In January 1943, the Nazis shipped 230 French women, members of the Resistance, to the death camp Birkenau, in Poland. Author Caroline Moorehead chron...moreIn January 1943, the Nazis shipped 230 French women, members of the Resistance, to the death camp Birkenau, in Poland. Author Caroline Moorehead chronicles their deaths here, but also the survival of 49 of them -- a percentage that defied the odds. The women survived through a hard-headed dedication to solidarity, an understanding that their only hope was in working together.
It's unlikely that this book will be widely read, because of its grim subject matter. Indeed, it sat on my shelves for months before I made the plunge. It was worth it. Moorehead is a good writer, and one who shows us not only the terrible pathos and tragedy, but who brings to life the grandeur of the spirit in its worst extremity of suffering - the servant energy, the fact that the women survived by focusing on one another.
The book's two parts wonderfully memorializes their courage: first, what they did to bring the Nazis' wrath down upon them; their work in the Resistance. Second, how some of them survived the horrors of the French châteaux de la mort lente (castles of slow death), and then Birkenau.
There's a lesson here. Those maternal, sisterly prisoners, absolutely doomed, were as brave and resourceful as any band of brothers. Recommended.(less)