Cover Image: Beyond the Wire

Beyond the Wire

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

As part of the Sonderkommando, Jakub must search the clothe of Jews gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau for valuables. The only thing keeping him going is the memory of Anna, now imprisoned in the women's camp. Both are pressured to join the underground resistance of the camp, putting their future together in jeopardy. Well written historical fiction of this brutal time in history.
Was this review helpful?
I love James D Shipman's books and was excited to read his newest release, Beyond the Wire. I was far from being disappointed. It was wonderful Five stars.
Was this review helpful?
This fictionalized account of the Auschwitz-Birkenau uprising of 1944 raises thought provoking ethical issues.  It's told from three perspectives- Jacob, a Jew who is forced to work as a Sonderkommando, Anna, his love interest and part of the resistance, and Hans, an SS officer,  It's hard to read in spots, especially the early sections with Jacob but there's also hope because of Anna.  It's a story of resilience for those two,  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. For fans of WWII fiction.
Was this review helpful?
In October 1944, Jakub Bak, a prisoner of Auschwitz works as a Sonderkommando – a man tasked with sorting the clothes of the dead and taking their bodies to the crematoriums. A plot is set in place by the prisoners to revolt – even his sweetheart in the women’s camp is doing her part by sneaking gunpowder form the munitions factory. Jakub joins the in-camp resistance, knowing the risk of any escape is high.

The book was good, but it had potential to be better. Everything seemed just a bit too convenient for Jakub and there wasn’t much room for suspense. It was also a bit repetitive (characters would reminisce and go over events we already saw/knew about). I think the author captured a lot of the horrors the prisoners faced, however.

Where the characters are concerned, Jakub annoyed me. He didn’t really have any self-preservation and if it wasn’t for Tomasz, he would have been dead ten times over. And Tomasz! Despite it all, I liked him a lot more than Jakub. Anna, Dieter and Hans all fell flat and I feel like the story could have gone on without them/their POV (Anna and Hans’ POVs dropped and have Dieter just any guard). The romance between Jakub and Anna just wasn’t there – I wasn’t picking up on any actual deep feelings between them.

I didn’t know about the October 1944 uprising at Auschwitz, so that was interesting to learn about.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This story tells of the Sonderkommando, those prisoners who were forced to operate the crematoriums at Auschwitz. These prisoners were able to utilize hidden possessions in incoming prisoners belongings to make a "better" life for themselves in camp. Some of these chose to use their access to items to bribe guards and other important people, including trades for items the resistance needed. We learn of a planned revolt and follow this as it progresses. Throughout the book I assumed this revolt was fictionalized, but it actually occurred. There were several characters whose true intentions were hard to discern. This annoyed me solely because I couldn't figure it out, but the writing was great in that it kept you guessing and trying to decide what side they were really on. The book did seem a little longer than it needed to be with some parts repetitive and I don't really feel like the "romance" of Anna and Jakub was necessary. For someone so intent on surviving, Jakub seemed to be dumbstruck teenage boy more often than he should have been. Overall it was a good book with a view into a labor camp and what prisoners were forced to do in order to survive.
Was this review helpful?
A dramatized version of the Oct 1944 revolt at Auschwitz-Birkenau, this story stands out as the portrayal of the unrelenting strength of humanity to survive in the harshest of conditions. German concentration camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau were death factories, representing some of the most dark moments in the history of humanity. But even in such monstrous and unimaginable circumstances, there were sparks of revolt, people wanting more than just mere survival and willing to put their lives in line for the tiniest of possibilities. The revolt of Oct 1944 is stands out for this very reason. It represents hope in a time of utter darkness. This story gives the reader an insight into the revolt by introducing fictional characters inspired from the truly courageous heroes of the actual revolt. 

This book is wonderfully written. It is fast paced and was hard to put to down. Had I not fallen sick, I probably would have finished it a lot sooner. The characters are built wonderfully. 

