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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

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They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of he They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers. Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women 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, education, 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 with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations 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.


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They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of he They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers. Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women 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, education, 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 with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations 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.

30 review for A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse

    I recently saw that Carolyn Moorehead has a new book coming out in Aug. of 2017, "A Bold and Dangerous Family", A true story about an Italian Mother, her sons, and their Fight against Fascism, which I want to read. I was declined within hours after having requested an advance copy on Netgalley, so I need to wait. It looks terrific and I look forward to other reviews. However, I had never read "A Train in Winter": An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France (The I recently saw that Carolyn Moorehead has a new book coming out in Aug. of 2017, "A Bold and Dangerous Family", A true story about an Italian Mother, her sons, and their Fight against Fascism, which I want to read. I was declined within hours after having requested an advance copy on Netgalley, so I need to wait. It looks terrific and I look forward to other reviews. However, I had never read "A Train in Winter": An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France (The Resistance Trilogy Book 1). From the library I checked out both the ebook and the audiobook. I don't recommend the audiobook. The woman speaking had a sharp British accent and talked very fast. I was much happier with the ebook. This true story tells us how women of the French Resistance lived and died during their imprisonment. 230 Women of diverse backgrounds were rounded up in France --- shipped via cattle car -to "Arbeit macht frei" camps. These women came together to help and protect each other. Their determination was not to be destroyed!!! Once the women returned to their homes after liberation, the ones who made it out, had great difficulty mixing back into their neighborhoods. These are brutal stories..... details of shameful cruelty.... (at times hard to keep track of each of the characters).....but it's hard to imagine the endurance it took ( while physically and mentally broken down), of what it 'really' took for these women to survive against the horrors and suffering that they did. Courageous and amazing women...always sad. I still read these stories from time to time - No two Holocaust stories are ever exactly the same for me. I read these stories from time to time -because I just do!!! I feel strong about it - just part of my personal responsibility. I have my own memories of survivors I loved. They've died now...but I had them in my life growing up. As a child, I never knew the the scope of their past suffering. Maybe I wasn't suppose to then. They 'were' exceptional women! I DON'T FORGET! I know we 'say' these words ... "we don't forget". I really don't!!! Caroline Moorhead's diligent research for this book must definitely be applauded!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Prange

    A Train in Winter tells the fascinating story of the French resistance during World War II. The author, Caroline Moorland, focuses her book on the women of the French resistance. These women might not wield guns or plant bombs, but they do house refugees in their hotels, print papers in their basements, and hand out flyers in the streets. These women chose to risk their lives rather than run to safety or simply endure. The women are grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and children, and all are dra A Train in Winter tells the fascinating story of the French resistance during World War II. The author, Caroline Moorland, focuses her book on the women of the French resistance. These women might not wield guns or plant bombs, but they do house refugees in their hotels, print papers in their basements, and hand out flyers in the streets. These women chose to risk their lives rather than run to safety or simply endure. The women are grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and children, and all are drawn into the fight for different reasons. Some women fight for their children’s futures. Others fight for those who are being oppressed. Others still fight because they wish to continue the work of their arrested husbands, brothers, and fathers. A Train in Winter follows these women as they endure arrests at the hands of both the French and Nazis, torture and starvation in the death camps, and watching as all those they hold dear die around them. Reading the introduction and book jacket, I expected something entirely different from A Train in Winter. I expected the author to focus more on the personal experiences of the women in the resistance and less on the overarching, historical events. Unfortunately, there are a minimum of fifty women mentioned in A Train in Winter, making it impossible for the reader to connect with any of the women. I would have much preferred Moorland to focus on several women rather than including everyone. The book would have been much better if she had alternated between chapters with background information and chapters with selections from her interviews. As it was, I couldn’t keep anyone straight and felt no connection to the women or their stories. The book lacked a sense of purpose and strength because of this excess of information. It became merely a dry, history book about an interesting topic, instead of the celebration of women and the friendships that kept them alive.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Updated 8/5/13 - see link at bottom Paris had become a city of collaborators, both open and hidden, anti-Semites, anti-Freemasons, repentant communists and right-wing Catholics, who had hated Blum’s Front Populaire and felt more than a sneaking admiration for the German cult of youthful valour, orderliness and heroism. Thankfully there were people who stood tall against the madness. A Train in Winter is a moving and devastating story of a group of two hundred thirty incredibly brave French wome Updated 8/5/13 - see link at bottom Paris had become a city of collaborators, both open and hidden, anti-Semites, anti-Freemasons, repentant communists and right-wing Catholics, who had hated Blum’s Front Populaire and felt more than a sneaking admiration for the German cult of youthful valour, orderliness and heroism. Thankfully there were people who stood tall against the madness. A Train in Winter is a moving and devastating story of a group of two hundred thirty incredibly brave French women, part of the Resistance during World War II. The train of the title is the one that transported them to the first of the Nazi-run camps in which they would be imprisoned. The first part of the book tells of the transition from the initial days of German occupation through a period when the people began to realize just what they were in for, to a fuller realization of what the Nazis were about, and with that the growth of the French Resistance. This is interesting material. I had had no idea, for example, that Occupied France had been divided into two zones by the Nazis, or that while most government agencies were taken over, some were not. Crossing the internal frontier became a significant element of the resistance and farmers’ wives were central in this aspect of the struggle, whether smuggling materiel or people. Young Parisian women engaged in a wide range of resistance activities right under the noses of the Nazi occupiers. Distribution of newsletters and posters was prime. When groups of mesdemoiselles rested from biking outings their rest periods were political meetings. Vichy’s head, Petain’s, dim view of women influenced women, who had increasingly been gaining liberties in pre-Nazi France. Writing bred demonstrations, which bred more writing, which bred more… I found the story-telling somewhat stiff for the tale up to here, but when hundreds of women are arrested and transported to a prison in Romainville outside Paris, the story gains in fluidity. A Train in Winter is a tale of survival among death, of heroism amidst depravity, of courage amidst fear, of love in a world of hate and of the power of liberté, egalité, and sororité within the most hellish conditions. The women see and endure unspeakable things at an unbelievable scale every day for years. From Romainville the survivors are transported to Aushwitz-Birkenau. Most would never leave. Even if you have seen or read about the goings on at such places, there are dark new revelations in store. There appears to be no bottom to the depths of human depravity. Moorehead’s portrayal of the women’s experiences kept me in tears, both of sympathy and of rage. Almost as maddening as the concentration and extermination camps was the post-war environment in which, after offering support to the survivors, France opted to turn a blind eye to the past. DeGaulle, pushing his myth of France as a country of united resisters betrayed by a handful of traitors, needed national amnesia. The gaunt sickly deportees were an unwelcome reminder that in five weeks the Germans had crushed what had been considered one of the finest armies in the world; and that during four years of occupation, it was the French themselves who had rounded up and interned Jews and resisters, before sending them to their death in PolandSome of the two hundred thirty survived. The life to which they returned was not as happy as they had hoped and Moorehead’s telling is as moving as are her stories of life in the camps. There is much to learn here. World War II is arguably the most important event in the 20th century and not only are we still learning new things about it all the time, we must keep alive the memories we already have. A Train in Winter offers a new look at an old story. It is illuminating, horrifying and sad, but it is an important and, in its way, a beautiful book, showing how hope, focus and commitment can join to keep at least some light burning in the darkness. ==============================EXTRA STUFF A wonderful interview with Moorehead from the Sydney Writers Project, on the genesis and writing of the book. Excellent material

