The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz
By Jeremy Dronfield
This is a true story, a story moulded from a secret diary written by Gustav Kleinmann whilst in concentration camps during World War 2, and corroborated by his son’s Fritz’s memoirs, published in 2012 with the title Doch der Hund will nicht krepieren, (which translated means But Still The Dog Will Not Die).
The Kleinmanns are a Jewish family living in Vienna who get caught up in the events of the 1930s. In 1939 Gustav and his eldest son are arrested and imprisoned at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. When Gustav is transferred to Auschwitz 15 year old Fritz volunteers to go with his father despite it being considered a death sentence. He doesn’t want his father to be alone.
Through luck, fortitude, and a strong bond these two men go on to survive the eight day Death March through snow away from the advancing Red Army to incarceration at Mauthausen, followed by a spell at Mittelbau-Dora, and then finally Bergen- Belsen where they finally find freedom at wars end. It’s a bleak read, a dark read, as one would expect.
The author also interviewed the younger son, Kurt, who was able to tie in the rest of the families’ circumstances during that same period.
Gustav’s wife Tini is courageous and resourceful, organising a work visa that enables the eldest daughter to go to England as a domestic, and Kurt when a young child, is sponsored and goes to America. Both end up living happy and successful lives.
Tini’s story is fascinating, scrounging for work, money and food and doing whatever it takes to keep her family together, even sending parcels of clothing to Gustav and Fritz at the camps in the early days. Sadly Tini and her youngest daughter were later amongst those executed at a death camp near Minsk.
Although Kurt was aware of these deaths it wasn’t until he met the author for research purposes that he learned how the executions took place. Seventy plus years later the information still has a gut wrenching effect.
This is a powerful and tragic read though love of family and resilience shine through. And no, there will never be enough Holocaust stories if it means preventing a repeat episode.
“Around the world, people condemned the Nazis and criticized their own governments for doing too little to take in refugees. But the campaigners were outnumbered by those who did not want immigrants in their midst, taking their livelihoods and diluting their communities. The German press jeered at the hypocrisy of a world that made so much indignant noise about the supposedly pitiful plight of the Jews but did little or nothing to help.”
About The Author:
Jeremy Dronfield is a biographer, historian, novelist and former archaeologist. I look forward to chasing up his other titles.