Viktoria Jean's Reviews > Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

Rena's Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen
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Oct 28, 2007

it was ok
bookshelves: 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. From then on, she made a promise, to herself and to her parents [whom she will never see again], that she will survive this thing and return triumphant, with her sister, home. This story tells of the three painful years they spent in living hell, praying fervently that they would one day be liberated. Rena, being the elder sister, took great care of Danka during their captivity, time and time again giving up her meager portion of bread to get medicine when weak Danka was ill, and doing whatever it took to ensure a place for both her and her sister to be together during the many ‘selections’ and all these while holding on to her promise.
Life in Auschwitz-Birkenau was hard; Rena had seen enough of war in occupied Poland, where she was from, to know a little of what to expect from the Nazis. Yet, she was still unable to fathom their cruelty. Rena quotes certain incidences which gave me goose bumps. There was once the kapos released dogs on a Jew who was too weak to carry on her task, and she died when the dogs bit her on her neck, still screaming all the way back to their block quarters. It was a scene that witnesses will never forget, and as I pictured that scene, it will stay etched in my mind forever. How can the Nazis enforce such cruelty? Don’t they have a conscience? Do they even have a heart? The conditions in the concentration camps were also horrible, what with no bunk beds, only shelves; three tiers high to make do as beds. The floor was basically covered in dirt and there was a sour smell of human odor. They were treated like non-living things, as if it is alright for them to suffer. Aren’t Jews humans too?
The hard times that have passed may have been part of history but the memories will never fade. As I read this book, I cannot help reflecting on myself. How I would flinch at the slightest bit of dust and grumble should I not be happy about certain ideals in my life, and how I expect everything to be nothing short of perfection. I get upset when things do not go my way, and bothered when people reprimand me. Should I have been living in Rena’s shoes, I would have just given up on my sister, given up on myself. This book inspired me to go further, think deeper into my own life and reflect on how things have been going my way, yet still moaning that this and that has yet reached perfection. Though this blind chase of perfection is not a bad thing, I realized that sometimes you just have to take things the way they are, and live with it instead of trying to change things. Rena did not try to escape, nor did she constantly grumble about life. This gave herself, as well as her sister, the courage to move out of the darkness. For those who grumble constantly hold no hope for themselves, only fear in the deepest pits of their hearts. Only with hope, could Rena and her sister survive. I have learnt a lot from this novel. Much as I love reading about their account, I cannot help wishing that all those who lost their lives in Rena’s story could have lived their life differently, happily, less painfully. Life had been so unfair to them, and death, what I think must be the saddest thing in life, was in fact a form of liberation for them. Their short twisted lives would never end the way it was meant to be. I cannot help thinking: Hey some of them could have been doctors saving lives, famous lawyers ending trials, people who would do great things! And now they would never be able to do those things ever again.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 1, 2006 – Finished Reading
October 28, 2007 – Shelved
October 28, 2007 – Shelved as: ogle

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen why did you only give it 2 stars? your review doesn't reflect your rating.


Debbie I had the same question. Why only two stars?


Julie I agree!!! What do you put for a really bad book? Or what makes a book a three, four, or Five?? Makes your rating or even your long narrative pretty worthless.


message 4: by Eva (new) - added it

Eva Leger I have to admit to being curious as to both answers myself... Although I doubt I'll see any satisfaction.


Abby There are also a lot of inaccuracies in your review. Did you read the book?


Colleen I hope you didn't give this book 2 stars because you wished a different fate upon the people in it?


Cecily It's not a "novel"....


Cecily It's not a "novel"....


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