One of the main characters i.e. Jakub is a Sonderkommando. The author mentions in his notes how Sonderkommandos were assigned the task of encouraging new arrivals to enter the gas chambers with false consolations and promises and hence, there is a lot of conflict in history about the role that these Sonderkommandos played in the holocaust. I, personally, find it hard to make judgements on this matter decades after the fact, especially considering I have no idea what the experience was like. Survival instinct can be very powerful and it is hard the tough choices that people faced at the time without stepping into their shoes. Jakub's character is a representation of this fact. It is hard not to connect with Jakub as you read about his constant dilemma.

There is no dearth of thought-provoking characters within the book. The prisoner who cuts deals to survive, the female prisoner who has to sell herself for some extra food and slightly better living conditions, the ethical prisoner who sticks by his/her ideals come what may etc. etc. We simply can't pinpoint at any of these prisoners and think of them as wrong, because their stories inspire so much dilemma. 'What would I do if I were in that situation?', is a question that is simply impossible to answer, because no matter what the answer, it is still only hypothetical, it is not reality. These characters and the stories of their harsh reality show us the various horrifying facets of the holocaust. 

Stories about the holocaust are always hard to read. Let me add a warning that there are some scenes of torture towards the end and if you think you would not be able to endure that, you might want to stay away from this book. I also don't necessarily think that the book needed a satisfying end. But otherwise, this is a fantastic read that fans of historical fiction will love.

Thank you NetGalley and Kensington Books for the ARC.

#NetGalley #BeyondTheWire
Was this review helpful?
Beyond the Wire was a beautiful written story about the the Auschwitz-Birkenau revolt. I loved these characters. They were so developed that I felt like I was there with them as I was reading each word. 

This is a powerful book and I definitely recommend.

 Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for allowing me to read this story in exchange for an honest review

My thoughts and opinions are my own and are not influenced by any of the other reviewers.
Was this review helpful?
Set primarily at Auschwitz and Birkenau in October, 1944, this crushing and heartbreaking historical fiction story is based on true facts which makes it all the more haunting and moving.  The author's notes on the fictional characters (some based on real ones and others a compendium of  general accounts) and true events in the back are fascinating and helpful.  The story is about courage and survival in the midst of the worst possible conditions ever endured.  

Upon his arrival at Auschwitz, Jakub Bak was selected to do some of the most unimaginable duties, sorting through the personal effects of the dead and transporting bodies.  He obviously had no choice.  Not only would he be killed if he didn't do it but he would leave his treasured Anna who was forced to march to and slave at a munitions factory every day.  He had also promised his father he would survive.  So many ethical questions arose.

This story is based on the true resistance uprising at Auschwitz.  Prisoners were emaciated, exhausted and desperate.  A camp-wide plan was made to revolt but unfortunately the SS caught wind of it and it wasn't as successful as hoped.  Still, prisoners resisted and part of a crematorium was blown up.

The perspectives of Hans and Dieter working in Auschwitz are interesting...we seldom read about them.

If you were struck by the beautiful rawness of Irena's War, Beyond the Wire will have a firm grip on you as well.  James Shipman writes evocatively and his ingenuity at storytelling is breathtaking.  He does not gloss over details of the extreme brutality of "life" and death at killing camps, including severe starvation , disease, rape and torture.  The average life expectancy was only six weeks for most; one hour for 90%.  Some did survive longer, though life was still unbearable.  As the author notes, only 15% of the Auschwitz personnel involved have been tried.  Layer upon layer of cruelty with so much injustice.

My sincere thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the honour of reading this exceptional and important book.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks NetGalley for the E-ARC! This was a heartbreaking story of those who fought to free themselves from Auschwitz concentration camp. This story demonstrated key themes such as endurance, resistance, courage, bravery, and most importantly, survival. The last ¼ of the book did have very gruesome and disturbing scenes that are not for the faint of heart. I will add that at times, I found the story repetitive and also predictable, and was hoping it tugged at the heart-strings a bit more than it did (in terms of Jakub and Anna’s relationship). While I have read other historical books that have made me more emotional, I was glad to be given more insight into the prisoner revolt.
Was this review helpful?