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney, whom we have lost this sad August morning, writes this: "In one of the poems best known to students in my generation, a poem which could be said to have taken the nutrients of the symbolist movement and made them available in capsule form, the American poet Archibald MacLeish affirmed that “A poem should be equal to/not true.” As a defiant statement of poetry's gift for telling truth but telling it slant, this is both cogen In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney, whom we have lost this sad August morning, writes this: "In one of the poems best known to students in my generation, a poem which could be said to have taken the nutrients of the symbolist movement and made them available in capsule form, the American poet Archibald MacLeish affirmed that “A poem should be equal to/not true.” As a defiant statement of poetry's gift for telling truth but telling it slant, this is both cogent and corrective. Yet there are times when a deeper need enters, when we want the poem to be not only pleasurably right but compellingly wise, not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a re-tuning of the world itself. We want the surprise to be transitive like the impatient thump which unexpectedly restores the picture to the television set, or the electric shock which sets the fibrillating heart back to its proper rhythm. We want what the woman wanted in the prison queue in Leningrad, standing there blue with cold and whispering for fear, enduring the terror of Stalin's regime and asking the poet Anna Akhmatova if she could describe it all, if her art could be equal to it. And this is the want I too was experiencing in those far more protected circumstances in Co. Wicklow when I wrote the lines I have just quoted, a need for poetry that would merit the definition of it I gave a few moments ago, as an order “true to the impact of external reality and ... sensitive to the inner laws of the poet's being.”" "True to the impact of external reality" is what this heartbreaking and necessary book (a true testament to courage and human dignity) is from start to finish. I still believe, as the few women who survived did when they returned from Auschwitz-Birkenau, that language will never be able to translate the horror that took place in the camps but the words in this account are as tangible and true as they can possibly be. I was particularly shaken by the account of the survivors' return to daily life and its ultimate impossibility. The massive sadness that settles in when you realize that after having fought so hard to survive hell, normal life and its joys and pleasures are forever lost to you. I am honored to have met these women and pronounced their names in my head. I am deeply humbled by their sacrifice and in awe of their humanity.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    So the first half was chock full of names and dates like many nonfiction books that bore me to death. But I knew from reading other reviews not to judge too quickly. These were 230 women of all occupations, backgrounds, and aged 15-67.  French women suspected of resistance, communism, or a variety of offenses.  All were very interesting in their own right. But I ended up wishing the author had chosen to focus only on a handful of the women to tell the story of the group.  I knew the females depi So the first half was chock full of names and dates like many nonfiction books that bore me to death. But I knew from reading other reviews not to judge too quickly. These were 230 women of all occupations, backgrounds, and aged 15-67.  French women suspected of resistance, communism, or a variety of offenses.  All were very interesting in their own right. But I ended up wishing the author had chosen to focus only on a handful of the women to tell the story of the group.  I knew the females depicted were a rare breed,  fighting for France, fighting for their futures, their lives, for each other.  Rounded up and eventually sent to Auschwitz, and later Ravensbrück, you know not all will survive; but we also come to know how brave and strong they were.  I loved how strong a bond the women all formed, interminable friendships where they put each others' welfare ahead of their  own, time  after time after time. For those who did survive and made it home, life was not always easy as they relived the atrocities in their minds and missed their friends tremendously. Some could not forget or move on. One said, "Looking at me one would think that I'm alive. I'm not alive. I died in Auschwitz, but no one knows it. " This became available  on audio at the same  time I was reading Lilac Girls, and there are many similarities of time and  place.  If you have read The Nightingale (and if you haven't, you should), you will also be reminded of those heroic women.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    I think I’d have enjoyed reading this book no matter what but I was particularly happy to read it with my reading buddy Diane, and glad that she wanted to read slowly through the book; it made the reading experiencing really fun, if I can use that word, and absorbing and thinking about the information more interesting. I’ve read extensively about the Holocaust, but I learned so much from this book. I knew little of the treatment of French women Communists and other Nazi resistors. I’m fascinated I think I’d have enjoyed reading this book no matter what but I was particularly happy to read it with my reading buddy Diane, and glad that she wanted to read slowly through the book; it made the reading experiencing really fun, if I can use that word, and absorbing and thinking about the information more interesting. I’ve read extensively about the Holocaust, but I learned so much from this book. I knew little of the treatment of French women Communists and other Nazi resistors. I’m fascinated with this history. I must admit as I read about what befell these women in various places at various times, I found myself thinking about the Jews, and the times, places, events, ways they were being murdered on a parallel timeline with the events in this book. I was riveted to the account from the start, though the list of names was long and, as I predicted, I sometimes lost track of details about particular people. I resisted taking notes though, and that’s where my buddy came in handy, sometimes interjecting information such as: these two women had been friends before the war and providing the page number. I did enjoy that but was too lazy to try to remember all the details. Even without them, I feel as though I got to know these women, and particularly their friendship, which was a character itself. It’s really a book about the friendship among the group of women, how they were a unit of sorts. While I often forget connections and pre-war activities, I remained engrossed in the book and felt I got more than the gist. I was thrilled with the two maps and all the photographs. I wised for even more. Those included really enhanced the reading experience for me. I found myself wanting to know each of the women’s fates and my reading buddy Diane alerted me to one page in the back of the book that listed surviving women who were still alive and were interviewed or their family members interviewed for the book, and that’s when I found the complete list: those women, in alphabetical order the women who survived and then in alphabetical order the women who did not survive. I wanted to find out and to bear witness, so I pretty much stopped reading the book proper and, even though I knew I’d forget specifics and have to refer back to names as I read about them in the book, I read the lists. It was highly disturbing, even reading the fates of the survivors left me feeling extremely sad. Real life horror show! I knew how what the Nazis did have affected more than that one generation but it was powerful to see it spelled out in simple list form. It was hard to avoid using profanity when trying to absorb the facts. I’m really glad that the fates, with a bit of detail, of all the women were revealed. Even though I wasn’t willing to create it, in addition to the lists of women at the end, I wouldn’t have minded lists at the beginning, showing why the women were arrested, who knew who before capture, etc. I know in some cases it wasn’t possible to tell more of certain women because of the lack of information and for those women I’m grateful their existence was noted, but for those women who had a lot known about them, I longed for more detailed information about their pre-war and post-war lives. However; the entity of them as a group, of the friendship as the main character was powerful. The juxtaposition of how different people and groups dealt with Nazi occupation was told effectively and I find the subject fascinating. I was amazed at how brave most of these women were. Because they were not Jewish (known Jews) almost all could have avoided concentration camps, and once they were imprisoned I was so impressed with the big, unexpected, all kinds of kindnesses, often at their own peril and/or deprivation, and often even at risk of saving their own lives. Talk about true friendship! Whenever reading about the Nazis I always admired the resistors but this time around I kept wondering if mothers of young children really should have been so boldly participating. I am in awe of what they did but a part of me wanted anyone who could stay safe (and hopefully still do some good) to do so. These French women went through a lot of the almost unimaginable suffering that the targeted groups (Jews, Gypsies, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, homosexual, etc.) did. I’m still glad that at the end, when summing up, the Jews were mentioned and the reader saw how they fared re return rate, and re France’s collaboration and the prevalent anti-Semitism, re overall how they fared worse, and given how these women fared, that was very, very badly. I respect this account even more for all it tried to cover. I felt so sad to read the fates of the women, not only those who didn’t survive, but also those who did survive. I kept wondering what if they’d had modern day post traumatic stress treatments in 1945 whether some could have greatly benefited, even though I have no illusions that they would be anything other than horribly damaged in many ways. So horrifying what humans can do to others! I really enjoyed this book but I was left profoundly sad, and also profoundly impressed, and very angry about what happened to these women. I think it’s an important story and I’m very glad that it’s now down on paper. I might have given it 5 stars had I gotten to know at least some of the women better than I did. These sorts of accounts always have me soul searching about just how brave I’d be, just how altruistic I’d be, just how ethically I’d behave given similar dire circumstances.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This is a powerful book and one that will stay with me for a very long time. A disturbing account of the atrocities that took place during WW2. A story about friendship, passion and survival. Women who were involved in the resistance movement of occupied France by the Germans; the steps they took to stand up and fight for their country and where it landed them: on a train bound for a concentration camp. All 230 of them. This is a story of the depth of love these women had for each other - how th This is a powerful book and one that will stay with me for a very long time. A disturbing account of the atrocities that took place during WW2. A story about friendship, passion and survival. Women who were involved in the resistance movement of occupied France by the Germans; the steps they took to stand up and fight for their country and where it landed them: on a train bound for a concentration camp. All 230 of them. This is a story of the depth of love these women had for each other - how they protected each other during the darkest days when death was at times seconds away. How friendship was what gave these women life; helped them to survive. The darkest days followed by darker ones upon the return of only 49; when happiness became elusive with constant reminders of the horror and loved ones lost; and the debilitating diseases and illness the years in the camp left them with. Survival doesn't always mean happiness; as one survivor stated "to forget would be an act of betrayal". Thank you Caroline Moorehead for writing this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A powerful and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the early days of the French Resistance and underground communism movement. Although it is always difficult to read any book covering the Nazi atrocities and this book is no exception, it is also so much more. There is generosity in the face of adversity, self sacrifice and friendships that help many of the woman get through their imprisonment at Auschwitz. Although way to many died, still more than average lived, the care thes A powerful and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the early days of the French Resistance and underground communism movement. Although it is always difficult to read any book covering the Nazi atrocities and this book is no exception, it is also so much more. There is generosity in the face of adversity, self sacrifice and friendships that help many of the woman get through their imprisonment at Auschwitz. Although way to many died, still more than average lived, the care these woman took of each other was awe inspiring. This book deserves to be widely read and these women deserve to be remembered.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    A very fascinating and well written account of 230 women from France that stood up and took part in the Resistance. The book follows them on the journey of German occupation of France to their fate up to and after the liberation of the concentration camps. The author did what great authors do and that is impose thought and reflection on what you've read. There were a lot of questions that were raised for me that will give cause to research and learn more about the many topics discussed. I think A very fascinating and well written account of 230 women from France that stood up and took part in the Resistance. The book follows them on the journey of German occupation of France to their fate up to and after the liberation of the concentration camps. The author did what great authors do and that is impose thought and reflection on what you've read. There were a lot of questions that were raised for me that will give cause to research and learn more about the many topics discussed. I think about how many Holocaust memoirs and accounts I've read and I realize that even if it's now at 30 to 40, in relation to the 6 million Jewish lives and millions of others lost during the commission of these atrocities, I've read about less than 1% of the stories of those who perished or were victims who survived only to wish they hadn't. "It was not long after Charlotte Delbo came home to Paris that she began to write about the German camps. Much of it was in verse. 