cannot understand how people did and do these things to others. I feel like it is so important to remind people of what was done so that people remember how their actions or inaction can spiral. It's so crazy to think of the strength that humans have when they need to; it's just so awful that anybody in this world ever needs to be that strong. I read this and think that there is no way I could have possibly made it through a day let alone years of this. My mind can't even comprehend it. It does however leave me with a positive feeling of deep appreciation and love for everything I have. My problems are nothing and I am so blessed. It also reinforces how important it is to treat everyone equally and just be kind. We have no idea how much one small act can help somebody. Reading about the people who literally risk their lives to show a kindness to someone else who is struggling, while they themselves are barely holding on; it brings me to tears even writing this. We all need to be more like that.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Len

    Remarkable doesn't even begin to describe this story. I read this, cover to cover, in a day, and there is so much that I could say, but I wouldn't want to let anything out for those who haven't read it yet and want to. What Max went through - got through - is nothing short of astounding. This book will break your heart, and at times help it mend, but it is just too incredibly important not to read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dani (The Pluviophile Writer)

    If this book doesn't move you, you must be a Nazi. 4/5 stars. ebook, 304 pages. Read from February 21, 2019 to February 27, 2019. WWII holocaust memoirs is a genre I never get tired of. Ellie Weisel's Night, Eva Mozes Kor's Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz and Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning top the list as some of my favourite memoirs. I love to devour books in this genre so that I never forget the past and to find strength and gratitude in their t If this book doesn't move you, you must be a Nazi. 4/5 stars. ebook, 304 pages. Read from February 21, 2019 to February 27, 2019. WWII holocaust memoirs is a genre I never get tired of. Ellie Weisel's Night, Eva Mozes Kor's Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz and Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning top the list as some of my favourite memoirs. I love to devour books in this genre so that I never forget the past and to find strength and gratitude in their trials and suffering. By Chance Alone is an award-winning book that made it into Canada Reads 2019 shortlist this year and will be defended by Ziya Tong during the debates at the end of this month. The debate theme this year is, "One Book to Move You". Could this book be the winner? Ziya Tong defending By Chance Alone by Max Eisen in the Canada Reads 2019 debates taking place on March 25-28, 2019. Max opens the book with his childhood in Czechoslovakia before the war and how idyllic his life had seemed to him then. He is barely a teenager when he enters the Nazi concentration camps. Upon arrival, Max didn't know it would the last time he would see his mother and siblings alive again. He was nearly sent the gas houses himself as he was just barely old enough off for the forced labour camps with his father. Max details the horrendous conditions that he had to endure in fine detail making it hard to believe that humans are even capable of this kind of depravity. Max's father's parting words to him would become a major part of his adult life: '"My father reached out across the wire and blessed me with a classic Jewish prayer: "May God bless you and safeguard you. May He be gracious unto you. May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace."... Then he said, "If you survive, you must tell the world what happened here. Now go."' Max managed to stay alive in the camps through sheer determination and a lot of luck but in the end, he was the only one of his family members to survive. In Max's adult years with the help of some of his grandchildren, he became an educator and speaker on the Holocaust as part of his healing process and to stay true to his father's final parting words. If this book doesn't move you, you must be a Nazi. My heart ached for Max and his family as I visualized the real trauma and the suffering he dealt with. Moving stories like Max's are important as they make sure that we appreciate all that we have and to never let us forget what happens when radical leaders have vicious and radical ideas. The persecution of the Jews didn't happen overnight. It started with the spread of malicious ideas and propaganda by a terrible leader that created and encouraged blind ignorance that was then driven by fear. Humanity takes a long to time change and heal, even after the war when Max was trying to get out of the country to Canada he learned that many of the people responsible for torturing the Jews were getting visas before him and the other victims of the Holocaust. We need Max's story, and others like him, memorialized in words so that we can ensure that we never make the same mistakes with human lives again. Max is a living reminder to be kind and considerate to your neighbours, to immigrants, and to those suffering in other countries for wars they want no part and dream of nothing more than a safe place to call home. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    A brave account of a life well lived despite being subjected to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. When his father was taken to his death he told his don to tell the world what happened here if he survived. Survive he did and he has continued to educate the world about the Holocaust through this book and the many speaking engagements he attends. I am proud that he was able to come to Canada to live. This is one of the 5 finalists for the 2019 Canada Reads debate. Whether or not it wins A brave account of a life well lived despite being subjected to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. When his father was taken to his death he told his don to tell the world what happened here if he survived. Survive he did and he has continued to educate the world about the Holocaust through this book and the many speaking engagements he attends. I am proud that he was able to come to Canada to live. This is one of the 5 finalists for the 2019 Canada Reads debate. Whether or not it wins, it is definitely a book that all Canadians should read. We must not forget what happened. This won Canada Reads 2019.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gina Morphy

    The title “By Chance Alone” truly sums up the story of Max (Tibor)’s survival in Nazi occupied Europe in the 1940s. Just when you thought that his fate was sealed, a duck egg, a helping hand or a head injury would save his life. It never gets easier reading about the atrocities faced by millions of Jews and Max offered even more insight into the horror they encountered. His father’s last words - “Tell the world what happened here” led Max to a lifetime of important storytelling and he continues The title “By Chance Alone” truly sums up the story of Max (Tibor)’s survival in Nazi occupied Europe in the 1940s. Just when you thought that his fate was sealed, a duck egg, a helping hand or a head injury would save his life. It never gets easier reading about the atrocities faced by millions of Jews and Max offered even more insight into the horror they encountered. His father’s last words - “Tell the world what happened here” led Max to a lifetime of important storytelling and he continues to make the youth of today aware of the harsh realities that so many endured.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This one we hard to rate because it’s quite far outside my normal genres and I don’t typically go for memoirs. But the fact that after the first couple chapters I was completely engrossed in it says a lot. The level of horrors that are so far beyond anything I could dream of are relayed in an accessible way through the memories of Max starting at age 15, giving the whole thing a really personal perspective. Though it’s not something I would typically reach for, I’m glad to have read it and could This one we hard to rate because it’s quite far outside my normal genres and I don’t typically go for memoirs. But the fact that after the first couple chapters I was completely engrossed in it says a lot. The level of horrors that are so far beyond anything I could dream of are relayed in an accessible way through the memories of Max starting at age 15, giving the whole thing a really personal perspective. Though it’s not something I would typically reach for, I’m glad to have read it and could see myself recommending it to others.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather(Gibby)

