📚 SYNOPSIS 📚
A heart-stopping account of how three pregnant women fought to survive the Holocaust,
Born Survivors is a life-affirming celebration of the human capacity to love amid inconceivable cruelty.
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. This special commemorative edition marks their seventy-fifth birthdays and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ending of the war.
Originally published in 2015, Born Survivors is an international bestseller, published in twenty-two countries and translated into sixteen languages.
💫 Note from publishers 💫
Born Survivors, publishing on the 30th April, is the incredible true story of three pregnant women and their courage and determination to survive the concentration camps during the Second World War. The book was first published in 2015 and we are reissuing this year ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp.
💭 MY THOUGHTS 💭
I don’t think there are any words that can encapsulate the feeling you get when you read this harrowing true tale. I truly believe that stories like this and others alike need to be told and heard, so that the same does not happen again. In the words of Anka, one of the women featured in Born Survivors
“The more people who know about what happened, the less likely it is to happen again, I hope…this is a story which should teach people that it mustn’t happen again”
Where do you start to review a book like this? I have always been interested in history. I studied history for GCSE and A-Levels. And, as part of our course we got to go to Berlin. While there we visited places and landmarks of historical interest relating to Hitler. And, the one memory that sticks in my mind the most is the visit to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. It was eerie and thought provoking to be there. I remember being sat in one of the huts and the guide explaining how there would have been many Jews all packed into it. It felt suffocating for us that day, I couldn’t start to imagine what it was like for the people back then.
Born Survivors tells the tale of three women who each discover they are pregnant just before arriving Auschwitz. The horrors and suffering they endure whilst there is unbelievable. Yet, they all power through and show grit and determination to survive for their unborn children. The thought of not knowing what might happen next to them must have been horrific, and also not knowing where their husbands are.
The research and work that Wendy Holden has done to put this book together shows in abundance in Born Survivors. And, we must be truly grateful to her for bringing this story to light. It shows the capacity that humans can love under extreme pressure. Despite everything that the women went through they held on to hope.
“They expected harsh conditions and general privations but prayed that once the war was over normal life could resume”
The personal touches in this book of the photographs and documents adds to the reality. It gives us the reader a better connection to the women. As we follow their journey through their snapshots of life.
Born Survivors is a distressing and heartbreaking story. But, a story that needs to be told and not forgotten.
✍🏻 ABOUT THE AUTHOR ✍🏻
WENDY HOLDEN was a journalist for eighteen years, including a decade at the Daily Telegraph where she worked as a foreign and war correspondent. She is author and the co-author of more than thirty books, including several bestselling wartime biographies.