'I've come back from another world,' she wrote, to this world I had not left and I know not which one is real... As far as I'm concerned I'm still there dying there a little more each day dying over again the death of those who died... I have returned from a world beyond knowledge and now must learn for otherwise I clearly see I can no longer live"- page 476 Here are thoughts I shared throughout the book as commented on in a buddy read thread in the WWII reading group. I have hidden due to spoilers so click the link to read more. (view spoiler)[There is a large volume of women and men of the Resistance introduced in the first 4 chapters. At first I was quite overwhelmed with trying to keep them all straight and remember their individual story lines. What I found rewarding was that I went back and reread the preface and had gained and retained more about those men and women Moorehead introduced than I thought I had. That's a testament to her writing style and the dedication she has shown in telling their story in a way that has brought them to life. The first four chapters do provide an excellent look into the mood and temperament of the Germans and how that changed from that of almost blending in during June of 1940 to more and more oppressive as time went by and the Resistance became more active and more combative. The description of the atmosphere in the beginning of chapter one was surprising to me, as I thought that at the onset of occupation that the Germans were immediately oppressive. The Parisians were also surprised as relayed in the following passage: "What surprised the Parisians, standing in little groups along the Champs-Elysees to watch the German soldiers take over their city in the early hours of 14 June 1940, was how youthful and healthy they looked. Tall, fair, clean shaven, the young men marching to the sounds of a military band to the Arc de Triomphe were observed to be wearing uniforms of good cloth and gleaming boots made of real leather. The coats of the horses pulling the cannons glowed. It seemed not an invasion but a spectacle. Paris itself was calm and almost totally silent. Other than the steady waves of tanks, motorised infantry and troops, nothing moved." "And when they had stopped staring, the Parisians returned to their homes and waited to see what would happen. A spirit of holding on, doing nothing, watching, settled over the city." This passage is a testament to the artistry and the spectacle of the German army in it's heyday. There is no denying that the soldiers were impeccably dressed and polished and were able to draw crowds just by the massive size and artistic spectacle of their marches and parades. Their rapid succession of victories gave them much to hold their heads high as they were feeling that they were invincible and the vision of a 1000 year Reich seemed entirely possible at this point in the war. In looking at those initial days of occupation, after reading the first four chapters of the book, I realized that the manner in which they conducted themselves in the initial stages of occupation was actually quite smart. By coming in on their best behavior, respecting personal property and shortly lifting the curfew, this approach limited the mass hysteria and immediate revolt that was anticipated by Germans. I wasn't surprised though that there were those that committed suicide as soon as the Germans crossed into the city based on the horror stories that were rampant from the invasion of Poland. I haven't read much on the Vichy government that was formed, however I knew that Petain was quite a revolting leader. The more I'm reading about him the more I'm sickened as to the betrayal of his fellow countrymen and his alliance with the Nazis. I thought it was also interesting that the first signs of the resistance began to show when the ashes of Napoleon's son were returned from exile in Vienna and in the midst of all the fanfare there were posters up stating "Take back your little eagle, give us back our pigs." It was amazing to read about the lengths that the women went to in order to fight in the Resistance, even placing their children in foster homes. I can't imagine how difficult that decision must have been but it was a testament to how strongly they felt about not wanting their children to grow up under Nazi rule. Another part of history discussed in the book that I was not familiar with was the number of people who helped the refugees from the Spanish Civil War. It has spawned a new interest to learn more about Franco and that war. Great quote from Jean Texcier's Manual of Dignity: "Husband your anger, for you may need it. Don't feel you have to give the Germans the right directions when they ask you the way; these are not your walking companions. And above all, 'have no illusions: these men are not tourists'." How quickly things changed once June 22, 1941 brought on the invasion of the Soviet Union. The majority of the Resistance members being discussed are communists and I thought that it was unbelievable how those who were opponents of Hitler felt communists were considered pariahs. Then overnight, those same people were no longer seen to be in league with the enemy now that the Nazi-Soviet pact was dissolved. An interesting though on the concept of terrorism came up during discussion as to how it is applied, depending on the circumstances. I was thinking about the Nuremburg Trials being the first where atrocities against man committed during war were tried with sentences of death carried out. In the case of the outcome of WWII, it was Germany that was held accountable. However, there were plenty of crimes against humanity carried out by the Russians, French and other Allied soldiers, yet these countries were not held accountable. If taken to the extreme, the US and Britain could be seen as carrying out such atrocities when you consider the complete destruction of Hamburg and its innocent civilians as well as other cities throughout Europe that were attacked by carpet bombing. I'm not suggesting at all that I feel that this accountability should have happened, but it is an argument that I'm sure was made by the Germans. This then got me thinking about the political beliefs of the women imprisoned together. Those that were die hard communists were loyal to Russia and were anxious for the Russians to come to their rescue. What is unique to the times is the level of naivete that was able to exist when the truth was so much easier to hide and propaganda was so widespread. These women wanted to believe all that was good in the communist ideals that they held dear but lived in the dark as to the crimes perpetrated by and for Stalin. The same can be said for the Nazi sympathizers who believed in the concept of National Socialism but had very limited knowledge and understanding as to the crimes that were being committed in the name of Hitler and what he really stood for. I got quite a chuckle at the description of the demarcation lines and how they even cut through a building. Moorehead's ability to weave such a moving narrative as to the bonds of friendship that developed among the women is a common aspect throughout this book. It just broke my heart when I would read about more and more Resistance fighters being captured and was so devastated when the final group of men were taken away to be executed and the notes that were left behind to their wives were read. There definitely was ingenuity that was required to help deliver communication, weapons, people, etc. I couldn't believe the number of women who had been caught and sent to prison, released and still had the courage and determination to continue to fight for the Resistance. New topics to further explore: I was glad to read the mention of the Vel d'hiv roundup but disappointed it was only in passing. I am also really interested in learning more about Pierre Napoleon Poinsot. He really sounds like he was a ruthless character. I also would like to learn more about Pierre Laval the creep who "proposed adding women and children, not least because when the convoys left children behind, the frantic scenes of desperate parents upset the police." - pg 201 Memorable quotes and passages A quote that really cracked me up was when the subject of jokes about the Nazis was discussed and the one about the test for a true Aryan, "A true Aryan must be blond like Hitler, slender like Goring, tall like Goebbels, young like Petain, and honest like Laval." pg 55 One passage that really made me ill was in regards to who decided the method of rail transport that would be used. "The Germans had not actually asked for the cattle trucks; this initiative came from the French railways, the SNCF. It was on French trains, driven by French engine drivers, that deportees were conveyed to the border." - pg 200 A passage that warmed my heart was on the same page when discussing the reaction and solidarity by other French people, "The compulsory wearing of the yellow star by Jews saw a flowering of other yellow symbols, worn by non-Jews, patches of material shaped like roses or rosettes and pinned on to clothes. In Paris, the zazous, the youthful, flamboyant admirers of jazz, in their quirky clothes and dark glasses, took to adding a yellow star to their outfits." "Now, perhaps more than ever before, the full meaning of occupation was impossible to ignore: 42,500 Jews already deported to the death camps, and not one of the trains bearing them there derailed by the Resistance." - page 280 Reading of the atrocities against the women of the Resistance and France's decision to "move on" after the war was over, it reminded me that I have been wanting to read The Rape of Nanking for a long time now and need to move it up on my list. I know of the topic but have not done any extensive reading on it, but I think it's a great example of a country not taking responsibility for their actions and owning up to the atrocities committed. In contrast with Japan, in many ways I feel the German people of today still feel like the actions and atrocities committed by the Nazis will forever tarnish their country's image and history but at least the government has imposed some very strict guidelines to thwart the resurgence of Neo-Nazis. At the time, pre 24 hour news cycle, facebook, twitter, etc, many crimes and atrocities were much easier to hide from the general public. I visited a Holocaust museum in St. Peterburg, FL back when I lived in Tampa and I had a wide range of emotions. This was before I started studying and doing a lot of reading on WWII and the Holocaust and I was predominantly in a state of shock over what I witnessed. I think if I was to go back and visit again today, or visit any other Holocaust museum, my reaction would be more deep seated in anger at the Nazis and SS. I watched a documentary several years ago called "Forgiving Dr. Mengele". What an incredible and a thought-provoking documentary. It really begs the question of what forgiveness really means. A definite must see for anyone familiar with the Holocaust and the role Dr. Mengele played at Auschwitz concentration camp. This documentary deals with some of the surviving twins that served as experimental guinea pigs for the infamous Dr. Mengele who meet once again nearly 50 years later to discuss what his atrocities did to their lives even after leaving Auschwitz. It is a heartbreaking story but one that needed to be told. The idea and the concept of forgiveness is different for everyone and as one of the survivors pointed out, she didn't feel one could find forgiveness while still in the midst of fighting for one's life. But for many of the survivors, even fifty years after the liberation of the camp, there is still no room for forgiveness in their heart. One thing I wasn't aware of was that the Soviets opened a Gulag right after the liberation. I can't imagine how anyone in their right mind would even contemplate using those camps again for any reason. I'm in shock! Chapters 10-13 for those who have read extensively on the Holocaust will not really learn a lot of new information, but it's gut-wrenching to read about what these women lived through and/or the conditions in which they died. It was so sad to read how one by one, those who came in with a mother or sister each ended up alone. The description of the women standing outside for hours and hours waiting for roll call to begin with their legs swelling and their feet freezing was so horrible. I had quite a sickening reaction when reading the passage that spoke to the bowls and why the women were warned not to eat from them. The horror that must have struck those women when the lorry of bodies first drove by and they noticed that not everyone was dead. I also wondered about the shock that must have hit the women upon seeing their reflection in the mirror after surviving Auschwitz. In the book there is a picture of the guards of Auschwitz all standing together laughing that just made me ill. There was so much hypocrisy in the camps from the sign on the gates of "Arbeit Macht Frei" to the symphonies played upon the arrival of new prisoners to give the air that everything was fine and to keep the panic from spreading. The heinous experiments that were performed on the 75 Polish girls by Professor Gebhardt was something I had not read about yet. I didn't realize he was called in to treat Heydrich after his accident. I will have to do some more research on him. I just finished reading "The 900 Days: The Siege Of Leningrad" back in December and the calculation of the daily calorie allotment for all of the citizens was constantly a huge concern. Quite a bit of detail was covered as to the difficult decision of how many calories needed to be cut as food started to run out and how many citizens and soldiers would die as a result. One of the things that isn't stressed as much as I feel it should be in this book is the consequences of a lack of clean water to drink and how filthy water or lack of adequate water led to more and quicker deaths than the eventual starvation from lack of food. I often wonder if I would have had the courage and strength to be a part of an underground movement or survive in a camp. While there are so many things in everyone's life that are stressful and there are many people who are homeless and hungry in the US, the modern conveniences that are a part of most all of our lives in this country and our dependence on them makes me feel like it would be an even harder transition to be interned. I don't feel that most really know what true sacrifice and physical and mental hardship means to the degree that was suffered during that time by those in the camps and citizens in areas being bombed and occupied. That blessing is due to those who fought and sacrificed during and since WWI and WWII for those back home and for future generations. I have a couple of criticisms on the second half of the book: 1. There are many broad generalizations about groups of people without additional commentary to back up the generalizations. Case in point would be the statements that indicate those who were communists had an edge over those who held other political beliefs. 2. I feel that while I was captivated in the first part of the book and there was a sort of cliffhanger effect at the end of chapter 8, I felt a little let down that the book shifted so drastically in Chapter 9 through 13. It may just be that I wasn't ready to leave the story of the Resistance behind. When I finished the book I had to step away before following up with my final thoughts and review of the book. I have read quite a few books on the Holocaust and I'm not sure what made me so angry after having finished the last 2 chapters of the book. It may be that I've never done a buddy read with someone on a Holocaust book and some of my pontifications really got the best of me. I don't think it was De Gaulle's intention to come off as callous as he did, but it must have been quite a blow to those survivors who were told, in essence, that they just needed to move on and let the country heal. Repatriation must have been very traumatic for the survivors as well as those family members who never recaptured essence of the love one they once knew. Very few of survivors listed at the end of the book were able to find happiness in their lives after they returned home. The impact goes on for generations. I recently read a great memoir called Motherland: Beyond the Holocaust: A Mother-Daughter Journey to Reclaim the Past. The book really dealt with the relationship of a mother who survived the Holocaust and her daughter and their journey together to go back to Germany to try and her mother make peace with the past of 54 years ago. The more that I read, the more I want to understand how the minds of so many can turn against other human beings. My anger is also directed at my own country and myself for conveniently, though not consciously, sweeping some of the ugly aspects of the history of the United States under the carpet in many instances. The state I'm living in right mow was one of the strongest supporters of the eugenics movement, forming a board back in 1933 which imposed forced sterilization on those ruled mentally "defective" and this eugenics board in NC wasn't repealed until 2003! Additionally, the internment of Japenese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was horrendous. Families lost everything based on racial profiling. The KKK is still a practicing cult society in this country hell-bent on racial purity and supremacy. I'm not saying that the US has outright denied any or all of these things, but I think especially in regards to the eugenics movement, that it is rarely brought up in the course of American history conversations. Thus, in order to fully understand the thinking at the time, I also need to do more reading and research on the country I am a native of in conjunction with continuing my research of other countries involved in WWII. No one in war is innocent of all crimes and in many ways it is the declared victors who are better able to move away from the past and direct attention to those who waged war to begin with and lost. In the end, the author did what great authors do and that is impose thought and reflection on what you've read. There were a lot of questions that were raised for me that will give cause to research and learn more about the many topics discussed. I think about how many Holocaust memoirs and accounts I've read and I realize that even if it's now at 30 to 40, in relation to the 6 million Jewish lives and millions of others lost during the commission of these atrocities, I've read less than 1% of the stories of those who perished or were victims who survived only to wish they hadn't. (hide spoiler)]

