Item description for ESCAPE FROM AUSCHWITZ by Andrej Pogozhev...
The most notorious prison installation in the Nazi network, Auschwitz, was liberated by Red Army troops on January 27, 1945. They found a vast complex with only a few emaciated survivors, 60,000 others having been marched west by the Germans just before their arrival. In the camp the Soviet troops found evidence of unspeakable, factory-type murder, including warehouses of human hair, civilian clothing, and gold tooth-fillings. Ever since, the true story of Auschwitz has been left to the camp's survivors to tell, though these have been few. This book is the remarkable memoir of a Red Army soldier who was imprisoned at Auschwitz, undergoing the daily brutality of the camp as it assumed its sinister shape in the countryside of Poland, yet who escaped the horrors to fully recount his experience.Andrei Pogozhev had been hastily mustered into the Red Army in order to stand before Moscow to resist the German onslaught in 1941. In a confused action, his unit was surrounded by the enemy and forced into captivity. Withstanding harsh treatment and near-starvation, he and other Soviet prisoners finally found themselves in the vast camp marked by the entrance sign, "Arbeit Macht Frei."Survival in the camp depended on knowing one's enemy as well as one's friends, and Pogozhev relates the nature of certain guards and the behavior needed to avoid them. The prisoners kept up their camaderie, even as their numbers dwindled through beatings, illness, and arbitrary executions.He and other Soviet prisoners were put to work expanding the camp, during which time they espied the perimeter and plotted a break-out. Escaping Auschwitz was difficult in part because even if one succeeded he would know that up to a hundred of his comrades would be executed in retaliation. Still, as the machinery of death ramped up it became clear that everyone would die there sooner or later. Finally, after careful planning, Pogozhev and some 50 of his comrades assaulted the wire and many of them reached the fields beyond. The German response was immediate, and troops appeared on all the roads, others with dogs in the fields. Pogozhev laid low, waiting for a gap to appear in the German cordon before daylight broke, all the time listening to gunshots that he knew were the death knells of his fellows. At last he made the lunge, and after further travails as a fugitive in eastern Europe, was able to rejoin advancing units of the Red Army.This recollection of Auschwitz, with its vast detail on prisoners and guards alike, is as vivid an account of the internal workings of the death-camp as we are likely to see from the diminishing number of people who survived.
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A Soviet POWs point of view Dec 24, 2007
Today the Holocaust is known by the majority of the Western World and Auschwitz is a cornerstone of that knowledge. It is perhaps true that Jewish accounts represent the majority of the literature which depicts what happened during a genocide the likes of which the world could hardly believe had taken place when the war was over. Yet, for better or worse, those accounts helped and continue to help readers understand what these men, women, and children had to go through. This book represents, for me, the first time I have ever read an account from a Red Army Prisoner of War (POW) who had gone through Auschwitz in its early days, escaped, and then was able to confront his tormentors in court decades later and help to imprison them.
This is not an easy read, beatings, mass murder, executions, torture, and death are evident on practically every page of this small but powerful book. The author talks about how much he and some of those around him endured, suffered, witnessed, and overcame. Survival was not a daily endurance test but one that was fought every second of every minute. A wrong word, a wrong expression, and a wrong movement would be enough to get one beaten, tortured, and even killed. How humanity can stoop to such cruelty and barbarity is something that we might never understand, but to understand what it means for those caught on the other side is a necessity. This book goes far in making sure that we get a glimpse of what those caught in a hell on earth had to confront.