The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

Summary:

In the summer of 1944, Eva Mozes Kor and her family arrived at Auschwitz.

Within thirty minutes, they were separated. Her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, while Eva and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man who became known as the Angel of Death: Dr. Josef Mengele. They were 10 years old.

While twins at Auschwitz were granted the ‘privileges’ of keeping their own clothes and hair, they were also subjected to Mengele’s sadistic medical experiments. They were forced to fight daily for their own survival and many died as a result of the experiments, or from the disease and hunger rife in the concentration camp.

In a narrative told simply, with emotion and astonishing restraint, The Twins of Auschwitz shares the inspirational story of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.

Also included is an epilogue on Eva’s incredible recovery and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and worked toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

My Review:

Eva and her twin sister Miriam was born in Portz, Romania on 31st January 1934 to a hardworking Jewish farming family. They were the only Jewish family in the village. The Twins of Auschwitz (Monoray) by Eva Mozes Kor is the remarkable story of endurance and survival. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

In the Spring of 1944 the family were moved to a regional ghetto. They had no shelter and made tents out of sheets. Later they were moved by the Nazis to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the twins were aged ten. On arrival the mother was approached to confirm if Eva and Miriam were twins. The parents and their two other daughters Edit and Eliz were separated from Eva and Miriam. The parents and Edit and Eliz were sent to the gas chambers.

The Twins never realised they were never going to see their family again and over the next ten months the twins became the property of SS Doctor Josef Mengele known as the Angel of Death and as twins they would be subjected to experiments at one point Eva became very ill and Mengele said she would die within two weeks. Eva was determined to survive and wanted to see her sister again. She did survive.

It was January 27th 1945 that the Red Army liberated Auschwitz and both Eva and Miriam were among about 180 children that were rescued. Many were sent to a convent in Katowice and later they were taken back to Romania were they lived with their aunt.

The fact that Eva publicly forgave both Mengele and the Nazis helped her and Miriam move forward with their lives. She spent the rest of her life giving talks on the Holocaust and giving messages of peace and reconciliation and the removal of hatred.

Miriam had kidney problems years later and Eva donated one of her kidneys to help her twin sister. Sadly, Miriam died in1993 of Kidney cancer. Eva died in July 2019 at the age of 85.

I cannot recommend The Twins of Auschwitz highly enough. In this year the commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz it is a powerful and important book.

240 Pages.

Thank you to Monoray (Octopus Books) and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor.

The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor was published by Monoray and was published in paperback on 6th August 2020 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Follow the Blog Tour

Wendy Holden – Author Guest Post

Wendy Holden

Wendy Holden – Author Guest Post

I am delighted to welcome back to my blog an author I have had the pleasure of working with for my not only my blog but also as part of  Meet the Author interviews and also a radio interview on Somerset Cool back in 2019.

Wendy Holden has written a Guest Post: Light in the Darkness which is about two of best-selling books Born Survivors and One Hundred Miracles. A new and updated version of the internationally best-selling of Born Survivors (Sphere) was released on April 30th to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the paperback edition of One Hundred Miracles (Bloomsbury) is released tomorrow 14th May.

One Hundred Miracles

Summary:

The remarkable memoir of Zuzana Ružicková, Holocaust survivor and world-famous harpsichordist.

Zuzana Ružicková grew up in 1930s Czechoslovakia dreaming of two things: Johann Sebastian Bach and the piano. But her peaceful, melodic childhood was torn apart when, in 1939, the Nazis invaded. Uprooted from her home, transported from Auschwitz to Hamburg to Bergen-Belsen, bereaved, starved, and afflicted with crippling injuries to her musician’s hands, the teenage Zuzana faced a series of devastating losses. Yet with every truck and train ride, a small slip of paper printed with her favourite piece of Bach’s music became her talisman.

