Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women’s Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Highbridge Audio. Feb. 2024. 10:47 hrs. ISBN 9781696614597. $24.99. BIOG
Musician and educator Eischeid (The Truth About Fania Fénelon and the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz-Birkenau) offers a biography of Maria Mandl, who rose to the highest rank possible in the Third Reich and served as the Head Overseer of the women’s extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Though Mandl was considered a “nice girl from a good family,” she was swept up by fascist political fervor and committed unspeakable atrocities during her time at Auschwitz. This deeply researched account draws upon letters, journals, and firsthand accounts from Mandl’s friends and colleagues, as well as testimony from survivors. Elisabeth Lagelee narrates the story, depicting Mandl’s path, from her girlhood in a middle-class Austrian family to becoming an unrepentant woman hanged for her horrific actions. Lagelee sensitively relays the stories of Mandl’s victims with even composure. The descriptions of torture and death make for a heartbreakingly tough but important listen.
VERDICT An unflinching, focused story of the Holocaust, seen through the lens of Mandl’s brutal actions and subsequent trial and execution. Devastating but worth every minute.
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