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Rena's Promise

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,970 Ratings  ·  426 Reviews
"I do not hate. To hate is to let Hitler win." Rena Kornreich Gelissen

"The most important book of the modern age!" Neal Lavon, Voice of America

"The most historically accurate book ever written of the first transport of women into Auschwitz--the only book ever written by a survivor of that transport, who survived 3 years and 41 days in the camps." Irena Strezlecka, Director
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Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published 2011 by Beacon Press (first published October 30th 1995)
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Heather Macadam I hope that you weren't simply sad by Rena's story--she wouldn't want you to be sad. She wants you to feel hope. She wants you to know how many people…moreI hope that you weren't simply sad by Rena's story--she wouldn't want you to be sad. She wants you to feel hope. She wants you to know how many people helped she and her sister to survive and how important the smallest act of kindness changed their lives and their will to survive. Love is never sad--it is power;) hdm(less)
Heather Macadam Thanks for that. I just wrote an Op-Ed about this very point. I think Rena's story is so different than others' because her message is about love, not…moreThanks for that. I just wrote an Op-Ed about this very point. I think Rena's story is so different than others' because her message is about love, not horror. Random acts of Kindness ARE random acts of courage--and every person who helped she and her sister survive are heroes, be they a Kapo (like Emma), a gentile prisoner, or an anonymous Polish woman on the death march... and let's not forget Andrzej!

What I want people to know is that these young women, who were not only the First Jewish women in Auschwitz, but on the First Jewish Transport to Auschwitz have largely been forgotten by history and they deserve to be honored, recognize and revered. They are a reminder that young women today are still targets of genocide and that has to stop! (less)

Community Reviews

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Heather Dune
Mar 07, 2009 Heather Dune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wrote this book with Rena and though Rena died a few years ago, am busy continuing her message of love to all people. If you are a fan of Rena's Promise, you can now find her on YOUTUBE. I have digitized her first public appearance and if you have never heard her speak or seen her, it is an experience you won't want to miss. She was such a bundle of energy, so animated and sweet and funny and REAL. People forget that Holocaust survivors are real people, who laugh and cry like we all do. Thank ...more
Crystal
Jan 03, 2012 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It is beautifully written and a remarkable story. One might be inclined to discount it, expecting a tragic misery memoir. But this story is in the vein of Victor Frankl; it's a story about how we survive, about how family and memory can lend individuals in the direst of circumstances the most incredible strength. Rena Kornreich was among the first transport of women to Auschwitz and she is also one of the few women from that first transport who survived to see the camp liberated. Sometimes the s ...more
Viktoria Jean
Oct 28, 2007 Viktoria Jean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ogle
This book is a touching recount of the war in the eyes of two growing young women. Among the first 999 Jewish girls on the first transport brought into Auschwitz on March 26, 1942, was twenty-one year old Rena Kornreich-the seven hundred and sixteenth woman in that infamous death camp, Auschwitz. Two days later, she recognized her sister Danka among thousand other freshly shaved heads in Auschwitz where, together, they spent the next three years of their young lives as slaves to the Third Reich. ...more
Tuesday
Feb 14, 2012 Tuesday rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I picked this book up for my Kindle when it was free several weeks ago, and as I look back through some of my recent reads, I realize I've been been on a Holocaust/WW II themed binge - three books in less than two months. I can't seem to devour enough. I've read true accounts, translations, and even a fictional story have graced my hands, heart, and mind recently.

Rena's Promise is a book that I want need must go back and read again, but I am afraid that I still won't be able to grasp the full i
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Dyuti
Jul 08, 2012 Dyuti rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dyuti by: Arunima Coomar
"A promise is beauty kept secure
The exquisiteness of knowing what is to come..."


The book Rena's Promise is one such story of a promise made, and a promise kept, by a young girl to her mother, to always, and at any cost, to protect her younger sister. Unfortunately, fate had a cruel way of testing her: for the sisters were Jewish, living in the Polish country-side during the height of antisemitism in Europe -- the 1940's.

Written decades after her experiences at the labour camp along with her sist
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Kelly
May 10, 2007 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, history
Rena's Promise is a story of the human constitution pushed to its capacity. The story captures the normalcy of Rena's life before the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and then follows her life in first-person through the concentration camp she endured until freedom arrived in 1943. Within the camp, Rena Kornreich illustrates how many lived hanging by a thread; that if you simply willed yourself to die, you would. But Rena retained a fervor for life, largely in part by her sister, Danka, who ar ...more
Quinn Barrett
Apr 25, 2013 Quinn Barrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wise Bear Books Reviews Rena’s Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen and Heather Dune Macadam -- 5 Paws!

Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz, co-authored by Rena Kornreich Gelissen and Heather Dune Macadam, is a life-changing story not just for the women who lived to share the horrors of their experience, but for anyone who reads this personal account of the most heinous genocide of the 20th century. Many books have been written about the holocaust, Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps,
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Heather Macadam
Mar 08, 2015 Heather Macadam rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
"The most important book of the modern age!"
Neal Lavon, Voice of America

A poignant and important act of remembrance.” —Sir Martin Gilbert, author of The Holocaust: A Human Tragedy, and Churchill.