Armed with this ‘proof that beauty still existed’, Zuzana’s fierce bravery and passion ensured her survival of the greatest human atrocities of all time, and would continue to sustain her through the brutalities of post-war Communist rule. Harnessing her talent and dedication, and fortified by the love of her husband, the Czech composer Viktor Kalabis, Zuzana went on to become one of the twentieth century’s most renowned musicians and the first harpsichordist to record the entirety of Bach’s keyboard works.

Zuzana’s story, told here in her own words before her death in 2017, is a profound and powerful testimony of the horrors of the Holocaust, and a testament in itself to the importance of amplifying the voices of its survivors today. It is also a joyful celebration of art and resistance that defined the life of the ‘first lady of the harpsichord’– a woman who spent her life being ceaselessly reborn through her music. Like the music of her beloved Bach, Zuzana’s life is the story of the tragic transmuted through art into the state of the sublime.

Born Survivors

Summary:

Among millions of Holocaust victims sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, Priska, Rachel, and Anka each passed through its infamous gates with a secret. Strangers to each other, they were newly pregnant, and facing an uncertain fate without their husbands. Alone, scared, and with so many loved ones already lost to the Nazis, these young women were privately determined to hold on to all they had left: their lives, and those of their unborn babies.

That the gas chambers ran out of Zyklon-B just after the babies were born, before they and their mothers could be exterminated, is just one of several miracles that allowed them all to survive and rebuild their lives after World War II. Born Survivors follows the mothers’ incredible journey – first to Auschwitz, where they each came under the murderous scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele; then to a German slave labour camp where, half-starved and almost worked to death, they struggled to conceal their condition; and finally, as the Allies closed in, their hellish 17-day train journey with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria. Hundreds died along the way but the courage and kindness of strangers, including guards and civilians, helped save these women and their children.

Sixty-five years later, the three ‘miracle babies’ met for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the liberation that ultimately saved them. United by their remarkable experiences of survival against all odds, they now consider each other “siblings of the heart.”

A heart-stopping account of how three mothers and their newborns fought to survive the Holocaust, Born Survivors is also a life-affirming celebration of our capacity to care and to love amid inconceivable cruelty.

 

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

by Wendy Holden

THIS week (May 14) sees the paperback release of a book that almost didn’t happen. One Hundred Miracles tells the incredible true story of Zuzana Rüžičková, a young Czech piano prodigy who survived three concentration camps and slave labour to become one of the world’s foremost musicians.

The resilience and courage of this tiny woman was inspirational to me from the beginning. When I first met her in Prague in September 2017, she was a 90-year-old widow in poor health and yet she worked tirelessly with me to answer all my questions. Her family told me later that she was determined to bear witness to history. I left her on Friday and she died the following Tuesday. This book, compiled from those interviews and others that she gave along with the testimonies of many who were with her on the same journey from the ghetto to Auschwitz to slavery to Bergen-Belsen is her legacy, along with her remarkable canon of music.

Zuzana’s story begins in the city of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia in the 1930s, where she had an idyllic childhood with devoted parents, marred only by a weak chest. At the age of nine when she was suffering from yet another bout of pneumonia, her mother begged her to get better and promised her anything she wanted. Zuzana’s eyes flicked open from her sickbed and she replied hoarsely, “Piano lessons.” Her wish was granted and her new tutor immediately saw her ability. It was ‘Madame’ who introduced her to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach which, Zuzana said later was, “Love at first hearing.” When she discovered that Bach would have composed most of his works on the harpsichord, she begged to study the antiquated instrument and was promised an apprenticeship in Paris with a famous player once she reached the age of fifteen.

The arrival of the Nazis in Czechoslovakia in 1939 changed all that and Zuzana and her family, being Jewish, were dispatched to the ghetto of Terezin, where they remained for nearly two years. During that time she lost both her grandparents and her beloved father. Her mother – broken by the losses – was almost catatonic by the time the pair were sent to Auschwitz in December 1943. In her pocket, Zuzana carried a small scrap of paper with the opening Sarabande of Bache’s English Suite No 5. She told me, “As long as I had this talisman, I had proof that beauty still existed.”

