Dave Hersch was imprisoned twice in the Mathausen concentration camp in Austria
The remarkable story of the only survivor of the concentration camp to escape two death marches has come to light in a new book.
David Hersch was 18 years old when he was taken from his hometown, Dej, in Hungary, to the Mauthausen concentration camp, in Austria, in June 1944.
After 10 months in captivity, with the Americans approaching, the prisoners were taken to a 30-mile march of death to the Gunskirchen concentration camp.
He made his first escape after hiding in a group of refugees who crossed with the march, but was quickly captured after an old Austrian told him.
Hersch expected to be executed on the spot, but a sympathetic guard saved his life and returned him to the concentration camp where they set him up another day later.
Miraculously, he was able to escape again, running down a path while the SS officers looked away and hid in the bushes to the darkness.
The entrance to the Mathausen camp where Hersch was brought to the age of only 18
Dave Hersch (second from left) meets with members of the Hungarian Labor Services Battalion before they take him to the camp
He met a kind Austrian couple who ran a great risk of being hidden in their house, where the SS officers staying were also staying, until the end of the war.
The incredible story of Hersch is told for the first time by his son Jack, who has reviewed his steps for his new book, Death March Escape.
Jack, 60, from New York, USA UU., He said: "There were very few cases in which a prisoner was able to escape a death march, but my father was the only person to escape once, be recaptured and then a few days later on another death march , to escape again.
Hersch's first escape took place when his march crossed with a group of refugees at an intersection.
He used the distraction to sneak into his group, putting on a raincoat that one of them had dropped on the floor to mix with.
Hersch walked with the refugees to the next village where he knocked on the door of a house.
An old Austrian woman invited him in and gave her food, but as she lay on the lawn in her back garden, she reported him to two SS officers who patrolled the streets.
Today's road, where Dave Hersch made his daring camp escape for the second time
Friedmann's house where Dave Hersch hid after his second escape along with several SS officers
The SS officers arrived at the house, took Hersch and dragged him to the local police station, but the gendarme pitied him and let him spend the night in a cell, even carrying scrambled eggs.
The next morning, he ordered the two officers to take him back to Mauthausen.
Days later, on April 6, 1945, he was put on another death march.
At this point, having lost half his body weight and weighing only 80 pounds, he was so weak that he ran out of strength at the eight mile mark and went to sit on the road, aware that the detained protesters would be executed in the act.
An SS officer approached him and stuck a gun in his neck, which caused him to return to life and rejoined the march.
Moments later, he took advantage of the momentary lack of attention of his captors to launch a second and daring escape.
He described the dramatic moment to Dave, who writes: "Dad tilted his head and focused on the ground in front of him." His breathing quickened.
The barn where Dave Hersch hid during his second escape, owned by the same Austrian couple who took him
Ignaz and Barbara Friedmann were responsible for taking Dave and hiding him after his daring escape.
& # 39; I hope this is quick and painless. The boots stopped very close to his back. He heard the sound of metal on the leather, of a pistol slipping out of its holster.
"I knew that sound, I had heard it countless times, in Birkenau, in Gusen II, in Gusen I and in Mauthausen." This would be the last time.
The gun barrel pushed at the base of his neck.
The unexpected sting of the cold weapon threw my father to the feet like a rocket.
The SS man stepped forward, holstered the pistol and muttered to himself in Hungarian about "that dirty Jew," as he took long strides to catch up with some protesters who had come forward.
"My father was fully upright and looking towards the march, but staggering like a drunkard." He looked over his left shoulder.
The other two SS men were only yards away, but walking back, controlling their slower charges. In an instant, my father realized that nobody was watching him.
He looked to his right, to the grove of trees and, incredibly, spotted a narrow dirt path that began right at his feet and led to the trees.
The prisoner card belonging to Dave Hersch showing his record in the Mauthaussen concentration camp
Dave recovering in the hospital after the war was over in 1945 and the Americans liberated the place where he was hiding
Without thinking twice, my father took off, descending the path like a frightened rabbit, and then threw himself into the bushes that bordered the road.
Panting uncontrollably, he turned on his belly. He could barely see the way through the growth, but he saw for a moment the two SS men, who were still taking a step back.
They acted as if they had not seen anything unusual. They got out of sight. "
Hersch hid in the bushes until nightfall and then put on the raincoat of a dead prisoner who was on the road.
The next day, he was seen by an Austrian couple, the Friedmans, who said they would help him.
Wife Barbara bought him food and husband Ignaz returned that night with a horse and a car and told Hersch to jump out the back.
He took him to his house where he was cared for four days, hiding him in a secret annex in his house.
Incredibly, at the same time, German officers housed were housed on another floor of the house.
After four days, it was decided that it was too dangerous for Dave to be in the house, so he was instructed to arrive at an isolated barn on his land.
But Dave got lost and instead hid for eight days in the brush near a stream before Friedman's dog found him.
Dave Hersch (left) with his wife Rachel and their children – Jack (right) and Elliot after the war
Dave Hersch in 2001 with two of his grandchildren, Lauren (left) and Rachel (right) months before his death
By then, the SS officers had left the house while Germany was preparing to surrender, and it was considered safe for Dave to return to the house, where he hid for another week before the Americans liberated the area.
After the conflict ended, Dave spent 18 months in the hospital recovering from multiple illnesses before returning to his hometown of Dej.
Tragically, his mother, father and four of his brothers and sisters did not survive the war.
What remained of the family migrated to Israel, where Hersch met his wife Rachel, who had grown up in Kilburn, north of London, and was evacuated to Nottinghamshire during the bombing. She moved to Israel in 1950 where she taught English.
Shortly after Jack was born in 1958, they moved to New York, where Hersch spent the rest of his life.
He ran a home care business and died at the age of 76 in 2001.
Jack said: "During the second death march, my father had nothing more to give, but the cold steel of the weapon made him jump to life and at that moment he saw that they were not watching him and threw him down a path before of hiding in the bushes.
"My father never knew that the family that hid him had also hosted SS officers in his house, I only learned that when I spoke with the couple's grandson when I retraced my father's footsteps.
"Standing on the road where he escaped a second time and seeing the house where he was hiding was a change of life.
"I have written this book because I believe that its history should not be forgotten".