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry dry A veritable Sahara of a book (minus the camels). The importance of memorializing these women is not in question, and I know many people will appreciate this book. I just couldn't take the writing. One quibble I had with the portion I did read: She seems to be implying that all the people in the French Resistance were communists. I'm no history expert, but is that not incorrect?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Britany

    A Train in Winter tells the story of women of the French Resistance who were arrested and sentenced to prison and then transported to concentration camps during WWII. A non fictionalized account of the French women who endured a harrowing experience that I personally have not read about before. These women fought for communism and freedom, fighting to keep Paris alive during the Nazi invasion. Sent to Auschwitz and then onto Ravensbruck, these women endured, some perished carrying their stories A Train in Winter tells the story of women of the French Resistance who were arrested and sentenced to prison and then transported to concentration camps during WWII. A non fictionalized account of the French women who endured a harrowing experience that I personally have not read about before. These women fought for communism and freedom, fighting to keep Paris alive during the Nazi invasion. Sent to Auschwitz and then onto Ravensbruck, these women endured, some perished carrying their stories and visions on the weight of their shoulders. Disappearing into skeletons and contracting Typus, Dysentry, and TB they perished. A book showing the reader the torture that these women went through and maintained some fight to survive. The aftermath of WWII was almost more heartbreaking for me to read. These survivors came home to nothing and no one. Some lost their entire families, houses, and money. They struggled with ongoing health issues and depression. I found Part 1 to be a struggle- too many facts, names, places, and details that didn't bring forth the underlying narrative wanting to break free from the minutiae. Finally, once I got into Part 2 the narrative picked up, making me more interested in finishing this book. The writing was filled with facts and little stories making up one larger one. I felt it was difficult at times to remember the different characters as only a few seemed to rise above the rest of the text. The timing also seemed to go back and forth with each story instead on one fluid chronological passage. Overall, a book about a portion of WWII that I did not know about- would recommend to those that enjoy this time period.

