Franci’s War: A Woman’s Story of Survival

Penguin. Mar. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780143135579. pap. $18. BIOG
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1920, Epstein was a secular woman caught up in the maw of the Holocaust. Baptized Catholic and brought up to think of herself as a citizen of the world with no religious affiliation, she describes in this memoir—originally written in the 1970s but published here for the first time—of how the 1939 Nazi invasion of her country rechristened her Jewish, as she had four Jewish grandparents. Epstein recounts her journey from concentration camps Terezín and Auschwitz-Birkenau to German labor camps and Bergen-Belsen to postliberation Czechoslovakia. In a compelling voice, she illuminates the horror, shock, small graces, and capriciousness of surviving the Holocaust. Her daughter Helen Epstein, author of Children of the Holocaust, contributes an afterword detailing her mother’s eventual marriage and life in the United States. She places this account in context of other exceptionally honest portrayals of what happened in the death camps.
VERDICT This worthy account is testament to why it is as important as ever to read about the impacts of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and racial hatred, as well as the beliefs that cause some people to commit atrocities while others pretend to look away.
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