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Pierre Berg of Nice, France while 17, and with aspirations of being a hairdresser and a ladies man would never imagine that the unspeakable could happen to him. While visiting a friend who had a shortwave radio they both were sent to Nazi Concentration camps because the Gestapo banned all shortwave radio broadcasting. Pierre and his friend made broadcasts of Laurel and Hardy only to neighbors, but the Nazi’s suspected them of making long range broadcasts. Pierre was sent to Auschwitz and his friend was never heard from again.
Written with the assistance of Brian Brock, the story unfolds with twists and turns, in a style that reads like a novel, yet is really fatal for many of the people portrayed. Berg’s life is spared once due to the shaky hand of another prisoner who tattoos required numbers on his arm. One of the numbers is misread by a guard when he reports a serious infraction which Berg commits. This leads to the death by hanging of another prisoner instead of Berg because of the wrong number. After many months have passed, Berg learns of the death of this unfortunate prisoner. He attributes this to his outhouse luck!
He wears his camp stripes with a red triangle which connotes that he is not Jewish! Pierre Berg is a gentile! Interestingly, these events were written 50 years ago and the manuscript was put aside. Until recently, there was little interest in a tale written by a non-Jew. However, Berg in recent times has encountered many statements made by anti-Semitic people who have tried to raise doubts about the reality of the holocaust. Berg personally saw and experienced people who were killed for slight infractions, he witnessed starvation and death, and he also endured a death march. While all of this material was fresh in his mind, he wrote this narrative shortly after he obtained freedom.
What makes this book fascinating is Berg’s fluency in several languages, including German. Germans did not know he understood them and he often used this advantage in saving lives of others.
This book is highly recommended.