Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust

Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust

by Jack J Hersch


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In June 1944, the Nazis locked eighteen-year-old Dave Hersch into a railroad boxcar and shipped him from his hometown of Dej, Hungary, to Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the harshest, cruellest camp in the Reich. After ten months in the granite mines of Mauthausen’s nearby sub-camp, Gusen, he weighed less than 80lbs, nothing but skin and bones.

Somehow surviving the relentless horrors of these two brutal camps, as Allied forces drew near Dave was forced to join a death march to Gunskirchen Concentration Camp, over thirty miles away. Soon after the start of the march, and more dead than alive, Dave summoned a burst of energy he did not know he had and escaped. Quickly recaptured, he managed to avoid being killed by the guards. Put on another death march a few days later, he achieved the impossible: he escaped again.

Dave often told his story of survival and escape, and his son, Jack, thought he knew it well. But years after his father’s death, he came across a photograph of his father on, of all places, the Mauthausen Memorial’s website. It was an image he had never seen before – and it propelled him on an intensely personal journey of discovery.

Using only his father’s words for guidance, Jack takes us along as he flies to Europe to learn the secrets behind the photograph, secrets his father never told of his time in the camps. Beginning in the verdant hills of his father’s Hungarian hometown, we travel with Jack to the foreboding rock mines of Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps, to the dust-choked roads and intersections of the death marches, and, finally, to the makeshift hiding places of his father’s rescuers. We accompany Jack’s every step as he describes the unimaginable: what his father must have seen and felt while struggling to survive in the most abominable places on earth.

In a warm and emotionally engaging story, Jack digs deeply into both his father’s life and his own, revisiting – and reflecting on – his father’s time at the hands of the Nazis during the last year of the Second World War, when more than mere survival was at stake – the fate of humanity itself hung in the balance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781526740229
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 01/11/2019
Sales rank: 275,586
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Jack Hersch is an expert in the field of troubled and distressed companies. He is a strategic advisor to corporate managements and investment institutions, has served as a corporate board member, and has guest-lectured in the business schools of M.I.T., U.S.C., and U.C. Berkeley, among others. This is his first non-fiction book. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

