02 August 2013

Review: Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

Published: 1 March 2013 by Scholastic

Pages: 272 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, WWII

Source: Own library


Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It's something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner -- his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.

He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.

Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will -- and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?

My Thoughts

I've read a lot of Holocaust literature over the past ten or so years, but Prisoner B-3087 is a little different to what I normally read in that it is a fictionalisation of a true survivors' story.  And what a story it is.

Yanek Gruener isn't even a teenager when the Nazi's invade Poland, but he grows up in the fastest, most brutal way in a Ghetto, ten concentration camps and two Death Marches.  Although the writing is fairly sparse and simplistic, in doing so Alan Gratz doesn't try and romanticise, embellish or exaggerate the truth of Yanek's story.  It's brutal and cold and epitomises how Yanek survives - by making himself as annonymous as possible.

Although aimed at the Young Adult market, this book doesn't hold anything back - although not graphically described, there isn't any part of the story that is glossed over - from the brutal, random cruelty of the kapo's and SS, the death camps and the unending, hopeless fight for survival.

I read this book in one sitting because I just couldn't stop reading - and admiring the strength and determination of Yanek to survive no matter the horrors that he encountered every single day for years.

There's not much more I can say about this book because it is what it says on the tin - plot wise there are no surprises and it focuses almost primarily on Yanek's journey through the horror of the holocaust.

Prisoner B-3087 is a book I would unhesitatingly recommend to anyone that reads about the Holocaust, and as a book for older teens it is a powerful educational tool - Yanek's story is so unbelivable and yet Alan Gratz brings it alive on the page.  Unpretentious, sad, moving and ultimately uplifting, this is a book that will stick with me for a very long time.


  1. I think I'll need to read this one even if I know I'll have heartache and anger with me all the while... thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I hadn't heard of this one before. Going to add it to my TBR because it sounds like something that I need to read.

  3. This sounds heart wrenching but I'm glad it didn't gloss over anything just because it was YA.

  4. 5 stars to Holocaust literature = MUST. HAVE. Very glad that nothing is glossed over, as the Holocaust isn't something to gloss.



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