An Amazon Best of the Year Selection
The untold story of some of WW2’s most hidden figures and the heartbreaking tragedy that unites them all. Readers of Born Survivors and A Train Near Magdeburg will devour the tragic tale of the first 999 women in Auschwitz concentration camp. This is the hauntingly resonant true story that everyone should know.
On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women boarded a train in Poprad, Slovakia. Filled with a sense of adventure and national pride, they left their parents’ homes wearing their best clothes and confidently waving good-bye. Believing they were going to work in a factory for a few months, they were eager to report for government service. Instead, the young women—many of them teenagers—were sent to Auschwitz. Their government paid 500 Reich Marks (about $200) apiece for the Nazis to take them as slave labor. Of those 999 innocent deportees, only a few would survive.
The facts of the first official Jewish transport to Auschwitz are little known, yet profoundly relevant today. These were not resistance fighters or prisoners of war. There were no men among them. Sent to almost certain death, the young women were powerless and insignificant not only because they were Jewish—but also because they were female. Now acclaimed author Heather Dune Macadam reveals their poignant stories, drawing on extensive interviews with survivors, and consulting with historians, witnesses, and relatives of those first deportees to create an important addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history.
Includes a foreword by Caroline Moorehead, NYT bestselling author of A Train in Winter!
“A fresh, remarkable story of Auschwitz on the 75th anniversary of its liberation. An uplifting story of the herculean strength of young girls in a staggeringly harrowing situation.”
“Intimate, harrowing… This careful, sympathetic history illuminates an incomprehensible human tragedy.”
In this intimate and harrowing account, historian and novelist Macadam (coauthor, Rena's Promise) reconstructs the lives of dozens of young Jewish women who were on the first convoy to arrive at Auschwitz in March 1942. Collected from villages in eastern Slovakia, the unmarried women were told that they'd be working for the government in occupied Poland for three months. In reality, the Slovakian government had agreed to pay the Nazis 500 reichsmarks (roughly $200) per "contract" laborer. Of those on the train, sisters Edith and Lea Friedmann were nearly exempted, but their paperwork didn't come through in time; Rena Kornreich had escaped Poland for the relative safety of Slovakia and was planning her wedding when she boarded the transport to Auschwitz. Macadam writes that many of the women thought they were going on an adventure; none were prepared to haul dead bodies from crematoriums or tear down buildings with their bare hands. Macadam doesn't shy away from the gruesome details but also notes the women's close-knit bonds and willingness to protect each other when they were sick. She movingly describes how the legacy of trauma has impacted the children and grandchildren of the handful of survivors. This careful, sympathetic history illuminates an incomprehensible human tragedy.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Important Story But A Lot Of Holes
This is an important story as we approach a time when survivors of The Holocaust are dwindling in number. However, the way this is written is questionable. Way too often we are asked to “imagine” a scene, or “possibly” something happened in a certain manner. That leads me to believe that the author has very little real information to go on. As history this is concerning. Yes, some things may have happened that way, but this is too important a subject for filler writing like that. A disappointment.