List of Plates ix

Foreword xi

Part I Dej

Chapter 1 Lufthansa 3

Chapter 2 Cousin Vivi 5

Chapter 3 Dad 9

Chapter 4 Realization 11

Chapter 5 Mauthausen Memorial 13

Chapter 6 That Picture 17

Chapter 7 Me 25

Chapter 8 Pre-war Dej 29

Chapter 9 Passover 2001 33

Chapter 10 The Nazis Arrive 39

Chapter 11 The Ghetto 43

Chapter 12 The Friedmann Home 47

Chapter 13 65th Infantry Division: 5,217 Miles Away 51

Part II KZ Mauthausen

Chapter 14 Arrival 55

Chapter 15 Deportation 57

Chapter 16 Angelika 63

Chapter 17 Roadside 67

Chapter 18 The Mauthausen Camp System 69

Chapter 19 Not So Terrible 73

Chapter 20 Birkenau Selection 77

Chapter 21 Sanitary Camp 85

Chapter 22 Normandy, France: D-Day: 679 Miles Away 89

Chapter 23 Wall Plaques 91

Chapter 24 Parachutists 95

Chapter 25 Arrival in Mauthausen 99

Chapter 26 More than Luck 103

Chapter 27 Gusen II 107

Chapter 28 Gusen I 109

Chapter 29 A Day in the Camps 113

Chapter 30 Gusen Memorial 117

Chapter 31 Latrine Kommando 123

Chapter 32 Third Army Takes the Field, 658 Miles Away 127

Chapter 33 Closest Call 129

Chapter 34 Walking Gusen I 131

Chapter 35 Stone Crusher 135

Chapter 36 Out of Gas, 384 Miles Away 139

Chapter 37 Yom Kippur 1944 141

Chapter 38 Jourhaus 147

Chapter 39 Suicide 151

Chapter 40 Bahnhof Section 155

Chapter 41 Soup 161

Chapter 42 Westwall, 359 Miles Away 165

Chapter 43 Back in KZ Mauthausen 167

Chapter 44 The Bulge: 300 Miles Away 169

Chapter 45 Recharge 171

Part III Enns

Chapter 46 Inbound 'Transports' 179

Chapter 47 First Escape 183

Chapter 48 Eggs and Butter 189

Chapter 49 Intersection 193

Chapter 50 Gendarmerie 199

Chapter 51 The 261st Regiment of the 65th Infantry Division; 241 Miles Away 205

Chapter 52 The Great Escape 207

Chapter 53 57 Kristein 217

Chapter 54 The Sugar Factory 219

Chapter 55 261st Regiment of the 65th Infantry Division: 156 Miles Away 223

Chapter 56 The Little Path 225

Chapter 57 Excuse 229

Chapter 58 The House 233

Chapter 59 Lost 237

Chapter 60 The Fields 241

Chapter 61 The Stream 247

Chapter 62 261st Infantry Regiment. 121 Miles Away 249

Chapter 63 Miracle 251

Chapter 64 261st Infantry Regiment. 11 Miles Away 257

Chapter 65 How 259

Chapter 66 Why 263

Chapter 67 Found 267

Epilogue 273

Author's Note 275

Index 277

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Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read a few Holocaust stories, and they are always emotional. This one is not an exception. I have heard Mr. Hersch's story before it was heartbreaking then and it is a little more heartbreaking to follow his son as he pieces the whole story together.The way this book is written is beautiful as you go through and follow the story that is David Hersch's life. His most intimate moments, possibly the scariest time of his life. This book is a must read. I would highly suggest it. Jack has written a beautiful tribute to his father, what a wonderfully written book. You can tell how much respect he has for his father in reading this. I would highly recommend it. Netgalley gave me this book in exhange for my honest review.
3C More than 1 year ago
“No matter how bad things are, it beats the alternative." Death March Escape is a truly inspirational tale of Dave Hersch, a gentleman with an incredible "Will" to live. I found it difficult to put the book down, and I can easily picture this title on a World War II bestseller list. The author, Jack Hersch, mentions that his father was a natural storyteller; well, Jack is certainly the same, telling this tale in a personal, conversational mode. Definitely one of the best WWII memoirs that I have read. Enjoying history, I have read a number of books regarding the war, along with hearing many stories from family members who served. Jack has done an excellent job providing historical context about the war era, while using a dual timeline, in an educational, powerful, and intense read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
3.5 star review I love to learn more about WWII and am always looking for more books to read. Usually, I read fiction books with the history of that era weaved into the story. This is a firsthand look at a man’s journey in life through WWII and the Nazi rule. Death March Escape is a personal story that shares the facts of two men. One man lived through WWII, lived in concentration camps, walked death marches, and shares the story with his son. The other man is the son, who after his father passes away decides to visit the areas where his father lived during WWII; he visits the concentration camps and walks the paths that his father did. I was more interested in the father’s story but the son seemed to keep the spotlight more on his thoughts, his worries, and his travels. Even when sharing his father’s story he talks of what he was feeling and what he thought his father meant in telling his story. This is a unique and detailed story that shares what it was like living through the Nazi’s rule. How a person in a concentration camp was treated, what their thoughts were when they were being kept in a camp, and how it was shared with their families. If you are a WWII enthusiast, if you are curious as to what real people lived through under Nazi rule, and if you are looking to enhance your concentration camp knowledge pick up your own copy of Death March Escape. It is not an easy or quick read but it is interesting and told in a way that will keep your interest from the very beginning.
