“The Auschwitz Escape” releases nationwide today. Reflections on how I discovered the true stories that inspired the novel.

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In November of 2011, I decided to go to visit the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. I’d never been there before. I didn’t really even want to go. But I knew I had to. So I invited several friends — a pastor from the U.S. and his wife, and a pastor from Germany and his wife. Unfortunately, my wife, Lynn, wasn’t able to join me. But the trip had a profound effect on me.

It was a surreal and sobering experience to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. It’s hard to describe the emotions of standing in an actual gas chamber where people were murdered, seeing the ovens where bodies were burned, walking through the cell blocks, seeing the guard towers and barbed wire and train tracks. It was haunting to realize that more than one million people were systematically murdered there, and most of them were Jews.

While I was there, I purchased a book that explained that there had been many escape attempts from Auschwitz, but only a handful of successful escapes. I was stunned. We had hired a special guide to take us through the camp. He was a really bright, educated man. He had been an excellent guide, and we had learned so much. But he hadn’t mentioned anything about escapes. I had never heard about any escapes. But this book gave a brief description of several of them.

Intrigued, as soon as I got home, I started tracking down any resource I could about these men who had risked everything to get out. How had they succeeded? What was their plan? Who helped them? What did they do when they got out? Did they tell anyone in the Jewish community, or among the Allies, what they had seen, what the Nazis were doing at Auschwitz? The more I learned, the more intrigued I became. It turned out there were several non-fiction books written by several of the men who escaped, and several about them. There were even several novels on the subject. But they were old. Some were out of print. If they once had been discussed – I’m sure they were – but they seemed long forgotten.

As I continued to do my research, I realized that April 7th, 2014 would be the 70th anniversary of the greatest escape in human history – the day Rudolf Vrba and Fred Wetzler escaped from the worst of the Nazi death camps. That’s when I began thinking about writing a novel inspired by these true stories that might draw attention back to the greatest escape in human history by men determined to tell the world the truth about what Adolf Hitler was really doing to the Jews. If I could finish it and release it by the spring of 2014, I thought I might be able help people remember these incredible stories of courage and heroism and faith.

Without question, The Auschwitz Escape was by far the most emotionally exhausting book I’ve ever written. By that I mean I had to immerse myself in the history of the Holocaust – books, documentary films, web sites, museums, research centers, conversations with survivors, conversations with experts, and so forth. And the history is more horrific that you can possibly imagine. Even when you think you understand what happened back then, you uncover more darkness, more evil. My wife and kids could see the effect it was having on me. I could see it, as well.

I knew the story needed hope. Yes, the fact that men escape from this unimaginably cruel extermination camp provides hope. They live. They survive. They tell others. Absolutely. But it wasn’t enough. For me, as an evangelical Christian with Jewish roots on my father’s side, I wanted to find out if any Christians did the right thing to help the Jews. Intellectually, I knew the answer was yes, there were Christians who had done the right thing. But I also knew that far too many people who said they loved Jesus refused to obey Him, refused to love their neighbors during the darkest period in the history of the Jewish people. Some were too scared. Some lost their faith. Some never had any faith at all, they were just giving lip service to the Gospel. It breaks my heart, but tragically it is true. Far too many so-called “Christians” failed the Jewish people when they needed us most.

That’s when I stumbled upon the story of Le Chambon and the pastors of this little Protestant village in France who risked their lives to save thousands of Jews fleeing from Hitler and the Nazis. The more I read, the more I knew this was the story of hope I needed to weave into the novel. And I think it’s the combination of the two stories – the story of a German Jewish teenage boy whose family is nearly wiped out and is sent to Auschwitz, and that a young Frenchman who is a husband and a father and an assistant pastor in Le Chambon, both fictional, but both inspired by true stories – it’s the fusion, the combination of these two story lines, that makes The Auschwitz Escape storyline work for me.

Soon, I got fascinated in who these young men were, how they get sent to Auschwitz, how they met, how different they are, and how they get involved in these escapes. This is what gave me hope, even excitement, if I can use that term, to write every day – trying to understand them and going on this hero’s journey with them both not entirely knowing how the story would wind up when I began.

In addition to going to Auschwitz, and reading everything I could get my hands on, I also traveled to Israel and visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum and research center. They were very gracious and allowed me to come twice, meet with several of their scholars, ask them many questions, tour their facilities, and try to make sure my work of historical fiction was as accurate as I could possibly make it. Several of the scholars actually knew some of the men who had escaped, had interviewed them, had long discussions with them, and their insights were so helpful.

They also took me down into their vaults and showed me copies of “The Auschwitz Protocol,” the document that was compiled by eyewitness accounts from Rudolf Vrba, Alfred (Fred) Wetzler, Arnost Rosin, and Czeslaw Mordowicz, the four Jewish heroes who risked their lives to tell the world the truth about what the Nazis were really up to. Too few people know these four men’s names, but I hope that will change. The Yad Vashem scholars helped me better understand who they were, and what they wrote, and I hope you take time to understand them, too. It was absolutely fascinating, and I’m deeply grateful for their help.

