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I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz

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The author offers this book as a monument commemorating the events of the years 1940-1945, commemorating Nazi bestiality, Nazi sadism, Nazi inhumanity and the death of their six million innocent Jewish victims. Every individual story, every picture, every description is but a stone in that monument which will stand forever to remind the world of this shameful phase of history, and to ask of it vigilance, lest the events of these years be repeated.

142 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1948

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About the author

Gisella Perl

2 books15 followers
Gisella Perl was a Romanian Jewish gynecologist deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, where she helped hundreds of women as inmate gynecologist without the bare necessities to perform her work. She survived, emigrated to New York and was one of the first women to publicize these experiences in English in her 1948 memoir I Was a Doctor in Auschwitz.

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5 stars
452 (67%)
4 stars
153 (22%)
3 stars
49 (7%)
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10 (1%)
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4 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 85 reviews
Profile Image for Jim.
361 reviews90 followers
October 14, 2021
Hard to say how to rate this one. The writing isn't brilliant but the story is important. Dr Perl was a physician in Auschwitz and later in Belsen Bergen (her spelling). Her profession probably kept her alive; both her husband and son perished in the death camps. While her status as a physician may have kept her from death, she wasn't accorded any special privileges and faced the same deprivations as the other inmates. Perl treated sick and injured inmates with basically nothing in the way of medical supplies and had the misfortune to work under the scrutiny of the infamous Josef Mengele and "The Hyena of Auschwitz", Irma Grese.

Dr Perl's story is told in titled chapters, most of which deal with a guard or inmate who impressed her for good or ill. This results in each chapter being basically a stand-alone story, and there is some repetition as a result. The book was written shortly after the war and Perl, perhaps understandably, does not attempt to hide her hatred of Germans. While Nazi atrocity is present throughout the book, some things had me raising an eyebrow and asking myself if the good doctor might not be laying it on a bit thick. She mentions children being tossed alive into ditches and burned alive en masse by the Nazis. Who knows? I doubt that she witnessed this herself. And while the Nazis definitely murdered children, I can't imagine that even the worst of them could stand by and incinerate ditches full of live children. Anyway, the fact remains that children were killed, but this manner of execution is so horribly cruel that I can't imagine anyone being able to commit this act.

Another passage that seemed not to make sense was her account of the Nazi use of inmates as a source of blood for the war effort. She mentions the donors lying near death in pools of blood. This makes no sense...if you are using a captive herd for the provision of life-saving blood, would you actually use a method that would waste that precious resource? But none of this makes sense, so I'll just throw that on the stack of things that are unexplainable. Nonetheless, rightly or wrongly, I was left with the sense that Perl was exaggerating the case, as if it weren't bad enough all ready. Perl also makes a number of harshly critical comments about Germans as a race, although it is really Nazi fanatics she should reserve her hatred for. After all, many, perhaps most, Germans wanted nothing to do with the happenings at Auschwitz and other camps. Irma Grese's father, for example, booted her out of the house when she joined the SS. Also, Perl misspells the names of the people she dislikes, like "Mengerle" instead of Mengele and "Greze" in place of Grese. This is done consistently throughout the book, so she either honestly believed that the spellings were correct or it was a "f**k you" to her former captors. In any event, I totally understand. I'm sure no one could harbor any positive feelings toward the SS or the country that spawned them if they had gone through the same conditions that Perl was subjected to.

One final note on the nature of humanity. Toward the end of the book Perl has high praise for a member of the Vatican Mission, one Abbe Brand. This religious man, although Christian, did not discriminate in his succor for the recently liberated inmates of Bergen-Belsen and was instrumental in the comfort and provisioning of many survivors, to the point of risking his own wellness through exhaustion. Who do you think has had the most written about them over the years? Mengele and Grese have had whole libraries of books in which they are mentioned. Just try to find mention of Abbe Brand.

NOTE: 13 Oct 2021 - I recently finished Olga Lengyel's book,Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz. She also mentions burning children alive in a ditch. As much as I don't want to believe it, this is obviously a real atrocity.
Profile Image for Iuliana Mihaela.
14 reviews1 follower
August 8, 2022
Multe cărți despre Auschwitz, dar aceasta este de-a dreptul cutremurătoare.

