Ravensbruck: fiction/non-fiction pairing

14 Oct


I read Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein this weekend. It is a wonderful companion  to Code Name Verity. 

Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.

This got me thinking about a book I read in the summer: A Train in Winter : An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorhead.


Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women active in the French Resistance and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews and deep archival research to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

Both books shed light on the particular experiences of women in concentration camps. Both were  horrific, but shed light on a particular aspect of women’s history. This would be a great pairing for high school history teachers, looking for a way to give their students a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, or for kids who like me, love history. Both are very readable and I highly recommend them.

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