Title: The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz
Author: Jeremy Dronfield
Published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Non Fiction, History
Rating: 4 stars
The inspiring true story of a father and son’s fight to stay together and to survive the Holocaust.
In 1939, Gustav Kleinmann, a Jewish upholsterer in Vienna, was seized by the Nazis. Along with his teenage son, Fritz, he was sent 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, Fritz 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 his and Fritz’s story for the first time – a story of courage and survival unparalleled in the history of the Holocaust.
One glance at the title of Jeremy Dronfield’s The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz will have you shaking your head in sheer disbelief. A place of certain and horrific death, why anyone would willingly choose this path of fate is unfathomable. But it did happen, to Austrian Jews Gustav Kleinmann and his faithful son, Fritz. The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is an almost unbelievable account at times of one of the worst years in our history books, the Holocaust. It is also a very personal recollection, based on smuggled diaries smuggled from camp to camp by Gustav Kleinmann. It will both unsettle and astound you.
Biographer, historian and experienced non fiction author Jeremy Dronfield has compiled an incredibly moving account of the Holocaust. I have to agree with Jeremy in his Preface, that one side of us wishes that the terrible event of the Holocaust never happened and it wasn’t true. But the other half desperately wants to give brevity and acceptance to those that were a part of the Holocaust, the survivors and those who perished. It is vital to give recognition to the memory of those who were touched by one of our most regrettable events in history. Following author Jeremy Dronfield’s Preface is a Foreword penned by the son and brother of the two men featured in this book. Kurt Kleinmann’s words held plenty of weight for me. Kurt states:
“I am grateful and appreciative that my family’s Holocaust story has been brought to the public’s attention and will not be forgotten.” The act of simply selecting this book and taking some time out of your day to read the Kleinmann’s story is an important act, working towards preserving the memory of those who remind us about how we take freedom for granted.”
Composed in four parts, beginning in Vienna, then Buchenwald, Auschwitz and ending in ‘Survival’, The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is a moving memoir. This book reads much like a novel at times, inspired by the preserved diaries of Gustav Kleinmann, the father figure of this tale. A detailed Epilogue, Bibliography and Sources page, Acknowledgements, Notes and Index characterises Jeremy Dronfield’s book. There is no denying the amount of time, effort, research and heartache that went into forming this book. We learn that The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz was formulated on the basis of personal diaries, firsthand accounts and research. Together, these sources work to support the other, so a full and very visual representation of what happened to the Kleinmann family forms. There were many moments where I felt that this book could be easily transferred to the screen and beamed across cinemas worldwide.
In a book that deals with such a grim and heartbreaking subject matter it is hard to develop a sense of hope, but The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is a story of survival, against all odds. It begs belief and reminds us both of the human spirit to endure, but also the strength of the bond between a son and his father. I do have to admit that this book got to me, more than a few times. I had to close it, walk away, refresh and recoup. I also found it hard to review and rate a book of this nature, how can you put a value on the determination to survive, in the face of such overwhelming defeat?
I consider myself quite well read in the subject area this book covers, having devoured a vast range of fiction, non fiction, memoirs, articles and museum based information on the Holocaust. But, yet again, I was truly amazed that an original story has come to our attention, after decades of laying this truly atrocious time in our world history to rest. I was able to grasp at new stories of the Holocaust, which were experienced by the Kleinmann family. The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz reminds us that no experience of the Holocaust should be discounted, nor is it the same. We need to continue to revive and share these powerful accounts, may they never be buried.
The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield is published on February 5th 2019 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz, Jeremy Dronfield visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.