Am parcurs cartea cu inima mică, însoțită de un tremurat continuu.
Profile Image for M—.
652 reviews111 followers
January 17, 2016
I had a hard time reading this. It's a slim little publication, not 200 pages, but it took me weeks to complete. I had to omit my original plan to read it during lunch breaks — I couldn't read a paragraph without getting teary, which I'd rather not have happen at work — and I eventually holed up in my bedroom the day this was supposed to be due back at the library to read it in one late night, marathon session.

As for the book itself, it was exactly what it was: a memoir of surviving the Holocaust, which is to say it was both more and less than what I had expected it to be. I have more of an interest in medical nonfiction than I have in historical, and I sought out Perl's book because she was a medical doctor, specifically because she was known as the abortionist of Auschwitz in her attempts to keep inmates of the camp away from the attentions of Nazi scientists. I would have liked if the memoir had been more expanded. Perl covers strictly her time as an inmate in the camps from just before entering to just after being freed, but I had been wanting more to learn about her life following the war, about being suspected and cleared of assisting in Nazi atrocities, about locating her one surviving family member (her daughter, who was mentioned so little in this book that I had forgotten she existed until I looked up Perl's Wikipedia article), about relocating to New York and becoming a renown specialist of infertility issues. (I read an article once that, after the war ended, she approached every pregnancy she delivered with an attitude of, 'You owe me a living baby, God.' Link.)

It's also very much a memoir of passion, so much so it feels nearly incoherent at times. I was left with the impression that Perl had certain vignettes of her experience that she needed to tell, needed to put to paper, in an attitude of 'This happened, I was there, I saw it.' but it resulted in a disjointed narrative that, for me, detracted from the power of Perl's survival. I'll have to try hunting for a more fleshed-out biography.

My copy of this came by means of inter-library loan, shipped from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Originally published the year my house was built, the year before my father was born; this edition printed the year my younger brother was born. Faded highlighting and pencil flagging left behind by previous readers throughout. Inked on the first blank page following the last page of writing, written where it would not obscure text, were inscribed the symbols of the cross and the star and the words God bless, heavily enough to emboss the three pages beneath it.

Four stars.

Additional links:
Holocaust History Project bibliography (via the Wayback Machine): link
Profile Image for Nadia.
18 reviews38 followers
August 24, 2019
It has been seventy years since this book was first published and after being out of print it is now available again.
A small book of 130 pages holds the heartbreaking, disturbing, unbelievable and unimaginable truth of the horrors inside the concentration camps of World war 2 from a witness, a doctor that was a prisoner there and survived.
I cried as I read this book and could only read small parts of it at a time.
Profile Image for Rachel Jackson.
Author 2 books16 followers
April 1, 2019
I've read my fair share of Holocaust memoirs, but Gisella Perl's story of being a gynecologist and doctor in Auschwitz stood out to me as a unique story of that atrocity in history because of her role as a women's doctor. Her story was presented to me when I first heard it as something very contentious: Perl saved women's lives by terminating their pregnancies, because surely if she hadn't, both the mother and the baby would die at the brutal hands of sadistic Nazi physicians—people like Josef Mengele, who delighted at the idea of conducting heinous medical experiments on fetuses and babies. Perl's memoir goes into great detail into her role in that regard, describing how regretful and disgusted she was by the conditions she had to work in, by the fates of the women she treated. It's a remarkable memoir, and it provides some deep, poignant and heartbreaking insight into the lives of women at these Nazi death camps. Perl's story is contained in this quick, slim autobiography, but it's presented as almost something like vignettes, each chapter telling a different story in the terrible theme of Auschwitz—her writing is clinical at times but poetic and beautiful, and certainly reflective, at others. For anyone interested in the Holocaust or World War II history, I Was A Doctor in Auschwitz is certainly an interesting first-person account of a different side of concentration camps that peple don't often hear about: the forgotten world of women and their health. Definitely an enlightening read.
Profile Image for Nandita Goswami.
38 reviews5 followers
December 10, 2022
This has by far been one of the most difficult books I have read till date ! The sheer atrocities committed against humanity will give you goosebumps.
Also, it being a true account gives you an inside picture of life in , not one , but three concentration camps . Definitely makes one thankful for living in the times that one does now.
12 reviews
January 13, 2023
Mă tot gândesc ce aș putea scrie despre aceasta carte, însă nu-mi gândesc cuvintele potrivite.
Emoționantă, dureroasă, plină de suferință, lista ar putea continua...Însă eu una am înțeles, ar trebui să fim mulțumitori pentru fiecare bucată de pâine, pentru fiecare loc în care suntem, pentru LIBERTATE. Să prețuim viața pe care o avem!
Merită citită!!!
Profile Image for Chelsea.
70 reviews
January 18, 2023
So many different words…

