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Gatehouse to Hell

Felix Opatowski is only fifteen years old when he takes on the perilous job of smuggling goods out of the Lodz ghetto in exchange for food for his starving family. It is a skill that will serve him well as he tries to stay alive in Nazi-occupied Poland. With dogged determination, Felix endures months of harrowing conditions in the ghetto and slave labour camps until he is deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in the fall of 1943. Gatehouse to Hell is a candid and heart-rending account of a teenage boy who comes of age in desperate conditions, putting himself at risk to help others, forming bonds of friendship and holding onto hope for the future.

Introduction by Marlene Kadar

At a Glance
Lodz ghetto
Labour and concentration camps
Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau Uprising
Postwar Austria
Arrived in Canada in 1949
Adjusting to life in Canada
Educational materials available: The Human Experience of Auschwitz

216 pages, including index

2012 Independent Publisher Silver Medal

Recommended Ages

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Photo of Felix Opatowski

About the author

Felix Opatowski was born in Lodz, Poland, on June 15, 1924. He was liberated in Austria by the US army on May 9, 1945, and worked at a US army base where he married his wife, Regina, in 1947. Felix and Regina arrived in Toronto in 1949; they were married for sixty-nine years. Felix passed away in 2017.

Explore this story in Re:Collection

I was stubborn. I didn’t want to stay in Auschwitz. I didn’t want to go to the gas chambers…. I didn’t want to die there, and I kept pushing back.