Leap into Darkness

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Leap into Darkness
Author Leo Bretholz
Michael Olesker
Original title Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe
Country United States
Language English
Genre Memoir
Publisher Woodholme House Publishers (hardback)
Anchor Books (paperback)
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 263 pp
ISBN 0385497059

Leap into Darkness is a 1998 memoir by Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz and co-author Michael Olesker.


The book begins with Hitler's entry into Austria in 1938. The book recounts Bretholz's early life and the beginning of the war, as well as the seven years he spent on the run. Throughout the book he escapes the Nazi Regime several times, including from a train that was headed towards Auschwitz.

Bretholz was 17 when the Germans took over his native Austria. His mother, more realistic than other relatives, saw disaster and insisted that he escape, which is what he did for the next seven years, traveling through Germany, Luxembourg, France and briefly, Switzerland, to jails and numerous internment camps. Bretholz relied often on his youthful agility and daring to save himself from much worse; he escaped from a train headed for Auschwitz in 1942.

He spent the last years of the war working for the French Resistance, emigrating in 1947 to Baltimore, where he ran a bookstore (frequented by coauthor and Baltimore Sun columnist Olesker). In one story, he tells of a young female friend who was menaced by a gendarme while he is forced to stay hidden, "crouched on the floor, helpless, emasculated, sickened." Bretholz is also observant of the Austrians ("'First victims,' they will call themselves when the world loses its memory."); opportunistic Swiss; and the French, so many of whom claimed to be Resistance. "I was now a miraculous athlete, a professional escape artist, a young man in perpetual flight. I was indomitable. Also, I was too terrified not to run for my life."