Incredibly, and because of what she said were ‘one hundred miracles,’ she and her mother not only survived Auschwitz and then slave labour that ruined her pianist hands, but also the “worst part of Hell’ – Bergen-Belsen. By the time they were liberated on April 15, 1945, they each weighed just four stone. The tragedies that befell them after the war – with the loss of their home, their business and all of their family – still didn’t defeat them and Zuzana went back to basic piano classes to retrain herself and restore her damaged hands. In 1947, she was accepted into the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and – despite ongoing anti-Semitism and years of persecution by the Communist regime that took over her beloved country – Zuzana became a world renowned musician and helped spark a global revival in baroque music. With the love and support of her mother and her husband, she became the first person ever to record the entire keyboard works of Bach.

Zuzana’s story, told movingly in her own words, is a profound and powerful testimony of the horrors of the Holocaust and a testament in itself to the importance of amplifying the voices of its survivors today. It is also a joyful celebration of art and resistance that defined the life of the ‘First lady of the harpsichord’ – a woman who spent her life being ceaselessly reborn through her music. It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to chronicle her testimony and I am so proud of One Hundred Miracles. I only wish she was still alive to see it published in seven countries, especially in this important commemorative year in which we mark 75 years since the end of WWII.

And, unusually for any author, it is in this time of memories that I have another Holocaust memoir out in paperback, with the release of a special 75 years commemorative edition of my international bestseller Born Survivors, now published in 22 countries and translated into sixteen languages. This tells the true story of three young mothers who hid their pregnancies from the Nazis and gave birth in the camps. Both books have powerful messages of hope in times of despair and in this strange and surreal period of lockdown I cannot help but draw on the spirit of Zuzana and the three mothers I have written so immersively about and take comfort from the fact that light can always be found in the darkness.

Wendy with Zuzana

Wendy with Zuzana, one week before she died

 

  • One Hundred Miracles: Music, Auschwitz, Survival and Love by Zuzana Ružičková with Wendy Holden. Bloomsbury £9.99

Small One Hundred Miracles

 

  • An extraordinary memoir … A moving record of a life well lived in the face of appalling obstacles” – Sunday Times
  • A compelling story of terrible suffering surmounted by incredible bravery” – Daily Telegraph
  • Zuzana’s humanity shines through all the inhumanity …Vivid and moving” – The Jewish Chronicle
  • Through Auschwitz and the brutalities of the early Soviet era, the music of Bach shines like a beacon of hope” – Financial Times, Books of the Year

      ~

  • Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance and Survival by Wendy Holden, Sphere £8.99 (special WWII 75th anniversary edition with a conversation with miracle ‘baby’ Eva Clarke added to the audiobook)

Small Born Survivors

  • “An exceptionally fresh history, a work of prodigious original research, written with zealous empathy.” New York Times
  • “A work of quite extraordinary investigative dedication. Born Survivors is a moving testament of faith.” Sir Harold Evans
  • “A sensitive, brave, disturbing book that everyone should read.” Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE
  • Packed with harrowing detail and impressively well researched…. intense, powerful and moving… a worthy testament to these three women and the miraculous survival of the children.” Jewish Chronicle

 

Because of the lockdown, Wendy Holden has moved her creative writing courses online and the next one is June 9. See www.wendyholden.com or strangemediagroup/courses for more information

Wendy Holden can be found on Twitter: @wendholden

and Instagram: @wendyholdenbestsellingauthor 

Both One Hundred Miracles and Born Survivors are available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and also through your local independant bookshops. During the pandemic lockdown your local independent bookshops need our support during these difficult times and many are offering deals on delivery. Please contact your local bookshop for stock and also delivery.

2019 Costa Book of the Year. The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather

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The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather

Summary:

Would you sacrifice yourself to save thousands of others?

In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interned at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich.

