By Chance Alone

By Chance Alone

A Remarkable True Story Of Courage And Survival At Auschwitz

Book - 2017
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In the tradition of Elie Wiesel's Night and Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz comes a bestselling new memoir by Canadian survivor

Finalist for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize

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.

Publisher: Toronto, Ontario :, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd,, [2017], [2016]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781443449281
Characteristics: xii, 276 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm.
xii, 276 pages : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 21 cm.


From Library Staff

List - Canada Reads 2019
MsHillary Feb 09, 2019

A touching memoir about a man who lived through the Nazi regime by “chance” and has since dedicated his life to educate Canadians about the Holocaust.

From the critics

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Oct 09, 2020

Should be required reading for students of History or for anyone really. We should never forget and need to be reminded even now. Especially now in 2020 and what is happening to people all over the world.

Jan 05, 2020

One of the best books I can remember reading in the last 10 years. Highly recommended, be prepared to be moved and heartbroken.

Nov 25, 2019

This is a MUST READ. I’d never heard of this book until my book club had presented it as our next read - and now I am so thankful. Such a sad reminder of the past. I felt the fear in Max’s story and the love from his family. I felt his gratitude for the many people who supported him throughout his survival. I gasped at the tortures bestowed upon innocent Jews, cried with Max, and cheered on his triumphs. His story was brave. I can’t imagine having lost what he lost. I HIGHLY recommend this read. It is a needed reminder for all of us to speak out against discrimination.

Sep 19, 2019

His voice, so clear and honest.
His voice as a boy and a person who looks back with clarity told the whole story.
Thank you Max Eisen.

Aimee M Trudel
Sep 17, 2019

Jan Reynolds' recommendation - starred 'good'

Aug 25, 2019

Outstanding read ! The author has an amazing will to live and revenant story to tell in this time of uncertainty.

Aug 11, 2019

A raw, emotional account of Max survival in one of the most brutal places on earth. A must-read for every person on earth so we do not forget our past horrors to repeat them in the future.

Jul 21, 2019

Thank you Max Eisen for your strength to share and educate. I am glad you found happiness and success.
I worry in 2019 that “vigilance to prevent hate from disrupting, distorting and endangering our society” is becoming a daily responsibility. Why must we always have to “defend the fairness and openness of a free and democratic society with rules of law to sustain it” ??
“By Chance Alone” is most deserving as 2019 Canada Reads winner.

Jul 15, 2019

What a painful but essential book to read. I can't count the number of times I cried when learning what these innocents endured at the hands of evil. What humans can do to other humans boggles the mind.

Thank-you, Max Eisen, for writing this memoir so we can try our best to "combat racism and bigotry wherever we see it (p.7)". May we never forget what you and your family and all the other innocent people endured under Hitler's evil regime. And may we never forget what courageous people did to defy their murderers. To all the Sonderkommando inmates who were shot down after blowing up Crematorium 4 and the four women hanged for supplying the explosives (Ester, Regina, Ala, and Roza), you are my heroes! You stood in front of the gallows and repeated "Be strong and courageous" to thousands of inmates. You truly were strong and courageous!!!

After reading this book, I am again incredibly thankful for our wonderful country of Canada. May we remember Max's thoughts when we look at other refugees from around the world.
"For me, Canada was simply a shining bright light, a place where I could finally succeed in my quest for physical and emotional security (p230)."

Jul 13, 2019

An excellent book which discusses the personal story of the authour's horrible experiences during the Nazi occupation and the concentration camp. Not only his survival but also his current quest to tell the story of the Auschwitz years as he promised his father (who was killed there} he would do.

It is a thought provoking book which has relevance today when we face the reality of migrants and their plight and our response.

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May 27, 2019

Tibor "Max" Eisen and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Berkenau in the spring of 1944 during the Holocaust's final phase which targeted approximately eight hundred thousand Jews living within the wartime borders of Hungary. When Max stepped onto the unloading ramp [at Auschwitz] at the age of fifteen, he was [just at] the minimum age for slave labour - a possibility for survival not [available] to his younger brothers and baby sister. Today, Auschwitz is the most iconic symbol of the Holocaust, in part because it had the largest number of victims (1.1 million, mostly Jews) , and in part because a relatively large number of survivors were left to tell their stories of suffering there. While Max joins a chorus of Auschwitz survivors ... his account of daily life in the hospital of Barrack 21 offers a wholly unique perspective where we come to know one of the heroic prison doctors: Dr. Tadeusz Orzeszko, the Polish political prisoner who mysteriously saved Max from certain death. ... Max's memoir also provides a unique perspective on "liberation" as both an acute moment of freedom and a long, arduous process of recovery marred by illness, overwhelming grief, and years of displacement and uncertainty. (From the "Afterword" by co-author Amanda Grzyb)

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