After reading a ton of WWII fiction, this has become a theme for me. I have a hard time telling each of them apart, and that might be a part of the problem. They are all just too much alike. Sadly, though this book dealt with an interesting topic, which has not often been explored, I fear that it is - ultimately - forgettable.

👍 What I Liked 👍

Auschwitz uprising: This is a point in Auschwitz history which is not often explored or featured in Holocaust literature. Which is a damn shame, because it is fascinating - the workings behind, the human longing to be free, the fight against the odds. Truly very fascinating. If only that had been the sole focus of this book...

👎 What I Disliked 👎

"Romance": There was absolutely no reason for this book to be a romance. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more, if the romantic aspect was cut out. It would have made it stand out more along the rest of the WWII literature. But honestly, I am playing it fast and loose with the word "romance" here. Because the relationship between Anna and Jakub was far from romantic, though the author wants us to believe this is some epic romance. Because Anna repeatedly says no to Jakub. But he doesn't care. He just keeps pushing and pushing until she finally gives in. We have to put a stop to these types of romance tropes. When a woman says "no" it means NO! It doesn't mean "please try harder"! Come on...

Hans: The Hans storyline, which features a Nazi commandant, gave very little to the overall story and plot. His chapters were mostly domestic problems and ramblings about the inevitable defeat of Germany. It got boring really fast. Coupled with the fact that Hans had next to no personality to speak of, the story would not, in my opinion, have suffered without him in it.
Was this review helpful?
Beyond the wire is a beautifully heartbreaking story about the prisoners of Auschwitz. It tells of the inhumane conditions in which they were forced to live, existing on a single crust of bread and a half a cup of soup with nothing in it, working 16 hour days at back-breaking jobs. Tortured and harassed by callous SS guards most of whom, got pleasure out of the pain they inflicted on the hapless prisoners. But it is also a testament to the human spirit, that through all the horrors they endured they still found the strength deep down inside to rise up against their torturers, to rebel and fight for their freedom no matter how short their hard earned freedom would end up being. 
Though Jakub and Anna are fictional characters they represent the prisoners of Auschwitz, as like Jacob some would be picked when they first arrived to be part of the Sonderkommando, one of the most awful of all jobs, for they had to go through the belongings of new arrivals in camp but also lead them to their death in the gas chambers, after they would take the bodies to the crematorium. ?Because of his job Jakub had a better chance of survival but at what cost? 
Anna works in a munitions factory, walking 16 miles to and from everyday. She and a few other women smuggle small amounts of gunpowder back to the camp. Along with the regular horrors of filth, starvation and disease the women also face the horror of rape. 
This book is based on the 1944 uprising in Auschwitz, where a underground resistance for only a brief moment fought their tormentors, gaining a brief moment of freedom. But by doing this they brought a large amount of hope to all. 
This is wonderfully written, I couldn't put it down, Jakub and Anna broke my heart, I felt their agony and despair as if it were my own. Everyone needs to read their story so no one ever forgets what went on in that time and to be sure it is never to happen again.  I highly recommend this book for all readers. 
Thank you to the publishers at Kensington Books and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.
Was this review helpful?
"Beyond the Wire" by James D. Shipman
Release Date: 1.25.2022

Jakub Bak arrives to Auschwitz-Birkenau in October, 1944 and chosen to sort through the clothes of the murdered after moving their bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoriums.  He has no choice, as he needs to do whatever it takes to survive.  Jakub is trying to fulfill the promise he made to his father -- to live, as well as spending precious moments with Anna, imprisoned in the women's camp.  

Every morning, Anna marches to the munitions factory where he is assigned to work.  Her and some other women smuggle small amounts of gunpowder back to the camp to help with a plan to revolt against the SS.  

