Escape was extremely rare at Auschwitz, but was not unknown.

The most famous case was that of Mala Zimetbaum and her Polish lover, Edek Galinski. She was a Lauferin, or runner, in the camp, able to move about on errands and carrying messages. Both had been members of anti-Nazi undergrounds, he in Poland, she in Belgium. He obtained an SS uniform, she "organized" a pass, and they left the camp together in the guise of an SS man transporting a prisoner. Many Auschwitz survivors remember them, for they inspired everyone with tremendous hope, but the accounts differ on details as to the distance they got before being arrested and returned to the camp. Some survivors remember them getting as far as Krakow. Back in Auschwitz, both were tortured and then led to the gallows for public execution. Mala slashed her wrist with a razor blade she had concealed, was beaten to the ground and loaded onto the crematorium truck without ever being hanged. Across the camp, Edek leaped into the noose and kicked away the bench before the death sentence was read; the SS rescued and re-hanged him.

There were six hundred other cases of escape from Auschwitz. Almost four hundred were captured. When an escape was detected, all prisoners in the camp stood at attention for hours on end, while the fugitive was hunted outside the camp; once captured, the escapee wass tortured, then paraded around the camp with a sign saying "Hurrah, I'm back," and then was hanged in front of the rest of the camp. Friedrich, pp. 58-60.

Primo Levi, in his chapter on "Stereotypes", remarks that he was often asked why he did not escape from Auschwitz:

(T)here existed....several million foreigners in a condition of slavery, overworked, despised, undernourished, badly clothed, and badly cared for, cut off from all contact with their native land. They were not 'typical prisoners', they did not have integrity, on the contrary they were demoralized and depleted....For them escape was difficult and extremely dangerous; besides being demoralized, they had been weakened by hunger and maltreatment; they were and knew they were considered worth less than beasts of burden. Their heads were shaved, their filthy clothes were immediately recognizable, their wooden clogs made a swift and silent step impossible. If they were foreigners, they had neither acquaintances nor viable places of refuge in the surroundings....The particular, but numerically imposing, case of the Jews was the most tragic....In what direction could they flee? To whom could they turn for shelter? They were outside the world, men and women made of air.

Levi, Drowned, pp. 153-154.