  12. 4 out of 5

    KOMET

    This book is true to its billing. Though I was born a couple of decades after the Second World War, the War itself for me is not an abstraction. My father and several relatives served in the military during the War, experienced the hazards of combat in Europe. Besides, my father also knew people who lived in France under the German occupation. Thus, reading this book was a reminder for me of how the Second World War impacted upon the heart and soul of a nation. The focus of the book is on a group This book is true to its billing. Though I was born a couple of decades after the Second World War, the War itself for me is not an abstraction. My father and several relatives served in the military during the War, experienced the hazards of combat in Europe. Besides, my father also knew people who lived in France under the German occupation. Thus, reading this book was a reminder for me of how the Second World War impacted upon the heart and soul of a nation. The focus of the book is on a group of French women --- all members of the Resistance --- who were betrayed to the Germans in 1942, tortured by collaborationists and the Gestapo, and shipped east to Auschwitz in January 1943. Out of 230 women who arrived in Auschwitz, only 49 returned alive to France after the War. This book makes for very sobering reading. It is a testament to the strength and spirit of true, supportive comradeship among a group of women resolved to maintain their humanity amid the horrors of Nazi sadism and brutality. Anyone with a love for life and peace should read this book so that he/she can better appreciate the price that may have to be paid should another scourge like Nazism threaten the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Felicity

    In many ways, this book deserves a much higher rating. Moorehead reconstructs the lives (as best she can based on remaining historical evidence) of French women sent to Nazi concentration camps during World War II, specifically the women of Convoy 31000 (the number of the convoy that shuttled them from Paris to the camps and seared into their flesh forever as tattoos). Most of the women on the convoy were political prisoners: women who had been members of the Resistance or via other means, quest In many ways, this book deserves a much higher rating. Moorehead reconstructs the lives (as best she can based on remaining historical evidence) of French women sent to Nazi concentration camps during World War II, specifically the women of Convoy 31000 (the number of the convoy that shuttled them from Paris to the camps and seared into their flesh forever as tattoos). Most of the women on the convoy were political prisoners: women who had been members of the Resistance or via other means, questioned the absolute authority of the Reich in France. Only a handful were Jewish (a fact they kept well hidden) and many were Communist. A few had even informed on the Resisters. Moorehead's description and recreation of the conditions and atrocities that the women endured (or in most cases, did not) in the concentration camps is harrowing. It's one of the compelling descriptions I've read, its power only enhanced by the fact that what she writes about actually happened (it's not a fictional recreation). But it's not until the final third of the book that Moorehead really gets to the meat of her account: what these woman endured at the hands of the SS and the Gestapo (amongst others) at Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. Much of the material up to that point is an account of the circumstances that got them there: incredibly detailed descriptions of the resistance activities in which the women were involved and how they were caught. I found myself getting bogged down in the incredible detail. While I appreciate Moorehead's desire to be comprehensive and give each woman her due, I became lost in the detail of 200+ women's lives. Moorehead has two main themes in her book. The first she takes pains to identify is the extent of French collaboration (mainly via the police) with the Germans in identifying and rounding up these women (and therefore being ultimately responsible for sending them to the camps and almost certain death). Her second theme illuminates the way in which the women survived first the French prisons and later the camps, and the extent to which this experience was gender-specific. Barely a quarter of the women in the convoy ultimately survived the camps. Moorehead argues that while luck played a significant role for these survivors, it was also their commitment to each other and to helping each other survive. The bonds of female friendship prompted the women to hide their sick friends from Nazi inspections designed to weed out the infirm for the gas chambers, and to the pooling of scarce food resources and medical supplies so they could help each other survive wherever possible. The women were, Moorehead argued, committed to sending back survivors so that they could bear witness to what they had seen, endured, and survived. It's a draining book, but one worth persevering with.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    What an incredibly emotional, heavy and powerful book -- the cover of my copy states "compelling and moving, a necessary book" as written by the Washington Post. I would say that describes this book perfectly. Such a large part of WW2 history is revealed in heart-stopping and brutal detail. I knew embarrassingly little about Germany's occupation of France, and even less about the French Resistance. Not only do you read about the heartbreaking horrors of the 'camps', but the reader is also exposed What an incredibly emotional, heavy and powerful book -- the cover of my copy states "compelling and moving, a necessary book" as written by the Washington Post. I would say that describes this book perfectly. Such a large part of WW2 history is revealed in heart-stopping and brutal detail. I knew embarrassingly little about Germany's occupation of France, and even less about the French Resistance. Not only do you read about the heartbreaking horrors of the 'camps', but the reader is also exposed to the other side of the coin - how the survivors 'survive' once they are free and return home. I found the book confusing at times, it was challenging trying to keep the names and relationships clear in my mind. I felt that a 'tree' in the front of the book would have been a wonderful addition. That aside, I am so touched, impressed and happy that the author, Caroline Moorehead, had the desire to do such compelling research to tell the tale of these incredibly brave women. I read that she started the book in 2008 and it was published in 2012. I admire her dedication and am happy that she was able to meet in person just a few of these remarkable women. So often reading I was beyond angry, beyond horrified; I read this book with my buddy-read friend, Lisa V, and her and my partner, Endre, both so well-read on the subject, brought my reading of this book to another level. Special thanks to both of them!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    This is indeed an extraordinary story. I may try to write a more in-depth review, but I need some time to reflect and recover. I will thank Moorehead for the gift she has given us in bringing to life the stories of these women and providing a voice to their suffering and astonishing courage. If you think there is nothing more you want or need to learn about World War II, this lovingly-researched and -written work will make you realize how little of we understand of the experience of women during This is indeed an extraordinary story. I may try to write a more in-depth review, but I need some time to reflect and recover. I will thank Moorehead for the gift she has given us in bringing to life the stories of these women and providing a voice to their suffering and astonishing courage. If you think there is nothing more you want or need to learn about World War II, this lovingly-researched and -written work will make you realize how little of we understand of the experience of women during the war and how little of their particular horror of Holocaust we have absorbed. To read this is to honor the memory and sacrifice of the victims of war who were mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and whose greatest crime was compassion. I am humbled and devastated.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This is the story of 230 French women who were resisters to the Nazi occupation. It was a story that I had not heard of before. I imagine their tale had not been told for many reasons, the bulk of them were active members of the communist party, not people who western writers would want to honor. These women were born into families that were very patriotic and had a deep seated love of France and the concept of equality and fraternity. All supporters of Leon Blum and his socialist party the Popul This is the story of 230 French women who were resisters to the Nazi occupation. It was a story that I had not heard of before. I imagine their tale had not been told for many reasons, the bulk of them were active members of the communist party, not people who western writers would want to honor. These women were born into families that were very patriotic and had a deep seated love of France and the concept of equality and fraternity. All supporters of Leon Blum and his socialist party the Popular Front and its quest to provide workers rights . These families also were the ones who were extremely anti-Fascist, many of these women as young as 15 when they began resistance work came from families who had taken in the refugees from Franco's Spain, the surviving women and children who entered France near starved and in misery. Some had fathers who had fought in the Spanish war, and whose conversations had made them acutely politically aware, these experiences drew them to socialist and communist struggles, and their anger against the Nazis who occupied their country. They were compelled by convictions to risk everything to obstruct and resist, carrying weapons, explosives, couriering messages, smuggling Jews and other resisters and downed Allied pilots out of Vichy toward a chance at freedom. Often it was their youth that gave them cover or the fact that they were women in their late 40s and 50s who after the executions of their husbands or fathers who took up the work of their fallen family members. A friend asked me how I could possibly read books like this, as though it was better not to know. Perhaps it is a search for what it takes to have the moral courage to take stands against injustice and to understand the resilience of survivors, and to understand how some could stand heedless of the risks against evil. It is hard to explain, except to say I am forever search for Herta Kaufman, a German Jewish camp survivor who I met in my 20s and came to know even ithough she never spoke of the horrors she had experienced or witnessed. I felt that I would have had more time with her in my life, and never thought about taking notes about her long journey in life. I regret not being able to tell her story for she was a sole survivor who exists in no ones memory save mine, and I feel that I have somehow failed her for she deserved to exist beyond her difficult life. This is the story of the women of the French resistance who were rounded up in late 1940, early 41 and imprisoned together in French detention centers; they formed a bond so deep, with commitment to protect each other and pool resources sacrificing for the weakest among them and trying to keep faith with the knowledge that their brothers, fathers, husbands and lovers being held in the men's section were being executed at regular intervals. Many had children who they had sent to be fostered by families and friends in hopes that they would survive and some day be reunited with those they loved. When the executions failed to terrorize and diminish the number of resisters the Germans and Petain decided that they should disappear and they were loaded into cattle cars and shipped north the women to Birkenau in January of 41. the men to adjacent camps like Auschwitz. Already reduced by starvation and abuse from the French prisons these women understood that survival meant sacrificing for each other, sharing their meager rations with the weakest, hiding those who might be culled out for the gas chambers...only 49 of the 230 women aboard the transport 31000 would survive. Their stories capture the real brutality of the camps, their struggles to maintain some humanity and to live to bear witness for each other and those they lost. Caroline Moorehead has collected their stories and these women live on the pages in a very real way, she had collected photos from their families as the existed in their life before being imprisoned and photos of them from the camps, that give them even more substance than others who have been written about in this period of history. This is not easy reading as it is very graphic outlining the real horrors that few can imagine, and the unbelievable price these women paid for the stands they took to honor their belief in the France that they loved and to go against those who collaborated and stood silent. It is a story that is hard to absorb except it shows what cooperation and community can achieve, those traits that create resilience and the ability to put others before self and the capacity of humans to rise above their own interests and sacrifice for each other and their beliefs for a better world. Beyond moving, these women will survive in my memory for their extraordinary human capacities.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carl Brookins