"Beyond the Wire" explores the horrendous atrocities that prisoners experienced in the camps.  This alternates perspectives, focusing on Jakub and Hans, a SS officer.  This is a powerful story with descriptive text.  The note at the end, sharing what parts of the books were true, is very eyeopening.  This is a story of survival.

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read for my honest review.
#bookstagram #bookstagrammer #beyondthewire #jamesdshipman #2022bookreleases #worldwariifiction
Was this review helpful?
Beyond the Wire is a gripping story told from 3 vantage points. The first is from Jakub in the male camp at Auschwitz, second is from Anna’s viewpoint in the woman’s camp and third is Hans a member of the German SS

Though this is historical fiction, it is based on a true story and the uprising in October 1944 at Auschwitz.  As you read the thoughts and feelings of each of the characters you find yourself finding it hard to believe the things that went on and how people within the camps were treated and how they survived at all costs.  The resilience of their spirit, not knowing from one minute to the next whether it would be their last breath and they could be murdered at any moment, yet their indomitable spirit kept them going in spite of the odds.

James D. Shipman writing is eloquent and beautifully captures the time period.  I will definitely be looking for more books by him.

Thank you #netgalley and #kensingtonbooks for allowing me to read such a powerful book.
Was this review helpful?
While so much of WWII fiction lately has been focused on the war itself and the home front, very few seems to be set in the concentration camps. Which to me is the part of WWII history that we never should forget. There’s a reason the allies took pictures as they were liberating the camps. It was so we would never forget.   Even though it’s the hardest part that story, it’s a story that needs to be told and sometimes it’s easier to tell through fiction.
Was this review helpful?
Survive at any cost

This heartbreaking story of extraordinary courage and human endurance is set inside the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Poland. It is set on a real life event, the uprising of the workers in crematoriums within Auschwitz. It is also a tale of the Auschwitz underground resistance group and how some risked their lives to assist this group. It is also the story of a betrayal by someone trusted by most.

Jakub was selected to work in the crematorium at Auschwitz upon arrival, his job is to carry the dead from the gassing showers to the crematorium. He promised his father to survive at any cost , to live for the family and the future. This promise haunted him his whole stay at the camp and also fortified him in times of great despair. He met Thomasz who becomes his best friend in the camp. Thomasz is a street smart young man with a charming personality.

Anna works at the munitions plant, marching several miles each day from the camp to the factory. She is working with the resistance smuggling small amounts of gun powder from the munitions factory so the resistance can build grenades with it. They have a grand plan to stage an uprising and liberate the camp. Anna meets and falls in love with Jakub.

Schmidt is a mean SS Officer that causes much pain, suffering and heartache for both Jakub and Anna. He has no conscious and is a sadistic Nazi.

This is the story of those in the camp in the resistance led by a man named Roch. He pressured Jakub to join the resistance and Thomasz pressured him to stay clear of the resistance within the camp. One of them would betray Jakub and Anna.

It is a story of great courage and even greater will to survive. A crust of bread, a small piece of sausage was like gold. The men and women imprisoned by the Nazi's were starved, beaten and worked to death, but they still survived. They still lived and loved even within a death camp. They even resisted when they could.

This story was one that should be read by all so that it will never be repeated. It should never have happened and it must never happen again.

I would recommend this story.

Thanks to James D. Shipman for writing a great story, to Kensington Books for publishing it and to NetGalley for making it available to me.
Was this review helpful?
Behind The Wire by James D. Shipman
 This book was amazing!  It has a lot of suspense and it pulled me in from the very first page. The story was a page -turner to see what would happen to the life of Jakub and Anna.  

Being two of several prisoners in a concentration camp was not easy. The daily routine was the same every day.  The prisoners had to try not the let the SS know they were sick. They would be sent to the hospital and you had a chance of not returning.

The author was able to bring the story to life. I loved all the characters and all were very realistic.

I would recommend this book to anyone who might like WWII stories.

