Alexander Altmann A10567

Suzy Zail

Alexander Altmann A10567
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Alexander Altmann A10567

Suzy Zail

Don’t let her know you’re scared,  Alexander’s father had said to him the first time Alexander had sat on Sari’s back.

Fourteen-year-old Alexander Altmann doesn’t need to look at the number tattooed on his arm. A10567; he knows it by heart. He also knows to survive Auschwitz, he must toughen up. Being soft will get him killed. Alexander will take any chance he’s given - and when that chance is caring for the German officers' horses he grabs it. He just can’t let them know he’s scared.


Alexander is only 14 when his family is sent to Auschwitz, but by pretending to be 16 he survives the gas chamber, unlike his younger sister. He keeps to himself and refuses any overtures of friendship, believing that only by showing no emotion will he be strong enough to survive. Eventually, he has an opportunity to care for the officers’ horses, animals he knows and loves from working on his family farm. The disparity between the level of care and comfort provided these prize animals and that given to the people forced to look after them is truly terrifying. Yet, working with the horses helps Alexander’s humanity to return.

This is a beautifully written, powerful story about overcoming horrific circumstances. Local author Suzy Zail gained inspiration for her novel from the true story of a Holocaust survivor and has used many of the key events from his life. Highly recommended.

Angela Crocombe is the Children’s Book Buyer at Readings St Kilda.

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