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By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  3,498 ratings  ·  446 reviews
In the tradition of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz comes a new memoir by Canadian survivor

More than 70 years after the Nazi camps were liberated by the Allies, a new Canadian Holocaust memoir details the rural Hungarian deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau, back-breaking slave labour in Auschwitz I, the infamous “death march” in January 1945, the
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 19th 2016 by HarperCollins Publishers
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***** **EDITED on March 28, 2019********

This morning BY CHANCE ALONE has been declared the Winner of CANADA READS 2019! I think that you can watch the recording of this on YOUTUBE.


"Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." - Heinrich Heine

BY CHANCE ALONE:A REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF COURAGE AND SURVIVAL AT AUSCHWITZ by Max Eisen has been long listed for Canada Reads 2019. Thanks to Canada Reads for bringing this book to my attention.

'"My father reached out across t
I can't possibly rate this.

What I can say is that we are exceedingly LUCKY that Mr. Eisen took the time and effort to record his experience in WWII as a Jewish refugee. It's horrific to read, but necessary that he did this. I'm honoured to read his work, and embarrassed to be human, considering the unimaginable horrors that humans laid upon fellow humans in this time. I'm horrified, shocked and embarrassed. The book leaves a sickening weight in the stomach about what we are capable of.
In his powerful memoir, Holocaust survivor Max Eisen details his early years, his internment in Auschwitz and his emigration to Canada.

When the 2019 Canada Reads longlist was announced, I had hoped By Chance Alone would be selected for the shortlist.  I suppose I would have read it eventually, but in a year where the theme was “one book to move you”, By Chance Alone seemed to fit perfectly.  I look forward to Ziya Tong’s defence because I believe this is a heavy favorite to win (although, I’ve y
Canadian Reader
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This man is my hero because he never gave in. He did it. Remarkable story under dismal circumstances. Very eye-opening. Would love to see/hear him speak.
I've read of the horrors suffered by people in the Nazi concentration camps so I knew I was in for some terrible moments in this author's life.
Max Eisen lost his entire family in 1944, after they were all deported to Auschwitz from Hungary. Eisen's matter-of-fact writing in this memoir of the daily horrors and dehumanization he and other inmates suffered actually accentuates the cruelty of the people in charge of the camp, and of the horrific mindset of Hitler and everyone involved in the "Fina
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
I will admit I was disappointed with three nonfiction picks on the Canada Reads shortlist this year. I was especially hesitant to read this memoir about life at Auschwitz, but you know what? We all need a good dose of reality now and then. Eisen’s story of survival is both horrible and wonderful, but perhaps even more importantly, he is telling that story and helping the world to never forget.
❀ Susan G
Feb 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
By Chance Alone truly is "a remarkable true story of courage and survival at Aushchwitz". It is hard to imagine the devastating loss and unbelievable abuse of human beings. Max "Tibor" Eisen has truly shared the experience of the concentration camp and honoured his father's last instruction.

It will be difficult discussion at the Canada Reads table dealing with such serious topics in 2019 and I can't wait for the debates to begin!
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We all know about the holocaust. It's no secret. Still, I find that whenever I read anything from a holocaust survivor, there is always something new I learn, more horrific details I hadn't yet known of, about what happened during the war and in the concentration camps.

Max Eisen's memoir, which details his year in Auschwitz at fourteen/fifteen years old, is both a memoir full of the horrors we've come to know (and some we - at least I - didn't) about the holocaust as well as his unique experienc
Paul Langevin
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alice Munro, in her Selected Stories, once wrote: “A story is not like a road to follow … it's more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or ...more
Short Version

I agree with the Quill & Quire review where Dorny Cerny writes that By Chance Alone “is an astounding narrative, though more for its substance than its style.” Eisen’s book is well worth reading, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the Holocaust or have not yet read many or any books on the subject.

That being said when reading memoirs, making emotional connection with the author is a personal preference. I have read other books outlining the Holocaust happenings and substance a
Shirley Schwartz
I can't give this terrifying book anything less than a 5 star review. The story that Max Eisen tells of his early life as a young Hungarian Jew who spent over a year in Auschwitz is horrific and graphic, but very, very real. Mr. Eisen is a Canadian citizen now, and he lets us see, in graphic detail, his journey from Moldava, Czechoslovakia to Aushwitz-Birkenau, to camps in Melk and Ebieseee and post-war Marenbad, Prague and finally Canada where he finally arrives in 1949, will make your blood ru ...more
Jen Boucher
There are countless lessons to be learned from reading this book, these are a mere handful:
- Where there is an opportunity to marvel in the wonder of a true, remarkable, unbelievable survivor, do it. Which is to say, read this book. Suck it up, and do it. It will hurt deeply at times. Do it anyway.
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.
- There’s no way on earth I have anything to complain about ever again, ever ever ever. (I’ll own this lesson but if you don’t share it, well....).
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brave account of a life well lived despite being subjected to the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. When his father was taken to his death he told his don to tell the world what happened here if he survived. Survive he did and he has continued to educate the world about the Holocaust through this book and the many speaking engagements he attends. I am proud that he was able to come to Canada to live.
This is one of the 5 finalists for the 2019 Canada Reads debate. Whether or not it wins
On the day of our departure, we picked up our meager bundles and were taken to the loading area where the cattle cars were waiting. p66

In calm and measured prose, ME recounts the horrifying disintegration of his family in Auschwitz after Hungary was finally unable to protect 'their Jews', and they were deported to death and slave labour. It took him 70 years to write, during which time he married and their children had children.
Still he could not forget his fathers urgent command, to survive to
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I really enjoy reading books on WWII but they always leave me so sad and depressed because the things that were done are just so extremely awful. I mean you know these things happened but you're reading it and you just cannot understand how this is real? The cruelty. I just can't even understand it. I literally cannot understand how people did and do these things to others.

