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Rena's Promise

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  8,744 ratings  ·  575 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
...more
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)

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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  8,744 ratings  ·  575 reviews


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Heather Dune
Mar 07, 2009 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
Dec 26, 2011 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
Gary
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rena Kornreich was 19 years old when the Nazis swept into Poland. She recounts her experiences under the brutal Nazi occupation of Poland, and her deportation, along with her younger sister Danka, in March 1942. to Auschwitz, where in harrowing detail she tells of the horrifying conditions there, and the perverse cruelty of the Nazis.
She tells of her promise to stand by her sister to the end, and describes the gas chambers and the cruel experiments on Jewish girls and women by Mengele.
She recoun
...more
Jean Li
Oct 28, 2007 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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Extremely harrowing but also inspiring account by one of the first Jews sent to Auschwitz, who, initially inspired by a mental pledge to her mother that she would save her baby sister (having once prayed for her when she appeared to have died from croup as a baby), and then by a spoken pledge to that sister that she will not leave her, manages to survive to the war’s end, including a spell in Birkenau extermination camp and the death march to Germany.

Amidst the almost incomprehensible cruelty,
...more
Kelly Wondracek
May 10, 2007 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
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
Tuesday
Dec 27, 2011 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
...more
Maria Carmo
The story of Rena and Danka, as told by Rena with Heather's help, is a reminder that onr nrvrt knows whether the apparent security in which we live is something stable and enduring in our lives. Their example, since they managed to survive the longest in Auschwitz, Birkenau and Ravensbruck, is the ine of people whose resilience was profoundly tied to their love of each other. I dare say that, had they not had each other, it is much more probable that their survival would not happen.
It reminds my
...more
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
Heather Macadam
Mar 06, 2011 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
...more
Dyuti
May 25, 2012 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
...more
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
i rarely get emotional when finishing a book- this one got me.. the story is about a tough place - not sure i would have survived it...
Quinn Barrett
Apr 25, 2013 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,
...more
Heather Macadam
Mar 06, 2011 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
Kolleen
Apr 12, 2012 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
...more
Lyla
Jan 06, 2012 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
...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
...more
LeighAnne
May 16, 2011 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
...more
JaVone Bentley
Dec 27, 2015 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 an ...more
Donna
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How one woman, Rena, survived as well as encouraged others, especially her sister Danka, to never give up hope! A TRUE HERO AND ANGEL! I wept with rage and laughed with joy on her unbearable and relentless first person account of the atrocities she endured! To believe that the whole world didn't know about what was happening is to say there is no humanity! History will only tell if and when it could or won't happen once again! I will never forget Rena Kornreich. ...more
Lizvette
Nov 12, 2014 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. ...more
Judy Perry
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unbelievable story of resilience and survival. Every time I read a book about the Holocaust, it reminds me of how precious life is and how hatred can rule a nation. It's important to read accounts such as these so we never forget and do what we can to never let it happen again. ...more
Noelle
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I got chills when I finished this book and really thought about what I just read. It's truly unbelievable how brave Rena was and how beautiful the love her and her sister shared. Her and Danka got through hell together because they had each other. ...more
Eva Seyler
Jun 18, 2015 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. ...more
julianne
A story of survival rather than a misery memoir.
Ellie Midwood
“Rena’s Promise” ranks among the best Holocaust memoirs I’ve ever read for several reasons. First of all, it’s incredibly touching without being overly emotional and over-dramatized and I thought that the writer, Heather Dune, whom Rena asked to narrate her story, did a fabulous job in bringing Rena’s own voice and memories to life. In her candid, honest manner Rena recounts her childhood, teenage years, first love, the beginning of the war, and the horror it brought in its wake - the dreaded de ...more
madeline ♡
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
i first read this incredible book six years ago, and no matter how many times i reread it, it never fails to move me.
Becky Durstenfeld
I actually read the Expanded Edition. This is a very well written book. It is hard to read because of all the evil done in the concentration camps - it is hard to comprehend that people did such evil things to other human beings - this is a true story, not fiction. But this story is also full of the kindnesses shown by Rena and by many people towards Rena and Danka. This is a story of love, between the sisters, but also a sacrificial love shown for prisoners in the camp. Rena was a very special ...more
Gwen
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking

Wonderfully written. A story of survival in unimaginable conditions and the bond between sisters. Absolutely heartwrenching at times, and almost unbearable to read. Despite the horrors, there are moments that made me laugh and moments that made me smile.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Rena's Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen 1 15 Mar 20, 2015 12:15PM  

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