    This was a riveting true story regarding the author's lived experiences during and after captivity. I haven't read very much about individual journeys after liberation from the camps, and found this aspect of the story very revealing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steven Langdon

    I read this excellent book in preparation for the 2018 Compassion to Action tour organized in Poland and Israel by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC.) Max accompanied us on this harrowing visit to the Polish death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated by the Nazis in World War 2. This book is the compelling story of the grim steps by which Max found himself and his family transported from Hungary to Auschwitz, the viciousness that claimed the lives of all the rest of his famil I read this excellent book in preparation for the 2018 Compassion to Action tour organized in Poland and Israel by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC.) Max accompanied us on this harrowing visit to the Polish death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated by the Nazis in World War 2. This book is the compelling story of the grim steps by which Max found himself and his family transported from Hungary to Auschwitz, the viciousness that claimed the lives of all the rest of his family and the sheer luck that allowed him to survive as a fifteen year old despite the starvation and oppression that the slave labourers endured in the camps. Eisen's book is very well written, tracing Jewish life before the war, tracking the growing measures against Jews and then the detailed dimensions of the death camp experience. It is hard to imagine how such a process could have developed, but the vivid descriptions and varied scenes recounted in the book provide rich texture and depth about what was taking place, with all its ambiguities and contrasts that unpredictable violence could bring. How did Eisen survive? The story is striking and Max recounted it to our tour on the steps of the Auschwitz medical clinic where he was able to work as a cleaner for six months -- before again facing harsh deprivation as prisoners were force marched for many miles toward Germany as the Russians closed in from the east. The Holocaust must never be forgotten, even as survivors able to testify about it age. This excellent book provides a vivid memoir to help the world remember.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sleep Less, Read More

    Every survivor’s tale is unique and equally inspiring. Max Eisen’s is no different. Eisen tells his story so bluntly and clearly that it hits right down to your bones. He takes the reader on a journey of his life in Hungary prior to the Holocaust, to his life in Auschwitz, where his entire family was ripped away from him, to eventually finding his way to Canada where he is now a prolific speaker about the Holocaust. This book is real – Eisen doesn’t sugar coat or leave out the “details”. He is ra Every survivor’s tale is unique and equally inspiring. Max Eisen’s is no different. Eisen tells his story so bluntly and clearly that it hits right down to your bones. He takes the reader on a journey of his life in Hungary prior to the Holocaust, to his life in Auschwitz, where his entire family was ripped away from him, to eventually finding his way to Canada where he is now a prolific speaker about the Holocaust. This book is real – Eisen doesn’t sugar coat or leave out the “details”. He is raw and honestly, just like every survivors’ story should be. While I found at times that I had to put the book down and step away for a little while, his brutal honestly was what made this book a true survivors story. Read my entire review at: https://sleeplessreadmore.wordpress.c...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    It's hard not to give this book 5 stars for the content alone, content that we should all read, but many of us already have, in Elie Wiesel's horrific Holocaust memoir Night. In a similar vein, and equally horrific, comes another memoir by a then 15 year old survivor of atrocities one cannot even fathom no matter how many times we read about it, but read about it we should lest we ever forget. It's hard not to give this book 5 stars for the content alone, content that we should all read, but many of us already have, in Elie Wiesel's horrific Holocaust memoir Night. In a similar vein, and equally horrific, comes another memoir by a then 15 year old survivor of atrocities one cannot even fathom no matter how many times we read about it, but read about it we should lest we ever forget.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Simple, direct memoir of Holocaust survivor. Nothing in human history comes close to the depth of evil that is the Holocaust. As faithfully as the author describes his experiences, he cannot impart to a reader the feeling of being there. The enormity of the horror that many inflicted on many is virtually unfathomable. He promised his father to bear witness. That he has done admirably.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Like many other witness accounts of the Holocaust, this one is just as unsettling and appalling. The difference with this book is Mr. Eisen's more detailed account of how he survived once liberated from the camps.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Anderson

    No matter how many holocaust survivor memoirs I read, each one teaches me something new. "Tibor" Eisen's story is a remarkable of strength, endurance and bravery.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    As far as I am concerned, you can not have enough memoirs by those who lived though WWII and the Holocaust. Eisen's book is readable and engrossing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maggie (Magsisreadingagain)

    I have no words. Max Eisen has shared his journey through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the age of 15, revealing the deprivations and horrors that humans are willing to inflict on others, in the name of a suprematist ideology. He writes eloquently of death marches, labor camps, liberation, imprisonment in Communist Czechoslovakia, and his eventual immigration to Canada. But through the horrors, he writes of the strength of the human spirit, and the vital necessity of remembering I have no words. Max Eisen has shared his journey through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the age of 15, revealing the deprivations and horrors that humans are willing to inflict on others, in the name of a suprematist ideology. He writes eloquently of death marches, labor camps, liberation, imprisonment in Communist Czechoslovakia, and his eventual immigration to Canada. But through the horrors, he writes of the strength of the human spirit, and the vital necessity of remembering these events, to prevent recurrences. Read this book, please

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