Kathe Mueller Slonim was just a child when her father was dragged off to Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp, Dachau. Through a series of remarkable events, her family, including her father, escaped and immigrated to America, where the secrets of their survival remained under wraps for decades.
Slonim’s daughter, Susan Servais, witnessed firsthand what it was like to finally hear her mother’s story for the first time during a trip to Germany in 2000, in which Slonim, Servais, and her daughter travelled there as part of a visitor programme for former Jewish citizens of Stuttgart. “My mom got this letter every year and refused,” Servais said in a recent interview, referring to the invitation from the German government. “She said she never wanted to step foot on German soil again.”
Slonim eventually agreed to go, but only if she could bring her daughter and granddaughter with her. She wanted the place where there was so much suffering to bear witness to three generations that the Nazis failed to exterminate. While on the trip, other survivors began sharing their stories. “All of a sudden, my mom starts opening up for the very first time,” Servais said. “Then when she got back from the trip, she wrote this memoir.”
Escape from Dachau: A True Story of Survival, Courage, and a Daring Escape in the Face of Unthinkable Evil depicts the story of how Slonim’s father was rescued from a concentration camp by a cousin, during a daring clandestine mission. Slonim’s children respected her wishes to have the book published after her death. The book begins with the rich, rarely told history of the Jewish people living in Germanic lands from the Middle Ages through WWII and how that led to the persecution of Jews.
All of this sets the stage for the harrowing mission undertaken by former First Reich official Max Immanuel, who climbed into his car in Berlin on a rainy night in December 1938 with one profoundly dangerous goal in mind: to rescue his cousin from Dachau.
Max’s mission was particularly risky and unusual because this former German government official was a Jew himself. Born Imanuel Rosenfeld, Max had changed his name and his religion, living in fear that his truth would be discovered. Torn between his own plans to flee Germany and the chance to save a family member from the clutches of the Nazis, Max makes the excruciating choice to go to Dachau. It is a journey that will require him to risk his life as he passes through one Nazi checkpoint after another, brandishing expired Third Reich papers, claiming that he is a loyal member of the Nazi Party on official business.
Brought to life with thirty archival photos, Escape from Dachau pays tribute to the bravery, sacrifice and resilience of those who sought to flee the horrors of Nazi Germany during one of the darkest periods of human history. Additionally, it serves as a dramatic example of how the human spirit can overcome even the worst atrocities.
About the author
Escape from Dachau is the true story of the life of Kathe Mueller Slonim. Prior to her demise in 2021, Slonim wrote down the major events of her life. Her own documentation, along with a brief family history written by her uncle, Julius Falk, together form the backbone of this story.