BOOKS: Daytonian’s memoir recounts her family’s escape from the Holocaust

When I picked up a copy of “Escape from Dachau” by Kathe Mueller Slonim I assumed that based upon the full title this was the author’s memoir about her escape from a notorious Nazi concentration camp. Once I started reading it I realized that this is really the story of a very fortunate family that somehow managed to get out of Germany in the nick of time.

This is the tale of how Kathe Mueller Slonim’s father Adolf escaped from Dachau. When Kathe Mueller Slonim is mentioned throughout the book, it is in descriptions of what she was doing and what she did over the course of the story she is not narrating. At the end of the book we learn that Mattea Kramer synthesized the recollections of Kathe and of Kathe’s uncle Julius Falk, to recreate this story.

Any readers who are not familiar with the history of Germany between the wars will obtain a lesson about how after the defeat of Germany in WWI the seeds of the next world war had already begun sprouting. A young Austrian named Adolf Hitler was one of many disillusioned veterans. He became a member of a new political party that formed in 1920, it would become the Nazi Party.

The book traces how the Nazis ascended to power during a period of great economic instability. By 1932 Hitler was taking over the government and that was when discriminatory policies against Jewish Germans began being enacted. The author’s family was Jewish and they observed as the Nazis started gradually, inexorably restricting their freedoms.

Kathe’s parents were running successful businesses. Her father Adolf seemed convinced that if they just kept doing the best they could and minded their own affairs that everything would be fine. But it wasn’t. One day in November of 1938 the Nazis came and arrested Kathe’s father.

They took him to Dachau: “the original concentration camp. the first camp that all the others were modeled after.” I’m not going to tell you anything about how her father managed to get out of Dachau, but he did. By then he was in poor physical condition and his formerly bubbly, positive personality would always remain a bit muted following his ordeal.

The family managed to make their way to America. They were among the lucky few. As we witness the current hysteria about immigration in this country it bears remembering that during the late 1930′s there was an isolationist aspect to our government that made it quite complicated for Jews escaping from Europe to enter our country.

The family adapted. In 2000 Kathe returned to Stuttgart, Germany. On her 73rd birthday she “sat with her daughter and granddaughter in the reconstructed Stuttgart synagogue that had been torched and burned...” If there is one message in this book it is this: never forget.

Kathe Mueller Slonim was employed for 40 years as a school secretary for the City of Dayton Department of Education. She died in October, 2021.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at

About the Author