Sid1997 More than 1 year ago
Death March noun A death march is a forced march of prisoners of war or other captives or deportees in which individuals are left to die along the way. Eighteen-year-old Dave Hersch was one among the thousands of Jews who were coerced to make the 30 mile 'Death March' to a concentration camp by the ruthless Nazis in the early 1940s. True to its name, the march was yet another devious scheme invented by the Nazis to minimize the Jew population by subjecting them to a walk, long enough to drain the Jews of Energy and life. If the Nazis notice even the slightest hint of tiredness from the marchers, it was more than enough for them to put a bullet in their heads. Running away was not even an option to be considered. But then there was Dave Hersch, a gritty young Jew who cheated death by managing to give the Nazis the slip not once but twice. Trust me, that wasn't all. Death March was nothing but one among the countless schemes devised by Nazis to kill Jews. There were far worse methods they employed, things which people of the current generation have absolutely no idea about. From Being put up at Mauthausen Concentration Camp, one of the cruelest Nazi camps, Dave had seen and gone through whatever death seeking measures that the Nazis inflicted on the Jews. 'Death March Escape' is a true account of the life of Dave Hersch, a gritty young Jew, who was one of those rarest of rarest souls to escape from the grasps of the Nazis during the Second World War. For someone who has never read a Historical Non-Fiction book before, this one literally blew my mind. It was hard for me to follow the narrative initially due to the huge dosage of information that reeked from every page. But once I got the hang of it, I couldn't put the book down. Each and every piece of info was unheard of and fed my curiosity's never-ending appetite. The way the Jews were treated, calling it 'Cruel' would be a mere understatement. Even as a reader, reading about all those horrendous happenings, it was hard for me to digest. I can't fathom how Dave or the fellow Jews went through such pain and heartbreak without succumbing to death. Here is the best part, the entire book was written by Jack Hersch, who is none other than the son of the 'Man who cheated Death' - Dave Hersch. It all started when Jack receives a call from his cousin who discovers Dave's photograph being displayed in Mauthausen Memorial's website. Confused at first, Jack starts to dig deeper to find the source of the photo, an action that later transformed into a full-fledged quest to trace the journey of his late father. He follows the footsteps of his father by visiting the exact places where his father had set foot. The Narrative is quite interesting as the author alternates between the reality and the past giving us a clear picture of how the abandoned, wrecked buildings/establishments of today were once the most horrendous places for a human to be in. The hardships and struggle Dave underwent, the kind of life he lived, serves as a great source of inspiration not only for his son but also for me, as a reader. To sum it all up, 'Death March Escape' was an emotional and a deeply riveting read.
Jolie More than 1 year ago
It is rare that I read nonfiction. It is even rarer that I review it. I do make an exception for anything written about WW2 and the Holocaust. When I was approached by the publisher to review Death March Escape, I accepted without hesitation. This book was haunting. Excellent but haunting. The author did a fantastic job of telling the story of his father’s escapes from 2 different points of views. The first being his father’s point of view. The second being his. Jack’s story was intertwined with his father. He would write about the Seder where his father told him the story of his escapes. Then he would write about what he did. His journey to Mauthausen and Gusen. His following of his father’s escape routes. It was amazing to read. I don’t like it when a book does that. But, in this book, it worked. There are some brutal scenes in this book. This book will make you cry. From the minute Jack’s father is separated from his mother to the scene where he is liberated, I cried. Like Jack, I did wonder at how this 17/18-year-old boy survived mentally. Like Jack, I came to the conclusion that he had to disassociate from everything that he was seeing/experiencing. That is the only way he survived. I also had tears during Jack’s part of the book. He had grown up with tales of his father’s imprisonment. It wasn’t until he actually went to Mauthausen and Gusen that he understood exactly what his father went through. Those were some of the toughest scenes to read. Knowing what he did, seeing the concentration camps and then realizing that his father glossed over what happened. My heart broke for him. This was not an easy book to read. Nothing that is written about the Holocaust is. But, it needs to be read. That way future generations can learn.