The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz: A True Story Retold for Young Readers
Quill Tree Books
Published January 17, 2023
About The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz: A True Story Retold for Young Readers
In 1939, Gustav Kleinmann, a Jewish upholster from Vienna, and his sixteen-year-old son Fritz are arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Germany. Imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, they miraculously survive the Nazis’ murderous brutality.
Then Gustav learns he is being sent to Auschwitz–and certain death.
For Fritz, letting his father go is unthinkable. Desperate to remain together, Fritz makes an incredible choice: he insists he must go too. To the Nazis, one death camp is the same as another, and so the boy is allowed to follow.
Throughout the six years of horror they witness and immeasurable suffering they endure as victims of the camps, one constant keeps them alive: their love and hope for the future.
Based on the secret diary that Gustav kept as well as meticulous archival research and interviews with members of the Kleinmann family, including Fritz’s younger brother Kurt, sent to the United States at age eleven to escape the war, THE BOY WHO FOLLOWED HIS FATHER INTO AUSCHWITZ is Gustav and Fritz’s story–an extraordinary account of courage, loyalty, survival, and love that is unforgettable.
One of the things that caught my attention with this book is the way it follows the separate journeys of two brothers, Kurt and Fritz. The narrative stays with one brother for a few chapters and then switches to the other. Somehow putting those stories side by side made the whole even more moving than I think it would have been to tell them individually.
In any case, I got completely swept away by this book. Fritz’s father– oh my gosh. He seemed like such an incredible person. He kept hopeful in the face of some truly horrifying experiences. His relationship with Fritz was so cool, too. And Kurt, living in the US. I loved getting the window into his story, too.
Some wild things happened to those guys, too. I’ve read other stories about WWII before, so some things I was already a little bit familiar with, like Kristallnacht. (Familiarity did not lessen the heartbreak, though.) But other things, like what happened when the camp inspector demanded that no Jewish prisoners be in specialized positions in the camp, were things I’d never read about before.
The back of the book has a lot of additional resources for readers who want to know more. I loved reading through that timeline and looking at the other sources, too.
The only thing I’d say negatively about the book is that there are a few places where I feel like the author talks down to readers a little bit. It’s not often or overly much, so I think the great parts of the story far outweigh that issue, but I did notice it as I read.
On the whole, I think readers looking to learn more about what happened to Jewish families during World War II should check this one out. Readers who enjoyed THE BOY FROM BUCHENWALD by Robbie Waisman should add this one to their reading lists.
Recommended for Ages 10 up.
The story follows Kurt and Fritz, two Austrian Jewish boys.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Reference to marriage.
Kurt sings in the choir at his synagogue. His family celebrates Shabbos together. References to other Jewish holy days.
Mentions of terrorism and vandalism. People destroy Jewish businesses and places of worship. Nazis send Fritz and his father to a concentration camp. Mentions of many dying of disease or being overworked or put to death. References to and brief descriptions of soldiers treating prisoners cruelly. References to a resistance movement within the camp and their quest to acquire guns.
Prisoners trade cigarettes for food and favors.
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