Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom

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Overview

Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the extraordinary story of how he survived the Holocaust

Sam Pivnik is the ultimate survivor from a world that no longer exists. On fourteen occasions he should have been killed, but luck, his physical strength, and his determination not to die all played a part in Sam Pivnik living to tell his extraordinary story.

In 1939, on his thirteenth birthday, Pivnik's life changed forever when ...

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Survivor: Auschwitz, the Death March and My Fight for Freedom

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Overview

Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the extraordinary story of how he survived the Holocaust

Sam Pivnik is the ultimate survivor from a world that no longer exists. On fourteen occasions he should have been killed, but luck, his physical strength, and his determination not to die all played a part in Sam Pivnik living to tell his extraordinary story.

In 1939, on his thirteenth birthday, Pivnik's life changed forever when the Nazis invaded Poland. He survived the two ghettoes set up in his home town of Bedzin and six months on Auschwitz’s notorious Rampe Kommando where prisoners were either taken away for entry to the camp or gassing. After this harrowing experience he was sent to work at the brutal Fürstengrube mining camp. He could have died on the ‘Death March’ that took him west as the Third Reich collapsed and he was one of only a handful of people who swam to safety when the Royal Air Force sank the prison ship Cap Arcona in 1945, mistakenly believing it to be carrying fleeing members of the SS.

He eventually made his way to London where he found people too preoccupied with their own wartime experiences on the Home Front to be interested in what had happened to him.

Now in his eighties, Sam Pivnik tells for the first time the story of his life, a true tale of survival against the most extraordinary odds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An 86-year-old Jewish survivor of ghettos, concentration camps, and the infamous January 1945 Death March, Pivnik graphically describes the casual and systematic brutality he witnessed as a forced guard at Auschwitz—on the ramp where incoming prisoners were processed, he routinely watched as Josef Mengele (“the Angel of Death”), with “casual flicks of his doeskin gloves,” decided whether prisoners were destined for slave labor or death. Pivnik’s grim will to survive impelled him to make numerous moral concessions, but he makes no excuses for his actions: “I became... a human vulture.” When a bracelet he’s stolen is found by a guard, he refuses to fess up, despite the possibility that someone else might take the fall for it: “This was Auschwitz-Birkenau; the rules were different. And you never put your hand up for anything.” Shuttled to and fro as “the Reich to death,” Pivnik was aboard the doomed Cap Arcona, a ship full of prisoners, when it was sunk in the Bay of Lübeck by the British Royal Air Force just days before Germany’s surrender. Amazingly, he swam to shore and lived. The horrors recounted here will be familiar to most readers of Holocaust memoirs, but they are no less shocking for that. 8-page b&w photo insert. Agent: Andrew Lownie, the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency (U.K.). (June 18)
Kirkus Reviews
An eloquent, deeply intimate account of a Polish teenager's endurance of successive deathly challenges unimagined in a lifetime. At age 13, Szlamek Pivnik, a tailor's son in the poor but vibrant, predominantly Jewish town of Bedzin, Poland, essentially said goodbye to his idyllic childhood. On September 1, 1939 (the author's birthday), the Germans invaded: Schools closed, the town's main synagogue was burned, the execution squads arrived, and roundups began that gradually restricted the Jews to the ghetto in the nearby quarry. Pivnik's father's skill as a tailor protected the family to some extent, as did the author's job in a furniture factory. Though they tried to hide in an attic, they were forced out by thirst and hunger to join the call for deportations. On the train platform at Auschwitz, separated by the flick of the wrist (Pivnik believes it was Dr. Mengele himself making the selections) into a line left or right (that is, to the death chamber or to work camp), his family disappeared in a heart-rending moment. Pivnik, then 17, was warned that to survive he had to say he was older and join whatever work crew would take him. Pivnik portrays the prisoner so brutalized by daily deprivation and violence that he loses all will to resist, even if given the opportunity, and so unused to using his free will that he became perversely attached to his jailor even when the end was nearing for the Nazis and the march headed west. Masterfully conveys the grim absurdity of the Nazi mentality and the utter dejection of the concentration-camp prisoner.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250029522
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/18/2013
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 596,874
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

SAM PIVNIK was born in Poland in 1926. In 1943 his family was sent to Auschwitz II where Pivnik’s parents and five siblings were murdered. After many brushes with death, Pivnik was liberated by the British Army in 1945. He now shares his memories through lectures and talks.

M J TROW is the author of many books on historical subjects, including War Crimes: Underworld Britain in the Second World War. He studied military history at King’s College, London.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    Chilling... but fantastic!

    Even though I'd read a fair bit about WW2 and the Holocaust I'd never read a true first hand account from a survivor.

    Pivnik describes every brutal detail leading up to his stay in Auschwitz-Birkenau without sparing himself.

    Interestingly enough the story doesn't end there, but also tells the story of his life after the liberation.

    I could hardly put it down and regularly had goosebumps all over...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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