This is the most disturbing thing I’ve ever read. The kicker? It’s truth. Over the last twenty years, I’ve read dozens of Holocaust stories. This is my way of paying respect to those who went through that particular hell. Dr. Perl, however, wrote the best of them all. She takes you through the pain, the hopelessness, the sheer torture, and the emptiness of what happened when they were liberated in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Everyone needs to read this. Period.
Profile Image for Sofía Aguilar.
12 reviews1 follower
July 12, 2017
This book... I have no words. Even thought I finished in a few hours it has been one of the hardest books to read. Every now and then I had to pause and take a deep breath. Being a true life's testimony it shows the reality of three different concentration and extermination camps. I really recommend this book, not only to the ones that are curious about this topic but also to everyone, we do not forget about this time in history. Even thought my county was not directly involved of affected by this war I feel all the sorrow and pain the victims went through. I feel like sometimes we forget our humanity, and this is a really good book to be reminded of that, and to always be kind to each other no matter our believes, races, sexual preferences, among other things, because remember that no one is better than anyone and the we are always equal human beings and we cannot destroy each other.
Profile Image for Devan Fox.
1,147 reviews50 followers
July 8, 2016
I think this book was amazing. This woman really gave every brutal detail that she encountered. I have read a lot of these memoirs feeling that is important to learn these tragic stories and hear their voices. But this book disturbed me more than any other has. She took the time to tell amazing and inspiring stories about these individuals she met, all who wanted to live, only to perish. She was strong and had to do horrible, unthinkable things to save others. She was and remains a hero. I feel so deeply sorry for her loss and the things that this world allowed to happen. Education is the only way to be free and we must prevent this type of thing from ever happening again.
Profile Image for Mellie.
92 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2021
A heart-rending first account. Ought to be required reading.
Profile Image for Loredana Mariana Bublitchi.
587 reviews44 followers
June 3, 2022

“Am fost doctorita la Auschwitz” este un titlu semnat de o supravietuitoare din lagar, de profesie medic ginecolog, care istoriseste atrocitatile ce aveau loc in lagarele de concentrare de la Auschwitz, dar si ce era ea constransa sa faca pentru a-si asigura supravietuirea…

Am citit cartea cu noduri in gat si inima-ndoita, chiar si acum, scriind aceste randuri ma iau palpitatiile… Eram constienta ca si Gisella la randul ei era mama, asemeni altor femei captive la Auschwitz, insa actiunile aveau loc acolo, acea dezumanizare, sadismul de care erau capabili ofiterii desemnati cu “ordinea”…ce ordine, nu stiu, ca saracii oameni erau niste morti-vii, abia se tineau pe picioare…

Nu cred ca pot cuprinde in cuvinte durerea ce am simtit-o cat am parcurs paginile cartii, nu este nici prima, nici ultima carte pe care o citesc despre acea perioada, dar faptul ca este redata din punctul de vedere al unei supravietuitoare, este de zece ori mai crunt. S-a simtit neputinta si suferinta prin cuvintele redate, dar si micile bucurii in acel loc blestemat. Gisella isi spune povestea cu simplitate si atinge prin marturiile sale, fiind inca o dovada vie a acelor ani cutremuratori.