I will give this book a 5 out of 5 stars

This complimentary book was given to me for a honest review. All thoughts and opinion are mine and mine.
Was this review helpful?
In Beyond The Wire, James Shipman explores a true story about an October 1944 uprising behind the walls of the Auschwitz concentration camp and raises the following sobering and thought-provoking question: “Are we beyond the Holocaust or does it wait in the shadows for us, lurking just below the surface?” 

“For approximately 90 percent of those brought to Auschwitz, life would end within the hour.” Those who were strong enough to work were tattooed and “were productive for about six weeks.” With a life expectancy in Auschwitz measured in weeks, not months nor years, it is easy to understand why some became emboldened and accepted the idea that they’d rather die trying than live without doing anything. For many, the reality of surviving another day paled in comparison to a chance of a daring escape to live outside the confines of the barbed wire. 

Shipman’s narrative is told from three different points of view, that of Jakub in the men’s camp, Anna in the women’s camp, and Hans, an SS officer. I believe that the author’s characterization is the best I’ve read in Holocaust fiction. I can’t ever recall reading about such multifaceted characters. While I was enlightened about the revolt against the SS and the attempt at liberation and appreciated Shipman’s use of tension throughout his compelling narrative, it’s his characters who will stay with me for quite some time. 

I really felt the emotional angst reading about Jewish prisoner, Jakub Bak because Shipman brought this fictional character alive on the pages. Bak was forced into the Sonderkommando work unit where he sorted through the clothes of the dead and moved the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoriums. A promise made to his father and the possibility of catching glimpses of a fellow prisoner, Anna, gave him the strength to continue. Although I’ve read a great deal of Holocaust fiction and non-fiction, Shipman was able to make me understand the survivor guilt Jakub faced, the ethical problems he considered in stealing food and valuables so that he could trade for food and privileges, his trust issues, and the choice he grappled with in deciding to save himself or risk his life to save others. I can only imagine how this would haunt prisoners for life.
Anna’s character, also fictional, was crafted to evoke an emotional response, too. She works in the munitions factory and smuggles trace amounts of gunpowder back to camp in her clothing. Although I didn’t feel as deeply for her, I appreciated her integrity and her willingness to sacrifice her life for something better. 

Hans, also fictional, evokes an emotional response. Although he’s been indoctrinated to hate the Jews, we see his human side. He’s a broken man with family issues and his position within the camp is in jeopardy. Rarely do I read about the homelife of the Nazis, so this character really made me think about ALL who were forced to commit acts they normally wouldn’t have considered had it not been for the war. 

An extremely well-written and thought-provoking five-star historical fiction, this novel needs your attention – both in time spent reading and in effort put forth in making sure this never happens again. 

I was gifted this advance copy by James Shipman, Kensington Books, and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
Was this review helpful?
WOW. I absolutely devoured this book! I love historical fiction and this one did not disappoint. The author had a great way of making you feel like you were actually there, going through Auschwitz with the characters. You could feel the cold they felt, taste the food they were eating. Powerful book that I highly enjoyed, although heartbreaking at the same time, and I will be recommending this book to whoever I can!
Was this review helpful?
My favorite genre of books to read is historical fiction … especially those set during WWII. I continue to be amazed at the horrors that excited during Hitler’s reign of terror. This particular book focuses on the concentration camp of Auschwitz and the story about the revolt that happened in 1944. You are also exposed to the atrocities that the prisoners endured … the way they were treated, the horrible things they endured, the lack of respect for humanity that the guards displayed. You are treated to the viewpoint of two very different SS officers. The story behind the revolt is emotionally moving, but some of the side storyline takes away from the credibility (Dieter’s willingess to join the uprising) and romantic situations.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corporation for my advanced review copy. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This story describes how prisoners were tortured and killed in the concentration camps. The story is told from three points of view - Jakub, in the mens camp, Anna, in the womens camp, and Hans, an SS officer of the camp. I really enjoyed reading Jakub and Anna’s chapters. The things these people went through is awful and can be tough to read at times. This was a great book with a beautiful and unexpected ending.
Was this review helpful?