'Alexander stalked to his bunk....If there was a means of escape, he would've taken it, but there was no escaping Auschwitz. He swore silently and tore off his shirt. If he wasn't going to get fed, he may as well get clean, he thought, taking off his boots and tramping to the shower. His fingernails were black and his mouth was dry and tasted foul. He stepped under the cool stream and showered off the sweat and horse hair. He held his face up to the needles and kept it there, happy that it hurt. He'd spent the day caring for a mean horse, grooming him for a man who whipped other men for pleasure. He'd spent the day making German children smile and their Nazi fathers proud.
He didn't deserve to eat.'
Fourteen-year-old Alexander Altmann doesn't need to look at the number tattooed on his arm; he knows it by heart. And he hates it. Almost as much as he hates the cramped barracks at Auschwitz. So when the SS call for Jews who’ ve worked with horses, Alexander steps forward. No-one warned him that stable-hands who sneak sugar from the feed bins are shot or that the Commander of the horse platoon uses his whip to tame men. No one told him that he’d be given a scared and damaged horse to break in; and only twelve days to do it.
Alexander Altmann A10567 was inspired by the true story of an Auschwitz survivor the author met at the Holocaust Museum in Melbourne. Fred Steiner was fourteen when he joined Auschwitz’s elite Horse Commando. On his left forearm is the number the Nazis tattooed on his skin - A10567.