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Book Review: Born Survivors

Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope

By Rachel CarringtonPublished 4 years ago 3 min read
The entrance gate to the Trzebinia subcamp of Auschwitz 1945

Book Description

The Nazis murdered their husbands but concentration camp prisoners Priska, Rachel, and Anka would not let evil take their unborn children too—a remarkable true story that will appeal to readers of The Lost and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, Born Survivors celebrates three mothers who defied death to give their children life.

Eastern Europe, 1944: Three women believe they are pregnant, but are torn from their husbands before they can be certain. Rachel is sent to Auschwitz, unaware that her husband has been shot. Priska and her husband travel there together, but are immediately separated. Also at Auschwitz, Anka hopes in vain to be reunited with her husband. With the rest of their families gassed, these young wives are determined to hold on to all they have left—their lives, and those of their unborn babies. Having concealed their condition from infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, they are forced to work and almost starved to death, living in daily fear of their pregnancies being detected by the SS.

In April 1945, as the Allies close in, Priska gives birth. She and her baby, along with Anka, Rachel, and the remaining inmates, are sent to Mauthausen concentration camp on a hellish seventeen-day train journey. Rachel gives birth on the train, and Anka at the camp gates. All believe they will die, but then a miracle occurs. The gas chamber runs out of Zyklon-B, and as the Allied troops near, the SS flee. Against all odds, the three mothers and their newborns survive their treacherous journey to freedom.

On the seventieth anniversary of Mauthausen’s liberation from the Nazis by American soldiers, renowned biographer Wendy Holden recounts this extraordinary story of three children united by their mothers’ unbelievable—yet ultimately successful—fight for survival.

Every American student learns about World War II in school. They read the history books assigned to them, look at the pictures embedded, and may even write an essay or two. Then they move on to their next class and the next year. They’ve learned what they need to know about the horrors of war. At least, that’s what I thought. Then I read Born Survivors and realized I didn’t know half of the atrocities inflicted upon Jewish people during the war.

Author Wendy Holden tells the stories of three of the strongest women I’ve ever read about in my life, and she does so without sanitizing the details. The descriptions of the camps are harsh, and the sufferings these women (and others) endure are vile and horrific. But they were necessary because, to someone like me, World War II was devastating, and 45 million civilians died and 15 million soldiers were killed. Those numbers are startling, but since the war happened so long ago, it’s easy to not think about it. To those who endured and survived the concentration camps like Auschwitz and Mauthausen’s, those who lost their families and homes, it remains a vivid part of their memories.

The stories of Rachel, Anka, and Priska are eye-opening reveals of unimaginable years of struggle to survive and to keep their newborns alive. These are three ordinary women who were living lives of hope and happiness before they were ripped from their homes and thrown into hell.

Born Survivors is a must read, and not just because you’ll learn more about history and the horrors of the war but because as the Jewish people will never forget the abuse, the degradation, and the pain of these concentration camps, neither should we.

Wendy Holden, thank you for sharing these women’s appalling stories in such an articulate and powerful manner. This is an unforgettable book sharing the truth of the unforgettable past.

Born Survivors is available on Amazon and other retailers.


About the Creator

Rachel Carrington

I'm an avid writer and reader. I've had over 53 novels published and over 2,000 articles. Here I review movies, TV series/episodes, books, and write about entertainment.

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