The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch is a fictional book telling of a family’s struggle to survive. Mr. Clinch’s previous books, Finn and Kings of the Earth won awards and commendation from around the country.
The story is told in flashbacks of Max Rosen, an artist, octogenarian, Holocaust survivor, and son of Eidel and Jacob who perished in Auschwitz. In his story Max remembers his parents, their tremendous struggle to survive in the concentration camp and all they gave up so he could live.
Jacob, a barber by trade, is assigned to cut the Nazis hair and fantasize about slashing the commandant’s throat. Eidel, an accomplished artist, goes once a week to paint the commandant’s family who lives in relative luxury compared to her existence.
The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch is a fascinating and well written book. Even though short, Mr. Clinch is an excellent storyteller presenting a beautiful story and tight page-turner.
The story portrays a Jewish family trying to stay sane in a world gone mad. The family is trying to salvage a bit of civility wherever they can in a place that could on be described as hell on earth.
The story doesn’t have many twists, but several convenient plot points which, although a bit too convenient, are central to the story. Usually I’m not a big fan of “all too convenient” coincidences but I’ve read enough about World War II to know that stranger things have happened in real life, so why not in fiction?
Mr. Clinch wrote an elegant and poignant story which runs the gamut of emotions from despair to hope. I found myself caring about these characters, and took solace from their strength and inspiration from their actions. Most importantly the book shows the true cost of the Holocaust, not only in terms of human life, but in term of culture. The artists who will never paint, the writers who will never write and yes, even the barbers who will never pamper their clients again.