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Max Eisen

Max T. Eisen CM (15 March 1929 – 7 July 2022)[1] was a Slovak author, public speaker, and Holocaust educator. He travelled throughout Canada giving talks about his experiences as a concentration camp survivor, to students, teachers, universities, law enforcement personnel, and the community at large.

He had worked with the March of the Living, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre,[2] the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,[3] and the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI).[4]

With the encouragement of German lawyer Thomas Walther, Eisen testified in Germany at the trial of two former SS guards at Auschwitz: Reinhold Hanning (in 2016) and Oskar Gröning (2015).[5] Both were convicted at their trials.[6][7] He had been an active participant in March of the Living having made the journey back to Auschwitz-Birkenau, with thousands of students, 18 times.[8]

Early life

Eisen was born in Moldava nad Bodvou, Czechoslovakia, into an Orthodox Jewish family with two brothers and a baby sister. Along with his immediate family, Eisen lived with his uncle, aunt and paternal grandparents and was surrounded by a large extended family of some 60 members.

Eisen would live through a 13-day death march from Auschwitz to Loslau and there he was loaded onto metal boxcars made for transporting coal and sent to Mauthausen.[9] Then from Melk he participated in a three-day march in the mountains to Ebensee. He was liberated on 6 May 1945.[10] From Max's large extended family, only two cousins returned. Max arrived in Quebec City on 25 October 1949, and was sent to Toronto by the Canadian Jewish community. He married Ivy Cosman, with whom he had two children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Eisen attributed his survival, in part, to the heroism of a member of the Polish resistance and to a US Army liberator. Dr. Tadeusz Orzeszko,[11] the chief surgeon in the surgery department in Auschwitz, took pity on the 15 year old Eisen. He operated on him after a brutal beating by a Nazi guard and engaged him to be his assistant. Many years later, Eisen learned that Orzeszko was a member of the Polish resistance in Auschwitz. Sgt. Johnnie Steven, of the African American 761st Tank Battalion (United States) known as the Black Panthers, liberated Eisen on 6 May 1945.[12]

Portions of Max Eisen's story appear in the film Come Out Fighting: The 761st (2002) directed by Fern Levitt and in Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations[13] by author Eli Rubenstein who also wrote the Afterword for his memoir, By Chance Alone.

By Chance Alone

Eisen had his memoirs published in a book titled By Chance Alone: A Remarkable True Story of Courage and Survival at Auschwitz,[14] which was shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize in 2017.[15]

The book won the 2019 edition of Canada Reads, where it was defended by Ziya Tong.[16]

Testimony at war crimes trial

With the encouragement of German lawyer Thomas Walther, Eisen testified at the trials of former Auschwitz guards Oskar Gröning[17] (also known as the "bookkeeper" of Auschwitz) and Reinhold Hanning.[18] Both were known to be members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände.[10]


  1. ^ "Holocaust survivor and Canada Reads author Max Eisen dead at 93 | CBC Books". CBC News. 7 July 2022. Archived from the original on 10 April 2023.
  2. ^ "Holocaust Survivor Speakers | Sarah and Chaim Neuberger – Holocaust Education Centre – UJA Federation of Greater Toronto". Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Holocaust survivor delivers powerful message". Peterborough Examiner. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Eisen, Max | CRESTWOOD". Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen revisits horrors for memoir". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning convicted". BBC News. 17 June 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  7. ^ Torry, Harriet (15 July 2015). "Former Auschwitz Guard Oskar Gröning Convicted on 300,000 Counts of Accessory to Murder". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Thousands pay homage to Holocaust victims in Auschwitz march". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Max Eisen – The Death March". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Mandel, Michele (17 June 2016). "Last Nazi Trial: Survivor Max Eisen". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  11. ^ "Survivor shares experience". The Cord. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Rubenstein, Eli (8 September 2015). Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations. Second Story Press. ISBN 978-1-927583-66-1.
  14. ^ Ha, Tu Thanh (17 April 2016). "Auschwitz survivor Max Eisen revisits horrors for memoir". Globe and Mail.
  15. ^ "RBC Taylor Prize finalists: Ross King shortlisted for fourth time". The Globe and Mail, 11 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Holocaust survivor Max Eisen's memoir wins Canada Reads competition". CityNews, 28 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Oskar Groening Auschwitz conviction marks 'dramatic change'". BBC News. 28 November 2016.
  18. ^ "Auschwitz trial: survivor urges guard to reveal his role at death camp". the Guardian. 11 February 2016.
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Max Eisen
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