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

Harper. May 2015. 400p. photos. maps. bibliog. ISBN 9780062370259. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062370273. HIST
Holden (coauthor, Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany) deftly weaves together the stories of three women—Priska, Rachel, and Anka—whose children were born in Nazi concentration camps during the last chaotic weeks of World War II. The author's analysis of each woman's experiences prior to 1939, the fate of their extended families under Nazi occupation, and the circumstances of their children's birth provide valuable insight into the stark choices faced by Jews during the Holocaust. The children, Eva, Mark, and Hana—among the youngest survivors of the Shoah—finally met at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of liberation. Holden's use of the imagery of doctor Mengele inspecting the women during their arrival at Auschwitz makes for dramatic reading but is problematic. Mengele did not inspect all arrivals, and few knew who he was when they arrived, causing the reader to suspect that the story is a postwar construct. While Holden is strong on the personal details of the women's lives, and the fate of their family members, the wider historical context is sometimes thin.
VERDICT Despite minor problems, this book is recommended for a wide audience and all libraries.
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