Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America by Debbie Cenziper

Somewhere in every Holocaust survivor’s story there is a miracle—the sudden intervention of fate, or luck, or divine providence that alters the grim inevitability of events. For Feliks Wojcik, a 19-year-old Jewish medical student who fled east as the invading German army approached his home—the bustling, assimilated city of Lublin, Poland—that moment came after he stepped out of a concealing copse of birch trees and was instantly surrounded by armed men. Led at gunpoint to the square of a small shtetl in Galicia, where inert bodies were already strewn like debris across the bloodstained cobblestones, Wojcik was shoved to his knees by a German officer. He stared at a brick wall, waiting for his life to be over. Suddenly bullets began spraying the square, but they were coming from above, as if sent from Heaven, mowing down the German executioners. Wojcik looked up and saw the streaking silhouettes of Soviet warplanes. Then he was on his feet, running for his life.

Wojcik’s improbable escape that day was just the start of a tense, cruel journey that took him—and the teenage bride he’d soon marry—through the constant horrors that fueled the Nazi annihilation of Europe’s Jews. Yet it was also a miracle that led the couple to a new life in America, where they had children and grandchildren, and where Wojcik lived to 92, a practicing physician for half a century.