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By Chance Alone is a story of courage, determination, and resiliency.

The memoir takes the reader through my life, from a normal childhood to the chaotic and devastating events of the Second World War and beyond. It’s a story of survival and— ultimately—recovery and rebuilding. Throughout, I relate events in a very detailed way so readers can put themselves in my shoes and essentially relive my experiences. In so doing, I have tried to document the means for survival under the most difficult circumstances. My message will hopefully encourage young minds to understand the grave social consequences of ignorance and indifference to the plight of targeted groups.

Since my book’s publication in 2016, I’ve been gratified to see how well accepted it has been by the public, the educational community, military and policing organizations across the country. The book’s success has afforded me the opportunity to fulfill what I feel is my mission in life: to teach people about the events of the past so we can build a better future.

In addition to being an author, I have been a speaker/educator for over thirty years. During that time, I’ve spoken to students and other groups of people across North America. It has been a particular privilege to see the impact my story has had on young people. Over the years, I have received countless letters from students— many have embraced my message of perseverance and adaptability as a road map for life. It seems that today’s young people are in great need of hearing stories of hope and courage in a world of disruption and rapid change.

Besides being an author, Eisen is also a public speaker and Holocaust educator. He travels throughout Canada giving talks about his experiences as a concentration camp survivor, to government, non-profit, educational, and commercial organizations. He has worked with the March of the Living, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI).

Max is available for public appearances and talks. Please contact to discuss details.

About the Author

Max was born in Moldava, Czechoslovakia. When he was ten years old, Hungary occupied Slovakia and eventually in 1944 his family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where most of them were immediately murdered in gas chambers. Max, his father and uncle worked as slave laborers, but 2 months later his father and uncle were selected out for experiments never to be seen again. Max managed to survive the Death March in January 1945 and camps at Mauthausen, Melk and Ebensee in Austria. He was liberated by the American 761st Black Panther Tank Battalion on May 6th 1945. Eventually he returned to Czechoslovakia where he spent 3 years in an orphanage. Max arrived at Quebec City in October 1949 en route to Toronto where he currently resides.

In 2016 Max Eisen released his memoir ‘By Chance Alone’ published by Harper Collins.

His recent accomplishments include:

  • Honorary Doctorate (LL.D.) awarded by Trent University, June 2018
  • Honorary Doctorate (LL.D.) awarded by Western University, October 2019
  • Author of: ‘By Chance Alone’ published in 2016 by HarperCollins
  • 2019 Winner of Canada Reads - One Book That Moves You
  • 2016 finalist RBC Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction

Read more about Max Eisen:

Birkenau at the end of the line. Photo courtesy of Ian Jones.

Author's Note

In the summer of 2012, after two previous attempts, I began to work on this memoir with the editorial assistance of Dr. Amanda Grzyb, an associate professor of information and media studies at the University of Western Ontario and a scholar of comparative genocide.

Together, we recorded hours of interviews, which were then transcribed. When we started to put the transcribed interviews together into a cohesive narrative, however, the story just didn't sound the way I had envisaged. In the spring of 2014, we decided to set the interviews aside and start again from the beginning. The process was painstaking. I handwrote the chapters in pencil on 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper folded in half, and then my wife, my son, or my granddaughter patiently typed them up on our computer. I gave each typed chapter to Amanda, and she edited them and returned them to me with queries and suggestions for additional revisions. Amanda and I met frequently over the next year, and by April 2015–nearly seventy years after my liberation from Ebensee concentration camp–I had completed a draft manuscript detailing my formative childhood years and my subsequent survival during the dark days of the Holocaust.

The dates and places mentioned in this book are described as I remember them, and any factual errors are inadvertent and my sole responsibility. After a seventy-year lapse, I have written my memories as accurately as possible.

Testimonials

Max Eisen’s memoir, By Chance Alone, explores in gripping detail the harrowing world of Auschwitz, and the daily violence, terror and dehumanization the author was subjected to as a 15-year-old Jewish youth in this deadly camp. His story is told in a direct, accessible and relatable way, revealing the extraordinary obstacles he faced to survive. This...
- Carolyn Kay
I first met Max Eisen in 2006, when he came to visit one of my classes. A student had asked if we could bring in a Holocaust survivor to be able to hear a firsthand account. I had brought in war veterans to share their stories, but never before a survivor. The Holocaust Centre of Toronto sent Max Eisen, who was at that time one of their principal speakers...
- Scott Masters

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