If there is one very important book that you read this year, read By Chance Alone, by Max Eisen. Although you will learn by the end of this review, the content is extremely heavy, it’s an incredibly readable book. It has been on my radar only since the the Canada Reads nominations came out. And, lo and behold, it won!! I read it shortly before the winners were announced, but it’s taken me a long time to sum of my thoughts on this incredible story of survival and character.
More than 70 years after the trauma that Tibor “Max” Eisen had survived at Auschwitz, he decided to write By Chance Alone detailing the slave labour at Auschwitz I, the “death march” in January 1945, and the journey of his life after the liberation. He details the experience of dealing with the physical and psychological trauma that he was worked in these 70 years. And now, Eisen has made his father’s final wishes come true, he is educating the world about the Holocaust in hopes that something of this tragic does not happen again.
Then he said, “If you survive, you must tell the world what happened here. Now go.”
Max’s title By Chance Alone, could not have been more perfect. There are many moments where Eisen’s survival is based solely on luck or circumstance. I’m not saying that he’s just “lucky” to be alive, but what I am saying is that his luck, his will to survive, and his intelligence is what led him to survive. Between being the right age, and meeting/making friends within Auschwitz with the right people, Eisen made the right choices, even while he was starved and had trouble thinking, to keep on living.
Eisen had eventually after the liberation, made his way… which was NO easy task… to Toronto, Canada. When his oldest granddaughter asked him to accompany her overseas Auschwitz for a class trip, he decided he would go back for the first time. Since then he has made it his mission for the past 22 years to educate people about the Holocaust. His first public speaking engagement was in Barrie, Ontario, to a grade 5 class, and now he travels all over Canada and the World.
“Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” – Heinrich Heine
Every Canadian, and every person, should read this book. I’m so thrilled that Max’s book won the Canada Reads, because he has given us the chance to dig down into the prejudices, and radical thinking that happens in this world and that we have the chance to change. Max Eisen is donating a portion of his royalties from this book to institutions promoting tolerance and understanding. SO after I read my copy from the library, I went out to buy a copy for my own personal library.
Please, do me a favour, and read this book.