One Step Ahead of Hitler Is Recognized Nationally

In the Spring 5770/2010 edition of Jewish Book World magazine, the “Book Profile” page article, “Children in Flight,” spotlights three books that tell the stories of young children who survived the Holocaust. One of the books is Fred Gross’ One Step Ahead of Hitler: A Jewish Child’s Journey through France.

The article says, “Oddly enough, the most exciting and moving of the three, One Step Ahead of Hitler, is a flight not remembered by the author, who was only three when he experienced it. Because of his talent in interviewing members of his family, researching and writing, it is an adventure you will not soon forget.

“Although Gross knew much about the Holocaust because of his family history, he didn’t know precisely what his immediate family, including himself, had experienced. Two decades ago, he tried to query his mother, asking her to tell him the story of the family’s flight from Belgium as the Nazis invaded.

“He learned a bit, but his stiff-necked mother was uncommunicative, and not until he began to query his older brothers did he learn about what had happened. Then, he too, began to remember some incidents. He remembered his cold, non-demonstrative mother pressing her body over his to protect him as they tried to escape the strafing by German planes of the refugees streaming toward the coast.

“Most of the family’s flight took place in occupied France, where the French police helped the Nazis round up more than 75,000 Jews for deportation to the death camps. How was this canny family, interred in the Gurs camp, the way station to Auschwitz, able to free itself? It was through the cleverness and courage of father and son. Read how they ran from place to place, believing that they had found safety in the south of France, only to have the Nazis come there, as well.

“The brothers and father used their ingenuity, fortitude, courage and the help of Righteous Christians along the way, who risked their own lives on behalf of these desperate refugees as they made their way through France.

“What makes this book come alive are the many conversations, colorful descriptions and narrative talent. It could be a novel, but it is true. This is a tale worth telling, and here it is told particularly well.”

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