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

  • Review
By – June 29, 2015

In her pow­er­ful book Born Sur­vivors, Wendy Hold­en tells the sto­ry of three young moth­ers who exhib­it­ed strength, courage, defi­ance, and hope while endur­ing Nazi atrocities.

The three moth­ers, Priska, Rachel, and Anka, defied death to give their chil­dren life. Torn from their fam­i­lies by the Nazis, they were first sent to Auschwitz, then Freiberg, then final­ly Mau­thausen. Despite being strangers to one anoth­er, these women had some­thing in com­mon: all were a few months preg­nant and need­ed to keep this a secret from their Nazi cap­tors. To find out if women were preg­nant, Dr. Josef Men­gele would squeeze their breasts to see if any milk leaked out. Those dis­cov­ered were either sent to their death or were used for genet­ic testing.

Like most books about the Holo­caust, this one is dif­fi­cult to read, the cru­el­ty beyond com­pre­hen­sion. Hold­en describes in detail the con­di­tions these moth­ers had to endure in the con­cen­tra­tion camps and on the bru­tal death train trans­fer. The read­er is able to pic­ture the events as if he or she were going through the atroc­i­ties with the women — as well as the uplift­ing con­clu­sion to their sto­ry. Whether by luck, mir­a­cle, or a lit­tle of both, these three women and their babies beat the odds. They did not just sur­vive but flour­ished after the lib­er­a­tion. As Hold­en writes, These babies went on to have babies of their own and cre­ate a sec­ond and then a third gen­er­a­tion, all of whom con­tin­ue to live their lives in defi­ance of Hitler’s plan to erase them from his­to­ry and from memory.”

Born Sur­vivors also bril­liant­ly con­trasts the cru­el­ness of human­i­ty with the kind­ness. There are many scenes where the read­ers will be over­come with grief regard­ing the Nazi actions, but there are also scenes in which towns­peo­ple and the Amer­i­can lib­er­a­tors pro­vid­ed emo­tion­al, med­ical, and mate­r­i­al support.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

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