77 pages 2 hours read

Alan Gratz

Prisoner B-3087

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


Alan Gratz’s 2013 novel Prisoner B-3087 is based on the true-life story of Yanek (Jack) Gruener, who endured numerous Nazi concentration and death camps during World War II. The story is written for a middle-grade audience, but its overarching themes of survival and identity make it relatable to audiences of any age. This study guide uses the 2013 Scholastic Press hardcover edition.

Plot Summary

Prisoner B-3087 follows a linear timeline, starting with the moment the Nazi soldiers first invade Kraków, Poland, where Yanek Gruener lives with his mother and father. After enduring the ghettoization of his neighborhood, Yanek’s parents and relatives are murdered by the Nazis. Yanek is forced to move between concentration and death camps, where he is tirelessly worked beyond exhaustion and starved to near death.

The novel is plot-driven, focusing mainly on Yanek’s struggle to survive the racism, dehumanization, and violence that the Nazis show the Jewish people and other minority groups during the Holocaust of World War II. However, Yanek’s personal story showcases the human spirit’s desire to seek connection and maintain a sense of identity. Yanek loses his family and is told by his only remaining uncle to stay anonymous to survive. He initially listens to this advice but soon realizes that connecting with other boys makes him feel less alone and hopeless. When these friendships end violently, he resolves to persevere even more to rebel against the injustice around him.

The novel is divided into sections that detail Yanek’s location as he moves between concentration camps and death camps. His story begins in Kraków, Poland, where the Nazis build a fence that confines the Jewish people. Later, after his parents are murdered and he is captured, Yanek is sent to Plaszów concentration camp, where he reunites with his uncle. This is only the beginning of Yanek’s imprisonment. After his uncle is killed, he is transferred to Wieliczka, Trzebinia, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and various other camps. By the end of the novel, he has endured countless death marches, deadly train rides, and deadlier camps. As Yanek navigates his dire circumstances, he questions the nature of good versus evil and what it means to survive.