The Twentieth Train: The True Story of the Ambush of the Death Train to Auschwitz
, 2003 - History
- 308 pages
The spring of 1943 was a desperate season for the Jews of Brussels. The resistance movement had successfully bombed the SS headquarters that January, but anti-Jewish laws were tightening, and a camp had been set up in the nearby town of Mechelen to transport Belgian Jews to Auschwitz. The time had come for action. One day in April, resistance fighter Youra Livchitz, a young doctor, discovered the departure date of the next transport train. With only one weekend in which to organize a raid, Youra recruited two school friends, Jean Franklemon and Robert Maistriau, to pull off one of the most daring rescues of the entire war. Equipped with only three pairs of pliers, a hurricane lamp covered in red paper, and a single pistol, the men ambushed the train, which was transporting 1,618 Jews to Auschwitz.These three lone men freed seventeen men and women before the German guards opened fire. Miraculously, by the time the convoy had reached the German border another 225 prisoners had managed to escape unharmed and found shelter with the locals. In a testament to the solidarity of the Belgians, no one was betrayed. No one, that is, except the three young rescuers, who were turned in by a double agent, imprisoned, and killed. Marion Schreiber's gripping book about the only Nazi death train in World War II to be ambushed draws on private documents, photographs, archive material, and police reports, as well as original research, including interviews with the surviving escapees. Like "Schindler's List, The Twentieth Train creates a vivid, moving portrait of heroism under impossible circumstances.