Among millions of Holocaust victims sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, Priska, Rachel, and Anka each passed through its infamous gates with a secret. Strangers to each other, they were newly pregnant, and facing an uncertain fate without their husbands. Alone, scared, and with so many loved ones already lost to the Nazis, these young women were privately determined to hold on to all they had left: their lives, and those of their unborn babies. That the gas chambers ran out of Zyklon-B just after the babies were born, before they and their mothers could be exterminated, is just one of several miracles that allowed them all to survive and rebuild their lives after World War II. Born Survivors follows the mothers’ incredible journey – first to Auschwitz, where they each came under the murderous scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele; then to a German slave labour camp where, half-starved and almost worked to death, they struggled to conceal their condition; and finally, as the Allies closed in, their hellish 17-day train journey with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria. Hundreds died along the way but the courage and kindness of strangers, including guards and civilians, helped save these women and their children. Sixty-five years later, the three ‘miracle babies’ met for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the liberation that ultimately saved them. United by their remarkable experiences of survival against all odds, they now consider each other “siblings of the heart.” In Born Survivors, Wendy Holden brings all three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the war. A heart-stopping account of how three mothers and their newborns fought to survive the Holocaust, Born Survivors is also a life-affirming celebration of our capacity to care and to love amid inconceivable cruelty.
Born Survivors is at times an uncomfortable yet compelling and emotional read.
I have always been interested in books to do with the Holocaust. They are always an emotional read and even though I have read quite a few books on the subject, I never tire of reading individual’s stories of that horrific time.
Priska, Rachel and Anka are three remarkable women who entered the camps whilst being pregnant. Thanks to the author, the amazing stories of these women hiding their pregnancies and their fight for survival as well as their babies is a story that can now live on and be shared with thousands.
So many people lost so many family and friends during this period and they left the camps literally with the ‘clothes’ that they stood in. To this day it always amazes me the strength, courage and spirit that many of these people had. It’s with thanks to the ones who tell their personal stories that hopefully people will read and learn so that we can one day live in peace.
Born Survivors is certainly a book that everyone should read. The author combines the women’s stories with plenty of information and history so that it makes for an emotional yet informative read. Highly recommended.
Goodreads rating 4/5 stars.
Born Survivors is available to purchase from Amazon.