For being German, they are settled in the first barracks of the Gypsy Camp. The living conditions are extremely harsh, but at least she is with her five children. A few days after their arrival, Doctor Mengele comes to pay her a visit, having noticed on her entry card that she is a nurse. He proposes that she direct the camp’s nursery. The facilities would be set up in Barrack 29 and Barrack 31, one of which would be the nursery for newborn infants and the other for children over six years old.
Helene, with the help of two Polish Jewish prisoners and four gypsy mothers, organizes the buildings. Though Mengele provides them with swings, Disney movies, school supplies, and food, the people are living in crowded conditions under extreme conditions. And less than 400 yards away, two gas chambers are exterminating thousands of people daily.
For sixteen months, Helene lives with this reality, desperately trying to find a way to save her children. Auschwitz Lullaby is a story of perseverance, of hope, and of strength in one of the most horrific times in history.
Paperback, 320 pagesExpected publication: August 7th 2018 by Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical Fiction
** I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**
I have an obsession with reading books about WW11. I have read hundreds (no exaggeration) of books in fictional, non fiction and memoirs surrounding it. I recently visited Europe and had the opportunity to visit many memorials in as many countries as well as a concentration camp (in Berlin) but have yet to visit Poland and Auschwitz. Both of my children visited Auschwitz in March of this year. To say that I have a fascination with this tragic part of history is an understatement. The horrors and stories surrounding it far outnumber the amount of days I will be on this earth and I will never get to know them all.
Auschwitz Lullaby is a fictional story but based on real life facts and people. For this I can't help but appreciate the story that this book was telling. Helene was German but her husband was a gypsy along with their five children. When the police came to take her husband and children, she refused to be left behind and ended up being taken to Auschwitz with them. Upon arrival to the camp she was separated, along with her children, from her husband and forced to adapt to the horrific conditions without him. This book detailed her time at Auschwitz in the Gypsy camp with her children.
I don't want to take away from the hardship and struggles of Helene's story but I do have to admit that while I was reading the book I kept thinking that she was quite privileged (relatively speaking) compared to numerous other accounts I have read about in that horrible place. Life was by no means good or easy but her struggles were not quite as horrific. She seemed to have a slight bit of privilege over many of the other prisoners because of her German heritage. I'm not sure if that was intended by the author but it was certainly how it presented in the story. As much as my heart bled for Helene and her circumstances I was hoping to feel her emotions and connect with her character a little more than I did. The words were on the pages but I never fully got into the pages with her and in her head. I wanted to feel her agony and heartache (crazy I know) more than I did. Perhaps I didn't to the extent I had wanted to simply because I have read so many tragic stories and memoirs detailing first hand accounts of holocaust survivors, I'm not sure. Maybe it was because the book wasn't a long one and there was so much information to squeeze into those pages. As much as I was engrossed in the story the emotional aspect of it left me craving. It felt more driven by fact and historical accuracy than the emotions of a mother imprisoned in one of the worst places imaginable while trying to keep herself and her children alive. This was evident when the story would talk about people like Irma Grese and Maria Mandel. These names were not new to me because of my interest in that part of history but I understand they may be to other readers. However, every time the author mentioned these two female guards he used their first and last name. Every single time. The first couple of times I can understand as he was introducing them to the reader. After a while it became a hiccup every time I read their names. It disturbed the flow of the story.
Although I craved a more emotional connection, I really enjoy reading about Helene and her efforts with the children in the camp. I can only imagine the difficulty and devastation that she encountered on a daily basis. It was a time of unfathomable cruelty and horror and I strongly believe that every story within the walls of that death camp deserves and needs to be told.
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