“An extraordinary book, vividly written and generously told. You will not easily forget Rena Kornreich and her sister Danka. Nor should you. Harrowing as it often is Rena’s Promise is less a tragedy than a love story. By turns soul-wrneching, inspiring and heartbreaking, this is a tale that should live
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Kelli Oliver George
In general, I am obsessed with World War II and I have read a TON of Holocaust accounts. Quite frankly, I will never, ever read enough of these accounts because they all deserve to be heard.......to be honored. I read this book in the span of 3 days on my phone. Yes, my PHONE. (Kindle App? WORD). From the beginning, I was completely taken with Rena's account of her experience in the camps and that of her undying promise to her sister, Danka. I finished the book this afternoon, on a weird, record ...more
Shari Larsen
This is the true story of Rena Kornreich. She was among the first 998 women transported to Auschwitz in March 1942. Soon after she got there, she was reunited with her younger sister Danka, and made a promise that she would take care of Danka and someday, bring her back home.


They spent 3 years and 41 days in the camps, struggling to survive, and narrowly escaping death several times. Throughout it all, Rena maintained a spirit of love, for her in her words, "To hate is to let Hitler win."


This wa
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Kolleen
Apr 22, 2012 Kolleen rated it really liked it
I love books about the Holocaust, both fiction and nonfiction. So as I began this book, I was surprised to find that I found it to be somehow detached and non-emotional (if anything about this subject could somehow ever be that way, but I can't help how my mind works). What I was reading seemed to be relayed in the form of facts rather than feelings. However, that all changed very quickly, and I am ashamed to say that I ever felt this way at all.

Rena gives her account of living, and surviving, i
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Lyla
Jan 13, 2012 Lyla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've only read 3 books thus far about Holocaust survivors and of those three this one seems to touch me the most. It's amazing how Rena was able to almost out-think her captors at the most difficult and deadliest moments. Her inner strength, devotion to her sister, and unwillingness to being selfish with whatever she happend to receive speaks volumes about how she was brought up and the compassionate person her mother must have been.

This story angered me, turned me cold, brought tears to my eyes
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Heather Macadam
Dec 04, 2011 Heather Macadam rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This is a new edition that addresses some of the issues in the print edition by rewriting the beginning of the book, where I meet Rena. I was never happy with that section and was not a professional writer when I wrote it. So my voice has been upgraded - I hope! Nothing of Rena's voice has been changed, though several stories that we cut have been added for the digital edition, which give the reader more insight to Rena and Danka. The epilogue has also been expanded to include my favorite scene- ...more
LeighAnne
May 16, 2011 LeighAnne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-books
It took me a little while to get into this book. I felt disconnected by the author's style of jumping back and forth between her telling what Rena told her and Rena's own memories. I now see why she did it, though. She was letting us get to know Rena before being thrust into the horror of her life in WWII.
INCREDIBLE book. I am so sorry to hear that Rena passed away a few years ago. I would love to have met her. I am definitely going to look up the youtube videos there are of her. Beautiful, bea
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Holly
This is an absolutely astonishing story of survival, love for family, and integrity even when surrounded by oppression. I finished reading this book the day before I paid my respects at Auschwitz, so it held a special place in my heart and mind while I was there. I'm sure it will continue to do so forever more. But you don't have to go to Auschwitz to appreciate this wonderful memoir of a truly horrifying period in recent history. It shines a light not only on the brutality of the Nazis, but als ...more
JaVone Bentley
Dec 29, 2015 JaVone Bentley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A captivating and heartwrenching story of courage, selflessness, hope, and survival. This book was eye opening and humbling as Rena shared her tale of survival in Auschwitz while trying to remain humane and trying to keep her promise to her sister. Although it takes place during the Holocaust, this memoir does not put a lot of focus on the evils during the time. Rena's will to survive, her selflessness, and her strength during such a tumultuous time were admirable. The story telling was great a ...more
Jennifer
Mar 25, 2016 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking. Emotionally difficult to read. If you question whether or not evil exists, read a book about Auschwitz. Learn something from it, and then pass the book along.
Oh, and..... Best. Epilogue. Ever.
Lizvette
Nov 17, 2014 Lizvette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best Holocaust's stories I have read. Well written. Impressive! All the situations these sisters experienced and the courage they showed to avoid separation. Very happy they survived. I would love to read a second book on how they adjusted to a "normal" life.
Carrie
Apr 17, 2016 Carrie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, hard-life
A horrific but compelling read.
This book stayed with me and played on my mind for weeks after finishing it.
I personally feel it is important to read and listen to as many people's stories of this horrifc event and despite it being one of the hardest subjects to read about, Rena's Promise is by far, one of the hardest personal accounts I've read.

I picked this book up on kindle when it was offered for free one day. I didn't realise it would affect me so much.