The novel releases nationwide today. I look forward to your comments — which you can post on our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook — and your questions!

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

There’s still time to pre-order “The Auschwitz Escape” at 65% off. Novel releases nationwide on Tuesday.

Releases nationwide on Tuesday, March 18th.

Releases nationwide on Tuesday, March 18th.

(Washington, D.C.) — Tomorrow, The Auschwitz Escape will release nationwide.

Soon, I’ll post details on the true stories that inspired the novel.

In the meantime, it’s great to see so many retailers strongly supporting the book and offering big discounts for those who pre-order it in hardcover, e-book and audio versions. If you’re thinking of getting the book for yourself — or as a gift – pre-order now to take advantage of these great discounts.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

New novel, “The Auschwitz Escape,” will release March 18th. Inspired by true story of the greatest escape of all-time.

auschwitzescape-coverThanks to all of you who have been asking about the status and release date of my next novel. Here is a brief update.

The book is titled, The Auschwitz Escape. It is set for release on March 18th.

Unlike any other novel I’ve written, this is a work of historical fiction. It was inspired by two sets of true  and deeply-moving stories from World War II.

The first involved a small group of German Jews, members of the underground, who made it their mission to rescue their fellow Jews, and sabotage the Nazis at every turn, until they were discovered by the Gestapo, arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The second involved a small group of Protestant Christian pastors and their families in a small town in south-central France who also made it their mission to rescue Jews escaping the Nazi nightmare, and until they, too, were discovered by the Gestapo, arrested, and sent to the camps. 

After visiting Auschwitz in the fall of 2011, I became intrigued with reading everything I could get my hands on about these two groups of people, talking to Holocaust experts, tracking down out-of-print books, meeting with Holocaust survivors, watching old documentaries, and trying to understand who these folks were, what they did, and why they did it.

What I would come to discover were stories of such pain and heartbreak inside the death camps, but also stories of such courage and hope and unbelievable heroism. Until I set out on this journey, I had no idea that an entire town in France was awarded “Righteous Among the Nations” status by the Israeli government for their efforts to rescue Jews fleeing the Holocaust. I had no idea that over 800 people tried to escape from Auschwitz, and that a handful of them actually succeeded. I had no idea that some of those who escaped did so not only to save their own lives, but to tell the Jewish communities of Europe, the Allied leadership in London and Washington, and the free world of the terrible atrocities being committed in the death camps, and to urge the world to act decisively to liberate the death camps before it was too late. Yet the more I learned, the more intrigued I became and the more determined I became to somehow convey their profound stories.

This spring will mark the 70th anniversary since those men — long-since forgotten by the world, if they were ever known at all – made their daring, spectacular,  indeed miraculous escapes from the world’s most infamous death camp. This year will also mark the 70th anniversary of the release of their eyewitness account, known as “The Auschwitz Protocol,” as well as of D-Day and the Allied effort to liberate Europe and end the Third Reich once and for all. And next January — 2015 – we will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and shortly thereafter the fall of Berlin, the death of Adolf Hitler, the Allied victory and the end of World War II. Thus, I decided if there were ever time to write such a book and try to help people remember this history, to be drawn into it, to experience it emotionally and even to draw lessons from it for our time, it seemed like this was the moment.

While The Auschwitz Escape is a work of fiction, it is based on several years worth of research, including meetings with scholars at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the world’s foremost Holocaust memorial and archive. It is a very different book from anything I’ve ever written before, and was by far the most difficult novel I’ve ever attempted. But whether you’re Jewish or Christian, of another faith, or no faith at all, I hope you’ll find this journey into the heart of darkness and back again as compelling as I have. What’s more, I hope you’ll find this book to meditate on and discuss with others. Above all, my hope is this book will inspire you to press in and learn more about the real men and women whose lives inspired me, and ask yourself what you would do if darkness fell and evil rose and all that you knew and loved was swept away in a breath-taking, heart-stopping instant of time.

>> To read an excerpt from The Auschwitz Escape, please click here.

>> To pre-order copies of The Auschwitz Escape, please click here, or visit your favorite local bookstore.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Damascus Countdown was 5th bestselling novel of 2013, reports Christian bookstore chain.

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The geopolitical thriller, Damascus Countdown was the fifth bestselling Christian novel of 2013 in one of the nation’s largest Christian bookstore chains, reports LifeWay.

This was the third and final novel in my trilogy about a nuclear showdown between Israel, Iran and Syria. It was released in hardcover in March 2013, and released in the Fall in softcover. It is also available as an audio book.

LifeWay Christian Resources is “one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, Bible studies, research, church music and supplies, and digital services. The company owns and operates more than 180 LifeWay Christian Stores across the nation.”

The paperback edition is currently #18 on the ECPA’s “Christian Fiction Bestseller List” for December.

Thanks so much to all of you who have read, and reviewed, and blogged, and Tweeted about Damascus Countdown this year. I deeply appreciate your support.

In January, I’ll begin to tell you more about my next novel, which is scheduled to be released in the Spring.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog