The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz

author: Thomas Geve (2021)
date read: 28 July 2021
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This is the account of Thomas Geve, a Jewish boy who was in his young teens when he was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It tells his pre-war life, his stay in three different concentration camps, and the liberation and life after the Nazis.

It’s a methodical, detailed account that focuses more on camp life than the wider war around him. Armistice day is mentioned once, and the other major milestones not at all – but a lot of time is spent talking about the April 1945 liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he found himself at the end of the war. There’s much more detail of camp life, down to the consistency of soup and the best place to stand in the lunch queue. It’s remarkably vivid.

I was struck by the banality of evil. There are no cartoonish villains or mustache-twirling masterminds here. His experience wasn’t just one of mass extermination, but tiny acts of unnecessary cruelty, perpetuated by SS guards and prisoners alike. I hadn’t realised how much camp structure was enforced within the inmates (e.g. the “block elders”), and hearing the passive indifference of the local Germans after the camp’s liberation was chilling.

I was also struck by the hopeful tone. Small acts of kindness and generosity are mentioned repeatedly – even in that most horrible of places, he has good things to look back on.

I got this audiobook from my library after seeing it advertised in the app; only getting the text and not the drawings undoubtedly detracts, but it still makes a powerful message.

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