Escape from Dachau: A True Sto­ry of Sur­vival, Courage, and a Dar­ing Escape in the Face of Unthink­able Evil

  • Review
By – February 27, 2024

Adolf Müller’s fam­i­ly was well known in his home­town of Stuttgart, where Adolf was a promi­nent busi­ness­man, and his wife, Bette, a sought-after seam­stress. Adolf had fought in the First World War; he con­sid­ered him­self a proud Ger­man, and he loved his coun­try. He noticed the esca­la­tion of anti­semitism under the Nazis, but he could not imag­ine where it would lead.

Like many Jew­ish men through­out Ger­many, Adolf Müller was arrest­ed in the after­math of the Kristall­nacht pogroms that swept the coun­try on the night of Novem­ber 9, 1938. Jew­ish syn­a­gogues, busi­ness­es, and homes were ran­sacked, des­e­crat­ed, and burned to the ground while offi­cials and neigh­bors watched. A few days lat­er, Adolf was sent to the Dachau con­cen­tra­tion camp.

Up to this point, Adolf’s trag­ic sto­ry was one that is unfor­tu­nate­ly too famil­iar. But then events took an unex­pect­ed turn. Enter Adolf’s cousin, Max Rosen­feld, who was a high-rank­ing offi­cial in the Reich Min­istry of the Trea­sury, serv­ing as a top aide to the min­is­ter him­self. In hopes of pre­serv­ing his career, Max con­vert­ed to Catholi­cism and changed his name to Max Immanuel. Yet when the employ­ment of Jews in civ­il ser­vice was out­lawed, he was forced to resign. 

Max was very fond of his younger cousin, who was now in grave dan­ger. Despite being pro­found­ly anx­ious about the pre­car­i­ty of his own sit­u­a­tion, and despite the dead­ly risk involved, Max decid­ed to under­take a dar­ing res­cue mis­sion. Against all odds, his plan to lib­er­ate his cousin from Dachau suc­ceed­ed, and the next day, Adolf was reunit­ed with his wife and daugh­ter in Stuttgart. 

Based on the account of Adolf and Bette’s daugh­ter, Kathe Mueller Slonim, Escape from Dachau tells the sto­ry of Slonim’s father’s arrest and his dra­mat­ic res­cue by her uncle. Just eleven years old at the time, Slonim was hid­den in a Catholic con­vent dur­ing the uncer­tain months between her father’s arrest and her family’s depar­ture from Ger­many. Adolf’s expe­ri­ence in Dachau had a pro­found impact on him; after his lib­er­a­tion, he was nev­er the same. It was Bette’s resource­ful­ness and resilience that proved invalu­able again and again: she devised plans to send cash to her broth­er in the US, con­ceal the family’s valu­ables, and smug­gle them out of Germany. 

Escape from Dachau sets the Müllers’ sto­ry with­in the larg­er fam­i­ly his­to­ry, begin­ning with Slonim’s great-grand­fa­ther and fam­i­ly patri­arch, Isaak Rosen­feld — who estab­lished the fam­i­ly seat in Crail­sheim in the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry — and con­tin­u­ing with the expe­ri­ences of the Müllers (now the Muellers) after their immi­gra­tion to the US. This sto­ry is part of the long arc of Jew­ish his­to­ry in Ger­man lands from medieval times to the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, an arc that offers his­tor­i­cal back­ground for the rise of anti­semitism under the Third Reich. Illus­trat­ed with orig­i­nal fam­i­ly and archival doc­u­ments, and writ­ten with clear and straight­for­ward lan­guage, Escape from Dachau is well suit­ed for younger read­ers and pro­vides an engag­ing, acces­si­ble account of one family’s resilience and deter­mi­na­tion to sur­vive in the face of incon­ceiv­able evil.

Ingrid Wey­her is the Pro­gram Man­ag­er for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Denver’s Cen­ter for Juda­ic Stud­ies. She holds an M.A. in art his­to­ry and his­to­ry and spe­cial­izes in Holo­caust education.

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