I feel like it is so important to remind people of what was done so that people remember how their actions or i
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable doesn't even begin to describe this story.
I read this, cover to cover, in a day, and there is so much that I could say, but I wouldn't want to let anything out for those who haven't read it yet and want to.
What Max went through - got through - is nothing short of astounding.
This book will break your heart, and at times help it mend, but it is just too incredibly important not to read.
Dani (The Pluviophile Writer)
If this book doesn't move you, you must be a Nazi.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 304 pages.
Read from February 21, 2019 to February 27, 2019.

WWII holocaust memoirs is a genre I never get tired of. Ellie Weisel's Night, Eva Mozes Kor's Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz and Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning top the list as some of my favourite memoirs. I love to devour books in this genre so that I never forget the past and to find strength and gratitude in their t
Gina Morphy
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title “By Chance Alone” truly sums up the story of Max (Tibor)’s survival in Nazi occupied Europe in the 1940s. Just when you thought that his fate was sealed, a duck egg, a helping hand or a head injury would save his life. It never gets easier reading about the atrocities faced by millions of Jews and Max offered even more insight into the horror they encountered.

His father’s last words - “Tell the world what happened here” led Max to a lifetime of important storytelling and he continues
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada-reads
This one we hard to rate because it’s quite far outside my normal genres and I don’t typically go for memoirs. But the fact that after the first couple chapters I was completely engrossed in it says a lot. The level of horrors that are so far beyond anything I could dream of are relayed in an accessible way through the memories of Max starting at age 15, giving the whole thing a really personal perspective.

Though it’s not something I would typically reach for, I’m glad to have read it and could
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a riveting true story regarding the author's lived experiences during and after captivity.
I haven't read very much about individual journeys after liberation from the camps, and found this aspect of the story very revealing.
Steven Langdon
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: super
I read this excellent book in preparation for the 2018 Compassion to Action tour organized in Poland and Israel by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC.) Max accompanied us on this harrowing visit to the Polish death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated by the Nazis in World War 2.

This book is the compelling story of the grim steps by which Max found himself and his family transported from Hungary to Auschwitz, the viciousness that claimed the lives of all the rest of his famil
Sleep Less, Read More
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every survivor’s tale is unique and equally inspiring. Max Eisen’s is no different. Eisen tells his story so bluntly and clearly that it hits right down to your bones. He takes the reader on a journey of his life in Hungary prior to the Holocaust, to his life in Auschwitz, where his entire family was ripped away from him, to eventually finding his way to Canada where he is now a prolific speaker about the Holocaust.

This book is real – Eisen doesn’t sugar coat or leave out the “details”. He is ra
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard not to give this book 5 stars for the content alone, content that we should all read, but many of us already have, in Elie Wiesel's horrific Holocaust memoir Night. In a similar vein, and equally horrific, comes another memoir by a then 15 year old survivor of atrocities one cannot even fathom no matter how many times we read about it, but read about it we should lest we ever forget. ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Simple, direct memoir of Holocaust survivor. Nothing in human history comes close to the depth of evil that is the Holocaust. As faithfully as the author describes his experiences, he cannot impart to a reader the feeling of being there. The enormity of the horror that many inflicted on many is virtually unfathomable. He promised his father to bear witness. That he has done admirably.
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like many other witness accounts of the Holocaust, this one is just as unsettling and appalling. The difference with this book is Mr. Eisen's more detailed account of how he survived once liberated from the camps. ...more
Tracey Anderson
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No matter how many holocaust survivor memoirs I read, each one teaches me something new. "Tibor" Eisen's story is a remarkable of strength, endurance and bravery. ...more
As far as I am concerned, you can not have enough memoirs by those who lived though WWII and the Holocaust. Eisen's book is readable and engrossing. ...more
Maggie (Magsisreadingagain)
I have no words. Max Eisen has shared his journey through the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the age of 15, revealing the deprivations and horrors that humans are willing to inflict on others, in the name of a suprematist ideology. He writes eloquently of death marches, labor camps, liberation, imprisonment in Communist Czechoslovakia, and his eventual immigration to Canada. But through the horrors, he writes of the strength of the human spirit, and the vital necessity of remembering ...more
A Canada Reads shortlisted book for 2019.

Max Eisen is a Hungarian-born Jew who lost his entire family while interred at Auschwitz. This story, By Chance Alone, is his story to be best of his memory, written down 70 years after. Now in is mid-80's Max has lived in Canada since 1949, where he has married and had children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He built a business, and then built a second "career" speaking to school and community groups about his experiences. Max's Auschwitz exper
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