‘Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope” by Wendy Holden (Harper) is the story of three women transported to Auschwitz while pregnant. Since pregnancy meant immediate extermination, each hid her pregnancy and managed to survive; each didn’t know that the others were also pregnant. All three gave birth at around the same time, in secret, defying death to give their children life. Growing up, these children — all turning 70 this year — came to know one another and have since become “siblings of the heart.” Next month, they will reunite at Mauthausen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of liberation. Holden is a journalist, author and novelist who divides her time between the U.S. and U.K.
“Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz” by Rena Kornreich Gelissen with Heather Dune Macadam (Beacon Press) is an updated edition of a memoir published 20 years ago that has been widely read. Rena was the 716th female prisoner registered at Auschwitz, sent there on the first Jewish transport. Her story highlights the bond between Rena and her sister Danka (reunited at Auschwitz) and with the other prisoners over the three years and 41 days they were imprisoned. This edition includes research materials unavailable 20 years ago. When author Peter Matthiessen went on the Zen Peacemaker’s first pilgrimage to Auschwitz in 1966, the monks shared Rena’s message of love and courage. She now lives in Connecticut, and Macadam directs the Rena’s Promise Foundation.
“The Liberation of the Camps: The End of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath” by Dan Stone (Yale University Press) tells of the survivors’ experiences during liberation of the death camps by Allied forces and their slow and often difficult journey back to life. Using survivor testimonies and archival sources, the author looks at the process of resettlement and also at the survivors’ feelings of guilt for having survived, intense grief and medical problems. He quotes survivor Siggi Wilzig, “Who really knows what happened on the day of liberation? Who of us had the strength at 70 or 80 pounds to know?” Stone is a professor of modern history at the University of London and author of 15 books on the Holocaust, genocide and 20th-century European history.