I won't go into detail but there are pa
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Jael
Jun 18, 2015 Jael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago, but I'm adding it now so I remember to try to find it again.
Agnes
Apr 06, 2016 Agnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of an ordinary young woman from Tylicz, Poland who spent three years, 41 days in prison camps as part of the German solution to ridding the world of Jews. She shares her story with young Heather Dune Macadam so Rena's family will know it.

It is a harrowing tale of how terrible one human can be to another and how kind one human can be to another. I am amazed at how Rena still felt that all people should be loved after all she endured.

I've read many stories of the camps and Jews,
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bkjunkie
Aug 27, 2012 bkjunkie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-shelf
I have read a few books from holocaust survivors and this one is very detailed yet not as emotionally difficult to complete as I initially thought it would be. I have a friend who travels to Bratislava (which I had never heard of before her). The city is mentioned three times in this book. Everyone should read stories like this to become more aware of true human suffering. We are so spoiled in this age. We throw food away, possess piles of clothes & electronics we can't live without, own hug ...more
Jennifer Nelson
Although extremely painful to read at times, this book is so beautifully written that it will touch you to the core. Rena and her sister faced suffering you cannot even imagine in Auschwitz and this book chronicles the ways that they strove to rise above the humiliation, the torture, the filth, the utter depravity and complete darkness of concentration camp life. Their commitment to decency and kindness to others and their complete and fierce loyalty to each other was utterly amazing to read abo ...more
Tiffanie
Aug 20, 2008 Tiffanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books for me that I get emotionally involved, and when "rest time" is over at my house I just want to keep reading until I finish. Alas, two pouncing children can change one's mind quickly. Until another day...

I finished it, thanks to my husband taking the kids for a mommy break. This book was one of the best real life testimonials of a concentration camp survivor I have read as of yet. I hope people understand that I am not sick to want to know all of these awful things tha
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Anjelica
Oct 01, 2012 Anjelica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rena's Promise tells the unbelievably true story of two sisters who survived more than 3 years in the Auschwitz death camp. As a writer, and a student of Macadam's, I find myself at a loss for words to describe this book. The book is incredible, and rich with organic metaphor and stories. Reading this book, I found myself closing the book and hugging it to my chest.

The story is incredibly captivating and is a must read for anyone, especially those with an interest in Holocaust literature, Judaic
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BarbaraNathalie
Mar 21, 2012 BarbaraNathalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rena and Danka are sisters in a small town near the Polish borders when Germany starts WWII. They are separated for a time while Rena is in Aushwitch, but Danka soon joins her. Together they forge a three year effort to survive all the atrocities that take place in the death camp.

In the book, we hear of the brutalities which have been depicted in holocaust memoirs, but this tale has something different. Rena's story resonates with hope for humanity. In her small border town, Jews are not single
...more
Sylvia Harrow
Nov 20, 2012 Sylvia Harrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some might fear reading such a book, not wanting to know the horrors of the concentration camps. For those people, I would suggest they take heart and learn about the spirit of survival and the strength of human bonds and the way those bonds allow us to survive and thrive. This is a story of resilience, a story of sisterly love, and a tale of the ability to make the most out of a dire situation. You will immediately fall in love with the main character, Rena, and you will thrill in her love of l ...more
Jessica
Dec 09, 2015 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, I always marvel at how people can live through Auschwitz and live to such ripe old ages as many of these survivors have.

The book is superbly written, I feel like it captures Rena's voice beautifully.

This book is a real and raw account of an incredibly long journey through Auschwitz. She was a prisoner with an ID numbered in the low 1,000's and by the time the camp was liberated the ID numbers were in the 200,000's (if I remember that # correctly)

Rena was incredibly intuitive and her
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vickyrodriguez
Jul 24, 2015 vickyrodriguez rated it it was amazing
Worth every second of reading!

I loved this book. It should be a required read in all history classes. The tenacity and endurance shown by these sisters and their companions in the concentration camps is more than most anyone can endure,yet they survived. A hard book to put down.
April
Apr 28, 2011 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir of a holocaust survivor is truly unforgettable. Rena is so matter of fact with her story telling, that it's for the reader not to think that they are right there with her in the concentration camp. Rena was on the first transport to Auschwitz. She was tattooed number 1716. Her sister, Danka, arrived a few months later. Rena turned herself in to spare the family that was hiding her. Rena then begins her tale of horror of living in Auschwitz and then Auschwitz Two. She survived starvat ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Rena's Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen 1 13 Mar 20, 2015 12:15PM  
  • Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora
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  • Nine Suitcases: A Memoir
  • The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir
  • Thanks to My Mother
  • I Escaped from Auschwitz
  • Triumph of Hope: From Theresienstadt and Auschwitz to Israel
  • Clara's War
  • Gertruda's Oath: A Child, a Promise, and a Heroic Escape During World War II
  • Treblinka Survivor: The Life and Death of Hershl Sperling
  • I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's List Survivor
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  • Sala's Gift: My Mother's Holocaust Story
  • A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy
  • Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz
  • In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
  • My Bridges of Hope
  • Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz

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