Titlul il gasiti la @editura_omnium 🤗, carora tin sa le multumesc pentru exemplarul oferit 🥰. Vi-l recomand, desi rupe emotional…
Profile Image for Edwina Callan.
1,581 reviews47 followers
April 4, 2016
The most fascinating book on the Holocaust that I have ever read.

In 2003, a film entitled Out of the Ashes was released. It was based upon the story of Dr. Perl's life, and starred Christine Lahti as Dr. Perl.
It you don't read the book then at least see the movie.
April 7, 2010
This was the most intense book that I have read, ever. I think it is very sad that it is no longer in print and available. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on it, you NEED to read it.
Profile Image for Marty.
340 reviews5 followers
August 29, 2021
This is a truly a horrible book to read. I stifled tears through most of it, because the inhumanity of the Nazis defies belief. Whatever you've heard about them, the truth is probably worse than you've heard.

It was written in 1948 by a survivor of Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, and other concentration camps during WWII. She is an amazing human being whose own survival depended on her ability to do whatever was necessary to save lives. It should be required reading for everyone.
72 reviews
February 12, 2020
There should be no real spoilers except for the fact that this is one of the most heart breaking books you will ever read. This account of jewish and nazi life makes you feel things you did not imagine
Profile Image for Simona Filip.
2 reviews
January 27, 2023
Am citit multe carti despre Holocaust si implicit despre lucrurile oribile petrecute in lagare, dar aceasta este de-a dreptul cutremuratoare.
E foarte dureroasa, dar merita citita.
Profile Image for Any Anna.
4 reviews
August 27, 2022
De-a dreptul cutremurator ce-am citit in aceasta carte! Doamne cata durere si suferinta!
Profile Image for Sudeep Laha.
25 reviews8 followers
February 20, 2017
the best book to describe the actual brutality happened in the Jew camps. Without any veil, the author gave details on the conditions of the Jews.... it’s like a memoir of a holocaust survivor, and one can relate a lot with the Anne Frank journals... the book is small and 190 paged yet is something one cannot finish it quickly because of the dreadful memories stories and inhumane brutality... at many points in the book you will be filled with disgust by the brutality and each one of the detail will drain you emotionally... its a painful read but a must read
1 review5 followers
Currently reading
January 28, 2010
This is a really awesome, powerful book. I have trouble putting it down. It reminds me a lot of Anne Frank.
Profile Image for Chubsi.
8 reviews7 followers
April 13, 2018
A completely tormenting book. Too disappointing to read the details of how seemingly sympathetic civilian Germans become greedy like the evil regime who overtook them. Too excruciating to read how the ordinary people saw their lives fall apart too quickly, from being thrown out from their homes to being torn away from their countries, and seeing their lives fade away slowly or in a whiff after settling in the unspeakably horrid places they never thought existed. Immensely cruel and crushing to the spirit. The stories of different people Dr. Perl has woven into this book show the uselessness of that fight over supremacy the Nazis waged. It never resulted to any good. It killed not only the physical bodies of those victims but also their dreams, innocently perishing only because they are deemed not humans, when, in the strictest sense of reality, the Nazis are the ones who aren't!

It has made me wonder more about why a group of people see themselves as superior, determined to grab the power to rule over all, that no one has to excel above them; loathing it when the people who outdo them are those who they think are inferior. How I so want to slap not only this book, but all other books related to Holocaust, to the faces of those people who plan to do something those evil Nazis have done years ago. I want to make them realise the utter stupidity such ideologies embody.

