By Chance Alone - by Max Eisen

Joe's GoodReads Rating


Families who went before us had written their names on the wooden planks that formed the wall of the shed. Each person's family name was written down, along with the day of their departure and the name of their destination - Kamenets-Podolsky. Thousands of names from previous transports were scribbled on the walls. Each one was like a life marker, a statement to remind the world that these people had lived.

I could not stop reading this book. I don't even know how to do this book justice, except to say that everyone should learn from the experiences carfully laid out in Eisen's personal account of the devastating attrocities inflicted on an entire ethinic group by a malicious politcal machine. This is a very heavy book.

By Chance Alone is a personal memoir by Max Eisen that tells his story of growing up in a modest and happy Jewish community in Czechoslovakia, but then his home and belongings are taken away and they are taken to the concentration camps in Auschwitz. Systematically and without conscience, his family is separated and killed by the Nazis, and finally his humanity is eroded until he is left with just his bones and skin, which also became degraded and diseased. Each sentence in this book is carefully crafted and placed with the gravity of a lifetime in each word.

I found out about this book through the CBC Canada Reads (2019) program, which I listened to through the podcast. By Chance Alone was defended by Ziya Tong and won! Ziya Tong did a great job presenting the importance of reading this book and its current relevance, as well as, the ongoing struggle of guarding against racial and ethnic intolerance.

There are many books written on this subject, but Max Eisen presents his story through his collection of personal observations and feelings, which really allows this story to connect with the reader. You are really able to place yourself in the story. Eisen writes through the eyes of a child and teenager, yet with the wisdom and age following these experiences.

I found myself questioning the importance of trivial things in my own everyday life and asking myself, "What if everything I had and planned to do was suddenly taken away?" It really makes you consider what is actually important in your life. This book really made me reflect on my life and my politcal ideology, and I'm sure it will do that for you, too.

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Joe Enns

Joe Enns Art is a website showing the oil paintings of Joe Enns, an Oil Painter and Fisheries Biologist located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. This website is dedicated to showing the beauty of the natural world, developing oil painting skills, as well as, fisheries and stream conservation and restoration.