by Sarah Helm.
I think any kind of sorry excuse for a ‘review’ that counts as a blogpost will seem meagre if I attempt to succinctly review this book.
For one thing, this is one of the most all-encompassing books I have ever read. It is rather meaty at over 700 pages but the detail is exacting. Helm’s research does not skimp on the detail and the book will as a result put you through a very wide tumult of emotions. I think I cried about six times at various points throughout this book.
Helm doesn’t just write about any one particular group within the camp (i.e: just Jews or Poles) but explores from the highest to the lowest. She explains about the motivations of the female camp guards and exposes their true evilness but also shows their base motivations concerning their taking up of jobs at the camp. She even gives a voice to the nameless, the prostitutes and the disabled for example.
This book gives a voice to the women who fought just as hard as the men in the camps and their battle for survival was equally unrelenting. So much of the evidence concerning the testimonies of the survivors was behind the Iron Curtain for a long time and this book must be read even though it reaches depths which no book has ever sunk to before. This silence from survivors is explained near the end whereby they were threatened into silence or people didn’t really want to know.
The trouble is that everyone has heard of Auschwitz but until now I hadn’t really heard that much about Ravensbruck. I didn’t even realize how many ‘sub-camps’ there were. The book also deals with the SOE women who ended up in the camp, such as Violette Szabo. These women, all the women who suffered, were so very brave. Even when the horror, death and destruction of this book was evident there was plenty of space to fall and after reading this book today I just sat in silence for ten minutes, my whole perspective on humanity changed.
This has been the most thought-provoking book I have read all year so far. It broke my heart into a million pieces and even though I feel so unworthy placing it on my Top 10 books list, I feel that it has earned its place.
MY RATING: ***** / *****