As long as one group of people is bent upon taking over the entire nations for their selfish motives, we must never feel complacent that we are living in better times. Humans never have shaken off their propensity to bestiality. We must be wary of what the future has in store for us. We'll never know when that bestiality suddenly erupts again. I hope we can work together despite our differences to stop such people from repeating the Nazi's foolish and senseless abuses and love for stirring fears to satisfy their inhumanity.
Profile Image for Kelly  Anne.
234 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2021
Many survivors began a new life, rarely speaking of the horrors of the camps until later in life when they were encouraged by loved ones to speak out and tell their stories. On the other hand there were those who wrote of their experiences in the years immediately following the war; this is one such memoir. It is raw and seethes with the righteous anger and hatred that was so recent and fresh in the doctor’s mind. But in addition to her own story she remembers with great affection those of many of her co-workers and friends; a few who lived to tell their own story but most who did not and whose names are perhaps only remembered in the pages of this book. If her hatred for the Nazis is incontrovertible so is her love and admiration for Abbe Brand, a young Priest who is the subject of the final chapters of the book. Sadly, I can find no reference to him anywhere which seems an incredible pretermission when it comes to those deserving of recognition and remembrance. The forward of this book best speaks to the contents within:
“I offer this book as a monument commemorating the events of the years 1940-1945, commemorating Nazi bestiality, Nazi sadism, Nazi inhumanity and the death of their six million innocent Jewish victims. Every individual story, every picture, every description is but a stone in that monument which will stand forever to remind the world of this shameful phase of history and to ask of it vigilance, least the vents of these years be repeated.”
Yes, that is why this and all of the accounts of the victims of Nazi brutality must be remembered.
More on Gisella Perl’s life:
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20...
Profile Image for Sarah Gatewood.
25 reviews
October 5, 2017
I had been waiting to read this book for several years. I had been unable to get this book without spending quite an amount of money. I was lucky enough to check it out from my library's interlibrary loan through another library. They stopped the program at the end of June which is so disappointing. This book is very different from a lot of accounts of those that survived The Holocaust. Dr. Perl talks about specific people that she was with and their eventual passing. In her speaking of these people, I felt she memorialized them and remembered them for more than people that died horrifically. The other thing different is Dr. Perl is the only doctor to go on record of performing abortions in Aauschwitz. Reading Dr. Perl's accounts of these abortions, only done because of the situation is heartbreaking. Dr. Perl would be transferred to another camp where she would eventually deliver the first child to be born free right after liberation. The only things that disappointed me about this book was the lack of follow-up about Dr. Perl's life in the eventual years and a lack of accuracy. Dr. Perl had some mistakes of spelling of Dr. Mengele's name as well as the name of the camp Bergen Belsen. I believe these mistakes were due to this book being wrote so quickly after the war and correct names not being fully known. Dr. Perl lost both her son and her husband during The Holocaust.
Profile Image for Adela.
16 reviews
October 8, 2022
Nu cred ca se pot da stele unei asemenea carti...prin ce au trecut oamenii aceia...

”Cât timp m-am aflat la Auschwitz, am fost convinsă că n-ar putea exista loc pe pământ mai îngrozitor, în stare să facă Infernul lui Dante să pară o comedie muzicală și iadul descris de biserica catolică, un loc călduț. Când am ajuns la Bergen-Belsen mi-am dat seama că Auschwitzul nu era decât Purgatoriul. Iadul se afla în perimetrul delimitat cu garduri de sârmă ghimpată al lagărului de la Bergen-Belsen.”

”Soldatul înalt, călit, continua să privească, lacrimile rostogolindu-i-se pe obraji. Înțelegea războiul, da, și nu-i era frică de moarte. Dar ceea ce vedea la Bergen-Belsen era dincolo de înțelegerea lui, de puterea imaginației. Luptase săptămâni în șir, zi și noapte, împotriva bolii, împotriva morții, împotriva păduchilor, împotriva foamei. A făcut multe, dar aproape întotdeauna ajutorul venise prea târziu. Da, a fost un adevărat eliberator. Toți prizonierii de la Bergen-Belsen care au supraviețuit îi vor binecuvânta numele în veci. Era generalul de brigadă Gleen Hughes, comandantul celei de-a doua armate britanice.”

