Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora

Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora

Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora

Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora

Synopsis

In 1943, eighteen year old Pierre Berg picked the wrong time to visit a friend's house-at the same time as the Gestapo. He was thrown into the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. But through a mixture of savvy and chance, he managed to survive...and ultimately got out alive. "As far as I'm concerned," says Berg, "it was all shithouse luck, which is to say-inelegantly-that I kept landing on the right side of the randomness of life." Such begins the first memoir of a French gentile Holocaust survivor published in the U. S. Originally penned shortly after the war when memories were still fresh, Scheisshaus Luck recounts Berg's constant struggle in the camps, escaping death countless times while enduring inhumane conditions, exhaustive labor, and near starvation. The book takes readers through Berg's time in Auschwitz, his hair's breadth avoidance of Allied bombing raids, his harrowing "death march" out of Auschwitz to Dora, a slave labor camp (only to be placed in another forced labor camp manufacturing the Nazis' V1 & V2 rockets), and his eventual daring escape in the middle of a pitched battle between Nazi and Red Army forces. Utterly frank and tinged with irony, irreverence, and gallows humor, Scheisshaus Luck ranks in importance among the work of fellow survivors Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi. As we quickly approach the day when there will be no living eyewitnesses to the Nazi's "Final Solution," Berg's memoir stands as a searing reminder of how the Holocaust affected us all.

Excerpt

In 1947, two years after Pierre Berg escaped from a Nazi concentration camp, he began writing down his experiences. His goal was to record his observations of those terrible eighteen months before he forgot them. He had no intention of ever publishing them. Nonetheless, he gave these recollections a title, Odyssey of a Pajama.

Pierre wrote his memoir in French, but since he was now living in America, he had it translated by a UCLA grad student. He then allowed a couple of people to read his odyssey, and they convinced him that a magazine or book publisher might be interested in his story. In 1954, after two rejection letters, one from the Saturday Evening Post and the other from Harper’s, Pierre put his concentration camp memoir aside and got on with his new life in Los Angeles.

More than fifty years later, I was supplementing my income as a struggling writer by working the concession stand at a playhouse in Beverly Hills. Pierre, now retired, was working as an usher. During a Sunday matinee performance, Pierre and I struck up a conversation on the writer’s life. He informed me that he had written something about his time in the camps. A few days later he handed me a 145-page manuscript. As I read Odyssey of a Pajama for the first time, it was obvious that Pierre’s experiences in the camps were . . .

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