Items related to The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of...

The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz - Hardcover

 
9780802117663: The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 
Follows the daring 1943 rescue attempt by resistance fighter Youra Livchitz and a pair of new recruits to rescue Jewish captives from a transport train destined for Auschwitz, an effort that resulted in the safe escape of more than 225 prisoners and the deaths of the three rescuers.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

From The Washington Post:

One of the cardinal rules of reviewing books (or anything else, for that matter) is that one must review the book that the author actually wrote rather than complaining that he or she didn't write the book you wanted to read. That should be obvious enough. But what do you do when the book you have just read and are preparing to review turns out to bear only passing resemblance to its title, dust-jacket copy and publicity material?

That is the case with The Twentieth Train. Leaving aside for the moment its actual merits, a strong declaration of caveat emptor must be made at the outset. Not until nearly two-thirds of the way through its text does its ostensible subject -- "The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz," as the subtitle defines it -- finally come into view. There is not even any foreshadowing of it in the 160 pages that precede Marion Schreiber's description of how a brave young Belgian Jew named Youra Livchitz began to orchestrate the surprise attack on a train carrying more than 1,600 men, women and children to the death camp at Auschwitz.

The fault, or explanation, appears to lie not with Schreiber but with her American publisher. The English title of its original German edition was Silent Rebels, which is a reasonably accurate description of what Schreiber has in fact done: portrayed the quiet but forceful and effective resistance, by ordinary Belgians, Jews and Christians alike, to four years of occupation by Nazi Germany. Silent Rebels is an appropriate title, but not an especially dramatic one. It is not difficult to imagine that Schreiber's American publisher decided that the way to find a niche for the book in this market was to tart it up as yet another variation on Schindler's List. Hence The Twentieth Train and its melodramatic subtitle.

Schreiber deserves better treatment than that. Her book is not without flaws, but it is an honest effort to depict a side of the war that is little known outside Belgium itself, a story that adds to our appreciation of the lengths to which unknown people went to save not merely themselves and their families but others to whom they had no obligations beyond those of common humanity. The mini-raid on the train to Auschwitz is part of that story, to be sure, and demands a place in this narrative, but many people who read the first two-thirds of The Twentieth Train will find themselves wondering if the train is ever going to arrive at the station, much less leave it.

All of which is by way of warning to the reader rather than commentary on the book Schreiber actually wrote. A former editor at Der Spiegel, the German equivalent of Time or Newsweek, she is a determined researcher and a competent if uninspired writer, though whether this is attributable to her or her translator is unclear. She was drawn to the subject when she met someone who had escaped the gas chambers by jumping off a train bound for Auschwitz. "Journalistic curiosity combined with admiration and respect for the wider Resistance movement in Belgium" inspired her to look into the story, and this book -- a panoramic overview of wartime Belgium, albeit focused on Brussels -- is the result.

By contrast with many other countries that came under Nazi occupation, Belgians mostly "rejected the brutal methods that the German occupying forces used against the Jews" and "proved to be largely immune to the poison of National Socialist racial hatred." Some 200,000 Belgians were active in the Resistance, which surely helps explain why "over 50 per cent, about 30,000 of the 56,000 Jews registered in Belgium, escaped the Holocaust," by contrast with a mere 12 percent next door in Holland. "Silent rebels" were everywhere:

"In all the city halls and council offices there were officials who quietly issued additional food cards for people's relatives who had supposedly been bombed out, or whose nieces had suddenly turned up out of the blue. There were city officials who gave the Resistance blank forms to which only the false name had to be added and the right passport photograph glued. And then there were postmen who intercepted letters addressed to the Gestapo and the war commands if they suspected they might contain denunciations. They opened the envelopes, warned the people denounced in them and delivered the letters two days late, to give them time to go into hiding. 'Service D' -- against defeatism and denunciation -- was the name that the members of this group gave themselves. They probably saved 5,000 people from being handed over to the occupying police."

It helped that Belgium's Queen Elisabeth bravely stayed in her home country (Holland's Wilhelmina escaped to London) and, in the words of one who spoke directly to her, was "deeply impressed by the despair of the Jewish population in the face of mass deportation." Her efforts to intercede on the Jews' behalf were cynically rebuffed by Adolph Hitler, but surely her example was an inspiration to her people. It helped, too, that the military governor of Belgium, Alexander von Falkenhausen, was a "picture-book Prussian aristocrat" who "held Hitler and his party comrades in profound contempt." Eventually pressure from Berlin wore him down, and he authorized the shooting of hostages, but he must have done so with the greatest reluctance. His deepest belief was that "law, justice and humanity stand over everything," and during most of his regime he was able to put principle into practice.

Others were considerably less admirable. Kurt Asche, "Adolph Eichmann's representative in Belgium," was a venal sybarite who held life-or-death power over Belgian citizens and imprisoned or executed many of them. A Polish Jew named Icek Glogowski betrayed numerous Jews to Asche: "As a spy and unofficial cop, 'le gros Jacques' helped to fill the trains to Auschwitz," as did Pierre Romanovitch, known as the "White Russian"; it was the latter who informed on the heroes of the train ambush and sent two of the three to their deaths. The Belgian Jewish Council wasn't much help, either. Its members were decent men, but they believed that they could fend off Nazi brutality "by being willing and compliant," and they also "saw armed resistance as being primarily the long arm of Soviet Communism." They gave the Resistance no encouragement and significant opposition.