    This book falls under the heading of true crime. It deals with mass murder, attempted genocide and a side of France in the 1940’s that is generally not well-known. This is also one of the most difficult and amazing books I have ever had the privilege of reading. This is, as the cover states, “an extraordinary story of women, friendship and resistance in occupied France.” In mid-June, 1940, the German army occupied Paris and France fell. There was, for a while, a partition, Vichy France under the This book falls under the heading of true crime. It deals with mass murder, attempted genocide and a side of France in the 1940’s that is generally not well-known. This is also one of the most difficult and amazing books I have ever had the privilege of reading. This is, as the cover states, “an extraordinary story of women, friendship and resistance in occupied France.” In mid-June, 1940, the German army occupied Paris and France fell. There was, for a while, a partition, Vichy France under the aging Marshall Petain. At first, relations between the occupiers and the subjugated French were almost cordial. During the next two years many of France’s second-class citizens, it’s women, took up the battle and became foundations and facilitators of the much celebrated French Resistance, all over the nation. It’s noteworthy that French women were denied the privilege of voting until 1944. Ironically, dismissive attitudes toward women worked to their advantage as they became top organizers and couriers in the resistance. Gradually, informers and collaborators working with the Gestapo amassed evidence of women’s activities, arresting and gathering women into prisons. In January, 1943, 230 women, the youngest 15, the oldest in her sixties, were loaded into cattle cars and shipped east, to Auschwitz. Only 49 survived to the end of the war. This is the well-documented story of those women. The author has, through extensive archival research, personal interviews with survivors, and family members, and the development of original sources, pieced together the individual and collective stories of these ordinary yet incredible women. The stories are set against the political and the social turmoil of the times. The women, from all classes of society across the political and social spectrums, bonded together to support one another in fighting for their survival. They had no weapons save their wits, their intelligence and their essential humanity, against a huge and terrible effort to obliterate them. Only a few were Jews. That any survived is testament to their grit, their determination and their mutual support. This work is meticulously documented with an extensive bibliography, source notes by chapter, and short biographies of the women who live again in these pages. Moorehead’s tone is straightforward; no hysteria, no loud condemnations, there are no exclamation points. But the book, in the weight of its facts here illuminated, is condemnatory. It condemns Nazis, the Gestapo, and French collaborators as well as the post-war government of France which preferred to forget much of the pestilence that came with the occupying German army. This is a book that should be read by anyone with the slightest interest in human rights and human history. It throws a bright light on an aspect of World War II in Europe little known or studied. And the book is a reminder that we who ignore the lessons of history will inevitably suffer repetition of those devastations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Notaro

    One of the most phenomenal books I've ever read. It is essential, profound, moving, shocking, horrifying and astounding. I am embarrassed that I knew nothing of these women before I read the book; World War Two and the Holocaust are full of millions of stories, equally deserving of attention, but the fact that the fate of 230 women, most of them French resistance fighters between the ages of 15-65, had previously gone unmentioned is another crime against them. As a group, they traveled from a Fr One of the most phenomenal books I've ever read. It is essential, profound, moving, shocking, horrifying and astounding. I am embarrassed that I knew nothing of these women before I read the book; World War Two and the Holocaust are full of millions of stories, equally deserving of attention, but the fact that the fate of 230 women, most of them French resistance fighters between the ages of 15-65, had previously gone unmentioned is another crime against them. As a group, they traveled from a French prison to Auschwitz, then Ravensbruk, where they looked out for one another and formed a tight family that was essential to their survival. Their crimes ranged from publishing resistance literature to writing "Viva La France" on a wall. This should be required reading in any women's studies class, it is that important. Critical to know that it is not a novel, but an account of history, written much in the style of In the Garden of Beasts. There are many names, many stories, but my advice is to move through them and not get hung up on remembering who is who--eventually, it catches and you will know the main players after you progress through the book. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Meticulously researched, almost painstakingly so. This story will leave you without words. It is honest, unflinching, and unforgettable.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rita-Marie

    Whoa. It's been awhile since I've "missed" a book after I've finished it and sobbed while reading it. A meticulously researched work that was eye opening w/insights about occupied France and the role of the resistance. I was blown away by what the human spirit can endure. I think everyone wonders what they would do when put in extraordinary circumstances and this book served as a testament to spectrum of the nature of the human animal while capturing the bonds of friendships and the horrors of W Whoa. It's been awhile since I've "missed" a book after I've finished it and sobbed while reading it. A meticulously researched work that was eye opening w/insights about occupied France and the role of the resistance. I was blown away by what the human spirit can endure. I think everyone wonders what they would do when put in extraordinary circumstances and this book served as a testament to spectrum of the nature of the human animal while capturing the bonds of friendships and the horrors of WWII. It will stay with me long after I finish processing it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Metcalf

    This amazing book was so thoroughly researched it took 11 pages to document her source notes and the Bibliography. Of greater significance in terms of making it a realistic and personal account, she also interviewed seven of the remaining survivors spending hours with them over a period of a year or two. Whilst I did not like this book in the traditional sense it was nothing to do with the author or the quality of her writing. It was simply that the content was so horrific, the atrocities so gre This amazing book was so thoroughly researched it took 11 pages to document her source notes and the Bibliography. Of greater significance in terms of making it a realistic and personal account, she also interviewed seven of the remaining survivors spending hours with them over a period of a year or two. Whilst I did not like this book in the traditional sense it was nothing to do with the author or the quality of her writing. It was simply that the content was so horrific, the atrocities so great I couldn't ever consider this as a book to be enjoyed. The title alludes to the friendships formed by the women and so many examples of the strength of these friendships were provided. Yet whilst I recognise and accept the truth of this statement the overwhelming takeaway for me was not about the friendships but the horrors they endured. Part 1 was difficult as I found I lacked the concentration to retain the details of all the names of places, people and their aliases. I would find my mind wandering and wondering which of my friends would have had the strength of conviction and courage to stand up and take the risks these women did, whilst knowing the risks they faced. I was not proud of the self-assessment but I know myself well enough to believe I would not have been amongst their number. I'd have been too rule oriented, too fearful, too lacking in political awareness and probably lacking in the passion required to take action. Much of Part 2 was spent describing their treatment at the hands of the Nazi's and as it was so graphic I could only read for short periods before needing to put the book down. Hence, it took me almost a full month to finish. I already knew of the hunger. I knew about disease within the camps. I possibly even knew of the freezing conditions but not necessarily that the women were made to stand naked outdide for hours at a time, and that they ended up with gangrene from frostbite. I knew of the gas chambers. I did not know and somehow wish I could forget the images of alsatians being trained to maul women and children. Of rats mauling the living and the dead. Of guards killing gypsy babies by beating their heads against brick walls, or drowning newborns in front of their mothers. The cruelty. The absolutely saddistic behaviour of the guards. The treatment of these women at the hands of other humans was grotesque and I will never comprehend it. On pg 496 Moorehead included a quote from one of the trials which resonated with me "the wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilisation cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated." On page 275 in a letter from Betty to her family she wrote "Though she wanted to die she chose to live, to defy the Germans, and not yield to anyone.....I had to hold fast to the end and die of living". I loved this statement when I read it. Betty was one of the 42 survivors written about. She was also one of the seven women interviewed by the author and she died aged 95 in 2009. Unfortunately, I'm not sure she died of living. Of the 42 survivors only one admitted she'd lived a happy life. Most had suffered throughout their lives with survivor guilt, poor health and ongoing depression and nightmares. They returned, in most cases, to find they'd lost family members, homes had been destroyed, they were unable to work. They found themselves unable to express what they'd experienced and in those rare moments when they may have wanted to talk, they found the people left behind were unwilling to hear the details. So, very sadly, instead of dying of living as Betty had wished for another wrote "Looking at me one would think I'm alive. I'm not alive. I died in Auschwitz but no-one knows it". The more I write the more I want to write, and I am reconsidering my 4 star rating as I really think it's worthy of 5.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    I made the mistake of trying to tackle this heavy non-fiction book immediately after finishing a 3.5 year long process of obtaining my MBA. My brain needed a rest so the result was me reading this over the course of almost two years, bits here and there. It's an accurate and horrifying telling of the women of the resistance in France. After having read a couple fictional accounts in the same time frame as this, The Nightingale and Lilac Girls, I found that many of the topics in this book were br I made the mistake of trying to tackle this heavy non-fiction book immediately after finishing a 3.5 year long process of obtaining my MBA. My brain needed a rest so the result was me reading this over the course of almost two years, bits here and there. It's an accurate and horrifying telling of the women of the resistance in France. After having read a couple fictional accounts in the same time frame as this, The Nightingale and Lilac Girls, I found that many of the topics in this book were brought up in the novels. I did find it hard to keep track of who was who, which made the book a little disjointed for me. I should have taken notes! This is a must read for anyone interested in real life Holocaust accounts.