”Înainte de a-și lua rămas-bun, mă sărută (preotul Abbe Brand) pe frunte și privi cu tristețe numărul tatuat pe brațul meu. Mă rugă să cred în iubire și să răspândesc dragoste oriunde m-aș afla.”
Profile Image for Thubten Palmo.
49 reviews7 followers
August 29, 2019
This is a really important book especially for how it centres the experience of Jewish women. Perl highlights something rarely discussed in holocaust literature; the specifically gendered nature of the violence Jewish women experienced at the hands do the Nazis and how their genocidal ideology manifested as gendered violence. Additionally, her description of the camps and the horrific conditions are visceral; the routinised violence, filth, degradation, brutalisation and starvation. What stood out to me as well, perhaps most importantly, was how Perl describes women's subversion and rebellion against the Nazis. We tend to imagine rebellion as events like the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but Perl describes how Jewish women in particular managed to save each other's lives and undermine the Nazis by forging incredible friendships and using tactics like pooling their resources to obtain life saving commodities - which were often something as seemingly inconsequential to us as a pair of shoes. I really hope this work is used to illuminate deeper histories of resistance to the Nazi regime
Profile Image for Rebecca.
42 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2019
Dr. Gisella Perl was a Hungarian Jewish doctor who survived Auschwitz, and somehow found the strength to bear witness to the attrocities committed by Nazis against her and the prisoners of Auschwitz, and write this book. I am humbled by Perl, her will to survive, her bravery, how clever she was, and I'm so grateful she wrote this book.

Each chapter is an essay on the horrors of Auschwitz, clinically written, and not a single punch pulled. It is incredibly difficult to read, and though every line holds horror after horror, there are moments of hope and human resilience and beauty throughout the attrocities. There were parts of the book that took me multiple attempts before I could finish them, sometimes I needed to put the book down and take a breath - and recognize how lucky and privileged I am that I can set aside these horrors, where the author had no choice but to bear them.

This was not fun to read, but it was important to read. Gisella Perl was an incredible, brave woman, and she deserves to be remembered.
Profile Image for Eva Francova.
589 reviews12 followers
February 29, 2020
Vzpomínky doktorky Giselly Perlové, která byla během druhé světové války vězněna v Osvětimi. Díky svému povolání – gynekolog a porodník – se tam stala doktorkou pro Židy. Byla nucena pracovat pro Mengeleho pod pohrůžkou smrti. Svou sílu bojovat a přežít se snažila dostat i mezi své pacienty.

Vzpomínky poprvé vyšly už v roce 1948, pouze tři roky po osvobození. Tím, že jsou takto „čerstvé“, jsou opravdu silné a dojemné.

Tato kniha rozhodně není pro slabé žaludky. Jsou zde popisovány opravdu kruté a nechutné situace, kterými musela Gisella projít a které v táboře zažila. Na druhé straně jsou v knize obdivovány ženy a jejich duševní síla. Autorka krátce popisuje jejich život před uvězněním a pak to, jak ony samy v táboře bojovaly o přežití.

Určitě silná kniha. Pro všechny, které zajímá období druhé světové války a obzvláště pak koncentrační tábory, je nutnost si ji přečíst.

Jednu hvězdičku strhávám pouze za styl psaní, který mi úplně nebyl blízký, ale jinak určitě poučná kniha.
Profile Image for Aidan .
156 reviews5 followers
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January 21, 2021
I don't rate books I had to read for school.

I read this for my January Term class on the Holocaust.

While Gisella Perl makes mistakes when it comes to peoples names as well as gets small facts wrong Perl still tells a human story of horror. From her time in Transylvania, to the Ghetto, to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, to Dege-Werke, to finally Bergen Belsen.

Perl tells the story of what women suffered during the Holocaust. Perl tells the stories of having to deliver babies only to kill them moments or days later as well as providing abortions not only for inmates but for guards as well. Perl saved the lives of countless women from the gas chambers and the ovens, and no one can judge her for what she did. There are countless times while reading that I felt sick to my stomach or like all the happiness in the world was gone, but Perl's story and the countless stories of the women she met will never be forgotten. Perl did not have to tell her story, but she did.
Profile Image for Kitty.
162 reviews10 followers
April 16, 2022
This was a hard read, but I think a very necessary one.

There were times I just had to put it down for a bit, because I just could not physically imagine anyone depraved enough to do the things I was reading about. Dr. Perl's account is apparently one of the first to come out of the Holocaust, and the fact that she knew so many of these people before the war and the atrocities inflicted on them made it all the more tragic. She was able to put names to the faces, describe who they'd been before, to assign an actual identity to people instead of just throwing out statistics like "Millions died". She was truly a strong woman who survived what many could not even dream of. May her memory be a blessing.
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