His mission was to report on Nazi crimes and raise a secret army to stage an uprising. The name of the detention centre — Auschwitz.

It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi’s terrifying plans. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz. His reports from the camp were to shape the Allies response to the Holocaust – yet his story was all but forgotten for decades.

This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at the heart of their evil designs.

The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man’s attempt to change the course of history.

 WINNER OF THE 2019 COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR

My Review:

I have read so much about the Holocaust and then I come across the incredible story of Witold Pilecki who volunteered to enter Auschwitz Concentration Camp to organise an escape and also obtain as much information about what was really going on at Auschwitz. Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather recently won the 2019 Costa Book of the Year award.

Poland has been defeated by the Nazis and now they rounding the Jewish men, woman and children, sent them to the ghettos before they were sent in cattle trucks to Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Witold Pilecki was one of the bravest men of WWII. What we know now about Auschwitz, the world did not know during the war. Did anyone believe the German’s could be capable of creating death camps that killed millions? Back then no-one knew. During the Summer of 1940 Witold Pilecki a former cavalry officer in the Polish army was a member of the Polish resistance agreed to captured and sent to Auschwitz to gain as much information about what was really happening there. It was the autumn of 1940. On entering the prisoners witnessed one of the men being beaten to death by the guards. Straight away the message was given to the prisoners.

This remarkable true account of how Pilecki began work in Auschwitz on getting as much evidence on crimes being committed there as well as starting work on starting an underground network inside of Auschwitz. But the conditions were a lot worse than even Pilecki had feared. Even thinking about starting an underground network was dangerous. If caught it would have meant certain death for him and many others. This was very dangerous and courageous.

Very quickly prisoners in Auschwitz were dying at an alarming rate every day. Starvation and daily beatings were the norm by the guards but Witold Pilecki had managed to smuggle out details of what was going on there. Pilecki witnessed the first gassings by the Nazis using Zyklon B and the murders on industrial scale.

With reports passed to the Warsaw resistance who then passed to the Polish Government, they hoped at last the Allies would act, despite repeated calls for the British and American air force to bomb Auschwitz no help was forthcoming.

In April 1943 Witold Pilecki managed to escape Auschwitz in April 1943 and found his way back to Warsaw. It was not until after D-Day when the allies landed in France that the allies began to discuss Auschwitz. Pilecki had believed he had failed those he left behind in Auschwitz.

Following the war Pilecki was arrested by Poland’s the secret police and was accused of treason and then was interrogated over 150 times and was executed in May 1948.

Witold Pilecki’s brave story was lost to history but now thanks to the incredible research by Jack Fairweather Pilecki’s courageous story has finally been told. A deserved winner of the 2019 Costa Book of the Year. Highly Recommended.

528 Pages. (Paperback)

The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather was published by WH Allen and was published in Paperback on 9th January 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein

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The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein

I am so very grateful to Noemie Lopian. Noemie is the daughter of Ernst Israel Bornstein and back in December she contacted me about her father’s book The Long Night. This is his first-hand account of what Ernst endured and witnessed in seven concentration camps. January 27th 2019 is Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and a day we remember the six million of Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

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Ernst was just 17-years-old when the Nazis arrived at their Polish home in March 1941 and arrested him and in front of his fearful mother he was beaten and marched off to a labour camp. Glancing up at the window of their home was his mother. He was not sure when he would see her again. For Ernst this was the start of years of one concentration camp to another and the death marches were many were murdered while being marched from one camp to another.

The vision of seeing his tearful mother from the window of their home stayed with him. He was never to see his mother again. I read that from an extended family of 72 only six survived the Holocaust one was his sister.

To survive seven concentration and the murderous death marches was nothing short of a miracle for Ernst. Witnessing those close to him and the friends he made being killed would live with him forever. Ernst learnt how to survive in the concentration camps from one day to another it was a strategy that kept him alive. Keeping alive deep within him his love for his family. A burning desire deep inside to survive and see them again. But as time passed and stories of mass murder at other camps he was never sure were his family was or if they were still alive.

