Review: The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz, by Jeremy Dronfield

This book is available from the Library

It is not a plot spoiler to say from the outset that both father and son survive the horrors of the death camps; we are told this in the Foreword. This true story is based on historical sources, on the very detailed research of all the archives available, and on the diary of Gustav Kleinmann who, defying all probability, managed to hide it from the authorities throughout their six-year ordeal in five different concentration camps. He and his son Fritz survive together; their devotion to each other is deeply moving. This fact alone makes this book stand out for me. It is not an easy read and parts of it are harrowing, but the extraordinary courage, determination and resilience of the pair, and other members of their family, kept me captivated till the end.

This is a period of history that is all too familiar to many readers, but there were many details new to me, including the dangerous work that prisoners were compelled to carry out in the quarries as they fed the stone crusher, and the situation of those tens of thousands forced into the Kellerbau tunnels at Mauthausen, which housed the Nazi top-secret jet fighter production facilities. I also learned a lot about the resistance movement within Auschwitz. Amidst the hell found in the camps, kindness, sacrifice and sheer humanity were also present. This long, challenging and very readable book certainly put into perspective the inconveniences that I am currently experiencing.