  22. 4 out of 5

    David Williams

    Having just put down this book it's difficult for me to marshal my thoughts for a considered review simply because of the impact this harrowing account has had on me emotionally and psychologically. It has left me weeping for the unimaginable cruelty humans are capable of wreaking on their fellows, and my heart full for the extraordinary sacrifices and selfless kind acts that others have been prepared to make in the face of such barbarity even while victims themselves, imprisoned in a man-made h Having just put down this book it's difficult for me to marshal my thoughts for a considered review simply because of the impact this harrowing account has had on me emotionally and psychologically. It has left me weeping for the unimaginable cruelty humans are capable of wreaking on their fellows, and my heart full for the extraordinary sacrifices and selfless kind acts that others have been prepared to make in the face of such barbarity even while victims themselves, imprisoned in a man-made hell. My World War II reading has been patchy, and I'd read nothing in any detail about the occupation of France or the Resistance before opening Caroline Moorhead's book. I was astonished, in the first section, to learn of the degree of collaboration the Germans had from the French, especially the police and the petty authorities, not only in Vichy but across the country. Was it fear, or is evil so easily transferable, people so culpable and corruptible? Surely not just fear judging by the relish for violence and denunciation that comes through these early chapters. And yet what risks the resisters were prepared to take in their struggle against the Nazis. Moorhead acknowledges that most of the women who became involved - whether as disseminators of resistance literature, 'passeurs' for the escapees, hiders of weapons or even directly as sabouteurs and guerrillas - were terrified; but they carried on through all their fears without reward. The majority were part of a family of resisters and many saw husbands, fathers, brothers deported or shot for their own acts of defiance, but they carried on regardless, even redoubling their own efforts as if to make up the loss. Inevitably they were caught themselves, or denounced by neighbours, and bundled onto the transports heading east to the concentration camps along with Jews, homosexuals, criminals, and some who had nothing to do with the Resistance at all, but who may have made the mistake of passing an opinion unfavourable to their occupiers, or been maliciously denounced by a jealous neighbour or business competitor. If conditions in occupied France were dreadful, nothing could have prepared them (or us) for what they encountered in the camp at Auschwitz. Moorhead spares no detail in her descriptions of the filth, the crowding, the denial of life's basics, the unrelieved and pointless labour in the bedraggled cold, and above all the unending cruelty, inhuman violence and savage murder that led to a litter of disregarded corpses, the miasma of death and a growing swamp of mass graves. What makes the account heartbreakingly poignant as well as horrifying is that we follow named women among the 200-odd French contingent of 'Le Convoi des 31000' and watch many of them sink and die, others mutilated or brutally murdered, and steadily the band decreases. What saves us from utter despair is exactly what saved some of the women - the individual selfless acts and the support network they provided for each other. Early on the indomitable members of the French group persuaded the others that 'everyone for themselves' could end only in the elimination of all. Instead they looked out for each other, often taking the same risks as they did in France, protecting and hiding the weaker members from the guards and saving them from execution or the gas chamber, sharing food, nursing them through the worst of their illnesses. With this combination of friendship, comfort and help, rather than through luck or miracle, some of the women survived - 42 of the original group. The book has no fairytale ending. Most of the survivors came back to find that husbands and other family members had been shot or perished in their own camp travails. Many of the women had illnesses that dogged them for the rest of their lives, and several died early. Only seven were still alive when work started on the book in 2008, and only four on its completion. Some were given credit and honours by the post-war French government, but there was surprising indifference to their stories for the most part, and a general unwillingness to dwell on this dark chapter of human history. The majority of the women, who had lived only for the dream of returning home, reported a flatness and a continuing unhappiness after they did. An appendix summarises not only what happened to the survivors after the war, but also records as far as possible how each of the women who did not make it met her end. It's a sad, sad catalogue, but a valuable record. Equally important, some of the women have written their own accounts and memoirs of their time in the camps and after. Caroline Moorhead has drawn on these extensively and acknowledges the fact along with a long list of helpers throughout her painstaking research. I have not read the first-hand accounts of the survivors, but I'm sure that this powerful account is faithful to their memories, and stands as a hugely important testament in its own right. The final message I will take from this fine book is an optimistic one - that even in the midst of hideous cruelty there is to be found compassion, kindness and courage.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alisa

    This book recounts the journey of 230 French women who were arrested and imprisoned for participating in the French Resistance during the German occupation of France in WWII. Many of these women did not know each other before they ended up in prison together, and as they were grouped together by their captors quickly formed a bond and found ways to look out after each other as a way to get through their dire circumstances. Ranging in ages from 15 to mid-60s at the time of their capture, they wer This book recounts the journey of 230 French women who were arrested and imprisoned for participating in the French Resistance during the German occupation of France in WWII. Many of these women did not know each other before they ended up in prison together, and as they were grouped together by their captors quickly formed a bond and found ways to look out after each other as a way to get through their dire circumstances. Ranging in ages from 15 to mid-60s at the time of their capture, they were subjected to the most horrid of circumstances of wartime prison labor camps - the living conditions propagated disease and starvation, and the German prison wardens inflicted some of the worst forms of abuse imaginable. The prisoners who were physically the strongest could endure more suffering and still be able to work, which was a plus in the eyes of their captors who needed them to produce to feed the massive German war machine. Weaker prisoners were singled out for beatings and other severe punishment and then left to die or be executed. As hard as it is to imagine, things got worse when they were transported from the labor camps to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Given what was happening there, it was a miracle any of these women made it through alive and clearly many did not. If there is such a thing as a fate worse than death, these women experienced it. The depth of evil that people are capable of inflicting on each other rightfully shocks the sensibilities of anyone with a shred of morality. How on earth could anyone maintain a shred of sanity being subjected to this sort of thing? Reading about it boggles the mind. Somehow, these French women found a way to hold it together as long as they could and devised many ways to take care of each other in a manner that survived scrutiny and punishment by their captors. It is a remarkable story. The book itself was difficult to read, not just for the subject matter but also due to the writing. The first part of the book that introduces many of these women and describes their Resistance activities was disjointed. The vignettes were brief and random - nothing to tie it together. I struggled during the first 100 pages of the book to follow what was happening and to get into any flow of the story. Perhaps the lack of cohesion in the story line was intentional as a way to illustrate the chaos of occupied France and what people were going through at the time, but it was challenging for me as a reader. The ending of the book in particular was very powerful, and as a good book should makes a lingering impression and a story one is not apt to forget. In all it was a lot to digest. Read this book, if for no other reason than to absorb the story of these people. Their stories must be told and we must listen and remember them.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    This book follows the story of group of women interned by the Nazi/Vichy regime for their role in the French Resistance. As many reviewers have noted the book gets off to a very slow start; the author's description of the women's lives before their imprisonment is perfunctory at best; in fact Moorehead's description of the women (rather irritatingly) seems to focus more on their physical appearance than on who they were, why they chose to resist, or even what their contribution to the resistance This book follows the story of group of women interned by the Nazi/Vichy regime for their role in the French Resistance. As many reviewers have noted the book gets off to a very slow start; the author's description of the women's lives before their imprisonment is perfunctory at best; in fact Moorehead's description of the women (rather irritatingly) seems to focus more on their physical appearance than on who they were, why they chose to resist, or even what their contribution to the resistance was. This focus almost led me to put down the book, but I am glad that I did not. Yes, the author offers a riveting account of the women's internment at various concentration and extermination camps in Poland and in Germany. But what I found most compelling about this book is that the author resists the temptation to turn these women's experiences into a feel-good, heart-warming narrative of heroism. Instead, the author painstakingly recounts the struggles of the women who survived the camps after liberation: the nightmares; the sense of alienation and unreality they experienced post-liberation, their depression and feelings of guilt for having survived when so many friends and family members did not; their effort to find words to describe their experiences and a nation that did not want to hear them, but only wanted to move on so as to forget its complicity in Nazi war crimes; and finally the long shadow that their experiences cast over their lives as well as the lives of their children and grandchildren. This story that makes up only a small fraction of the book is what makes this book an important read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    (Edited later to give a rating because I decided I want all of my books to have ratings for whatever reason...) I am not able to give this book a star rating, because it is both engrossing and poignant and awe-inspiring...while also being horrifying and heartbreaking. It is one I would recommend highly to everyone with the huge caveat that reading it might be awful. *The book* is not awful - what it details is, and the experience of reading it is a good-bad one. (See, I can't even review it coher (Edited later to give a rating because I decided I want all of my books to have ratings for whatever reason...) I am not able to give this book a star rating, because it is both engrossing and poignant and awe-inspiring...while also being horrifying and heartbreaking. It is one I would recommend highly to everyone with the huge caveat that reading it might be awful. *The book* is not awful - what it details is, and the experience of reading it is a good-bad one. (See, I can't even review it coherently!) I knew a good deal about the Holocaust and the camps, but I learned more from this, frightening abhorrent details that were almost too much to take. As a Jew, knowing that some of my own ancestors suffered through this...at one point I had to put the book aside and almost considered not finishing it (something I have barely ever done in my life) because it was causing my psychological pain. But I pushed through and I am glad I did, and I do feel that anyone with the slightest ambivalence about WW2 and any tinge of feeling that maybe they don't know the full extent of the brutality, depravity and horror of the camps, should read this and get some knowledge. Just be warned that if you have any shred of morality, it will not be easy. But maybe it shouldn't be...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I did find parts of this book dry, but it is less dry when the women get imprisoned. While I enjoyed the whole book, I did find it a little annoying that it was at times as if we were looking in at the women instead of following one narrative. This might be a product of the subject matter, but I didn't feel the same way with books like Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women. I think there needed to be a little more glue. I also was little annoyed at the idea of "hap I did find parts of this book dry, but it is less dry when the women get imprisoned. While I enjoyed the whole book, I did find it a little annoying that it was at times as if we were looking in at the women instead of following one narrative. This might be a product of the subject matter, but I didn't feel the same way with books like Ravensbrück: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women. I think there needed to be a little more glue. I also was little annoyed at the idea of "happily ever after" being something that most of the women did not get. I wasn't clear what definition of that term Moorehead was using. In some of the brief bio bits at the end, it seemed to be only having children and a husband, while relatively free of illness. I'm not sure that such a definition is fair to the women. Still, I am glad I read this book. I would recommend reading Auschwitz and After as well (or in place of).