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Gross-rosen Concentration Camp, Lower Silesia

I have over the years read many books on the Holocaust and also survivors own stories. The Long Night deserves a place in history purely because of how Ernst Israel Bornstein describes in his own emotional words. It is the historical accounts from survivors of the Holocaust that are important as they tell the reader what it was actually like because they were there and witnessed the horror on a daily basis not knowing that as a new day dawned if they would ever see the sun go down that evening. These are their words.

The Long Night for Ernst lasted from the time the Nazis invaded Poland until he was liberated by the American Army. It was a Long Night that lasted over 5 years. Ernst Survived and lived to tell the world his story. It is hard to imagine how anyone could remember so much and in great detail. How he watched those around him being cut down or reduced to just nothing as they were given so little to eat yet treated brutally day and night.

It was survival of the fittest and they would fight for a scrap of food not knowing when they would get to eat again. Some reduced to eating blades of grass to try and survive.

Survive Ernst did and after the war he went to medical school and became a loving father. Survivors of the Concentration Camps have to then survive life after the camps and learn in their own way to survive. Many cannot speak of the time in the camps until many years later. It was in 1967 that Ernst published his account of life at the hands of the Nazis with ‘Die Lange Nacht’ in Germany.

Ernst Israel Bornstein died in 1978 of a heart condition. His daughter Noemie with the help of a translator published the English edition The Long Night (The Toby Press) in 2015 with a prefaced later by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.

Both Ernst’s parents and two sisters perished at Auschwitz.

I will continue to share the stories of Holocaust survivors through my blog as I have always beleived it is important to keep their stories alive for future generations.

384 Pages.

@nolorelmini 

@HMD_UK

@HolocaustCentUK

#HMD2019

Thank you Noemie Lopian for a copy of your father’s book The Long Night.

The Long Night by Ernst Israel Bornstein was published on 21st January 2015 by Toby Press LLC and is available through to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger

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The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger

Edith Eger is a survivor, but no ordinary survivor as she survived the worst hell on earth imaginable.

The Choice by Edith Eger is her memoir of surviving Auschwitz and how she used this to help others. But the one thing that struck me about this incredible book is that it does not begin with Auschwitz but it starts in 1980 in the USA.

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It was 1944 and 16-year-old Edith Eger and her Hungarian family were rounded up and sent with other Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where she and her sister was separated from her parents. Her parents were sent straight to the gas chambers with others. Edith was a ballerina and had hopes of making the Olympic Games. Soon after arriving at Auschwitz she was made to dance for evil camp doctor Josef Mengele. At any moment a wag of his finger meant you would face death in the gas chamber. What Edith endured and witnessed over the course of the next year is nothing short of horrific. Edith was then transferred then onto the notorious Mauthausen Concentration Camp then later rescued by American soldiers as she was close to dying.

What Edith does for many years is to keep her story of her time in Auschwitz to herself not wanting to tell anyone of the horrors she endured and witnessed. But it was time to tell the world her story and in turn this keeps the stories of survivor’s alive forever. The Choice is not just a story of Edith’s survival of the Holocaust but it is also one of hope and also at the same time one of helping others come to terms and help to heal wounds of the past. Learning to live again and indeed Edith did just that by being a mother to three children and pursuing a career in psychology.

An incredible book that left me numb at the horrors Edith went through but also the hope that The Choice brings to the reader. Highly Recommended.

384 Pages.

The Choice: A True Story of Hope by Edith Eger was published (Paperback version) by Rider and was published on 16th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 takes place on January 27th and it is the day the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. A day for everyone to remember the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. #HolocaustMemorialDay #HMD2019

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The Jewish Book Week takes place in London from 2-10th March 2019. Tickets for around 80 events including book talks and discussions are available to book. See the official website for more details: Jewish Book Week I am delighted to be named as one of the Blog Partners for this year’s event. #JBW2019