Still, three men in their twenties managed to halt a train loaded with deportees in April 1943 as it made its way from "the picturesque little town of Mechelen in Flanders" to Auschwitz. Most of those aboard chose or were forced to stay (and in the end some of these actually survived the camp), but others were luckier: "In total, 231 deportees fled the convoy on 19 April 1943, before the German border. Twenty-three Jews died in the attempt, either under the hail of bullets from the sentries or by falling badly. Every escapee from the death train to Auschwitz could count on the help of the Belgian population. No one was betrayed. 'L'honneur des Belges.' "

It is neither exaggeration nor sentimentalization to say that Schreiber has told an inspiring story. What makes it so is far less the bold attack on the train than the steady courage, decency and humanity of those countless ordinary Belgians who refused to knuckle under. It's too bad that the book's American publisher failed to understand this, and is presenting The Twentieth Train as something it is not.


Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:
As authors and historians delve into the details of the Holocaust, they discover that the Nazi killing machine produced a long list of little-known heroes, and here Schreiber, a Brussels-based journalist and former editor at Der Spiegel, tells the tale of three such heroes. Armed with only three pairs of pliers, a hurricane lamp covered in red paper and a pistol, the Belgian resistance fighter Youra Livchitz and two friends conspired to pull off the unthinkable: on April 19, 1943, they ambushed a Nazi deportation train headed for Auschwitz and, under a spray of Nazi bullets, managed to free 17 men and women. Not long after, two of the ambushers were caught, tortured and ultimately met their deaths at the hands of a Nazi firing squad. Despite the title, only the last 50 pages or so actually deal with the fateful ambush, an account based on private documents, archival materials and interviews with surviving escapees. The remainder of the book is a detailed account of Brussels, a flourishing city before the war, and its transformation under the Nazi occupation. Although lengthy at times, this background provides a critical framework for the events that follow. Nazi resistance in Brussels, by Jews and gentiles alike, was an extraordinary display of humankindness and courage; such a spirit necessarily grew out of the liberal weltanschauung that had captured the prewar city's imagination. Schreiber's book is both moving and exciting - a celebration of good, rather than a reminder of evil.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

  • PublisherGrove Press
  • Publication date2004
  • ISBN 10 080211766X
  • ISBN 13 9780802117663
  • BindingHardcover
  • Number of pages320
  • Rating

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780802141859: The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0802141854 ISBN 13:  9780802141859
Publisher: Grove Press, 2005
Softcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
Nilbog Books
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition (1st printing). This is a New and Unread coy of the first editin (1st printing)l. Seller Inventory # 033494

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 15.00
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
Read&Dream
(SAINT LOUIS, MO, U.S.A.)

Book Description Condition: New. Seller Inventory # 4JSHAO004ALC

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 20.93
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
GoldenDragon
(Houston, TX, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hardcover. Condition: new. Buy for Great customer experience. Seller Inventory # GoldenDragon080211766X

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 22.16
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.25
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
GoldenWavesOfBooks
(Fayetteville, TX, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hardcover. Condition: new. New. Fast Shipping and good customer service. Seller Inventory # Holz_New_080211766X

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 21.44
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.00
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
GoldBooks
(Denver, CO, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hardcover. Condition: new. New Copy. Customer Service Guaranteed. Seller Inventory # think080211766X

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 21.42
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.25
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
Front Cover Books
(Denver, CO, U.S.A.)

Book Description Condition: new. Seller Inventory # FrontCover080211766X

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 21.37
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.30
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
Wizard Books
(Long Beach, CA, U.S.A.)

Book Description Hardcover. Condition: new. New. Seller Inventory # Wizard080211766X

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 26.71
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
GF Books, Inc.
(Hawthorne, CA, U.S.A.)

Book Description Condition: New. Book is in NEW condition. 1.25. Seller Inventory # 080211766X-2-1

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 31.80
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Stock Image

Schreiber, Marion
Published by Grove Press (2004)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:
Book Deals
(Tucson, AZ, U.S.A.)

Book Description Condition: New. New! This book is in the same immaculate condition as when it was published 1.25. Seller Inventory # 353-080211766X-new

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 31.81
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds
Seller Image

Schreiber, Marion:
Published by New York, Grove Press (2003)
ISBN 10: 080211766X ISBN 13: 9780802117663
New Hardcover Quantity: 1
Seller:

Book Description Condition: Neu. 308 Seiten Gebundenes Buch mit Original-Schutzumschlag. Buch ist neu, aus priv. Vorbesitz, ungelesen. ISBN: 9780802117663 Wir senden umgehend mit beiliegender MwSt.Rechnung. Sprache: Englisch Gewicht in Gramm: 586 Gebundene Ausgabe, Größe: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm. Seller Inventory # 566121

More information about this seller | Contact seller

Buy New
US$ 32.83
Convert currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 14.47
From Germany to U.S.A.
Destination, rates & speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book