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: please see message 27 below. This is a concise summary of my view: I am glad I read it, but I do believe it has too many problems to give it more stars. I am glad I learned about this French group of women - particularly since I live and spend time in France! I also appreciated that the French behavior during the war is shown honestly. Many of them supported Pétain. This is not washed over. I also found the info about Mengele's experiments both riveting and horrible. I just wish I had come t ETA: please see message 27 below. This is a concise summary of my view: I am glad I read it, but I do believe it has too many problems to give it more stars. I am glad I learned about this French group of women - particularly since I live and spend time in France! I also appreciated that the French behavior during the war is shown honestly. Many of them supported Pétain. This is not washed over. I also found the info about Mengele's experiments both riveting and horrible. I just wish I had come to know a few of the characters more intimately. **************************** On completion: If I had read this book, rather than choosing the audio book, I may have given it four stars, but honestly I am not sure. It is hard to feel compassion for so many women. I believe that to look at them as a group, to draw general conclusions may not be worthwhile. People are individuals. One cannot and should not draw guidelines for how to survive or how to find happiness. What works for one will not work for another. I prefer looking at an individual rather than a group. It becomes a clinical exercise. This book has both good and bad aspects. I will start with the bad. I advise you to not listen to this book, at least not with the narrator Patience Tomlinson! She speaks French words incorrectly. She mispronounces other words too. She overemphasizes words. Revolution or the French word grand need not be explained through intonation. Most of us do know what these words mean. She uses a very low gruff voice for men. I started laughing and could not listen to the words. I tested this on another and that person reacted as I did. The narration is so bad that you will be unable to pay attention to the words. And the words of the book are worth paying attention to. Below I mention an error that I discovered. I will make the assumption that this was an error in the book's printing/editing. One does not treat pleurisy with insulin! In that the author studies a large group of French women, 230, it is difficult for a reader to feel close to any one of them. Perhaps she should have focused on just a few. I believe she did this because an important theme of the book is how the friendship between the women was of prime importance for their survival. That they were a cohesive group is perhaps what saved some of them. But only 49 survived. Age and luck also played in. The latter half of the book is better than the first half, which on the whole was dry because of the emphasis on numbers and people who meant little to the reader. The experiences of the women's time in Birkenau/Auschwitz and Ravenbrück are riveting. This is not easy reading. The book looks at how women, emotionally and physically, reacted to life in concentration camps - Ravensbrück being a labor camp and Auschwitz an extermination camp. This perspective is interesting. One looks at how the French women as a group behaved differently compared to women of other nationalities. And finally the book studies how the surviving women reacted to life afterwards. In fact they found it just as difficult as life in the camp. Does that surprise you? This book is worth reading. Please read it - don't listen to it! The perspectives are different from most other books on the holocaust. **************************** ETA: I am making the assumption that what I found below was an error that occrred when the book was printed/edited. I hope so at least. THIS is important! How do you feel when you find absolutely incorrect information in a book? Doesn't that make you question all the other information you have been given? I am a diabetic. Insulin is used to treat diabetes, not pleurisy. It says in this book that when "Paulette Prunier" came down with pleurisy, the French woman doctor, "Adeleide", managed to get insulin to treat her!!! Here is a link to Wikipedia that explains pleurisy:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleurisy.... This makes me feel very uncomfortable..... BTW, I have put the names in quotes because I perhaps am not spelling them correctly; I am listening to the audio book. *************************** I just have to add this: now the 230 French women have come to Birkenau/Auschwitz and this is terribly gruesome to listen to! Yes, I DO empathize even though I do not know these women. Anybody would find listening to this difficult. Just horrible! The dispassionate relating of what happens to woman X or woman Y is almost impossible to follow, it is so horrible. On day XX/XX at roll-call, 14 of 32 died. On day XX/XX so many of the Poles died, so many of the Belgians and so many of the French.... I had to take a break. ***************************** Halfway through: I am currently listening to A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France. I am very disappointed with the audio version. The narrator cannot pronounce French words properly! It is really wrecking my appreciation of what maybe is a good book. I must also add that the reader is acquainted with MANY French women. So many that you can scarcely keep track of them all, so do not expect to develop a close relationship with any one of them. The theme of the book is very interesting - the French Resistance during Nazi Occupation during WW2 and particularly the role women played. The Blue Bicycle is the first book of an historical fiction series that is extremely enjoyable to read. It not only gives you a picture of the French Resistance but also how it impacted on a few lives. It is much easier to understand French life at this time if you care for the characters. In the audio book I am listening to now the women mean nothing to me. I have listened to about half of the audio book. You do nave to read several books of Régine Deforges' series to get a full picture of French life under the Nazis, and I am not sure if all of them have been translated into English. I read them in French. They must be read in order. After reading these books you feel in your bones how it might have been to live during these times. Another book I might try is The Children Of Freedom. The author is very popular in France, but I have not read him. I am not sure - the book might be just too patriotic. You know - love of nation! The reader cannot empathize with the women in Moorehead's book. There are over 200 to keep track of!The narration in the audio book is totally terrible. You should hear what she sounds like when she uses her gruff "men's voice". It is laughable. I get so distracted I cannot think about the author's words.....

  28. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Moorehead's account describes the fate of 230 Frenchwomen who resisted Nazi occupation and Vichy collaboration--by distributing anti-German leaflets, vandalizing public places with pro-resistance slogans, by smuggling Jewish neighbors and friends across the demarcation line, even striking German and French police officers who molested them--and, after a long stint in terrible conditions in French prisons, ended up in Auschwitz in 1943. Many of these women were communists; some had no political a Moorehead's account describes the fate of 230 Frenchwomen who resisted Nazi occupation and Vichy collaboration--by distributing anti-German leaflets, vandalizing public places with pro-resistance slogans, by smuggling Jewish neighbors and friends across the demarcation line, even striking German and French police officers who molested them--and, after a long stint in terrible conditions in French prisons, ended up in Auschwitz in 1943. Many of these women were communists; some had no political affiliations at all. Many were mothers with infants; a handful were mere schoolgirls; the oldest were in their sixties and did not last long at all. A scant forty two survived the war. This is not, predictably, a happy narrative. Not because of the hardships that these women faced in prison, in Auschwitz, in other labor and extermination camps, although these are difficult to read about. It was most difficult for me reading about the women who just barely died before liberation; for those who never recovered from the horrors and committed suicide in the postwar period, unable to cope with the deaths of their companions and the vulgar normality of everyday life. That is what struck me, anyway. The author could have ended things on a hopeful note, with some anecdote about how brave they were, how there must truly be some hope for humankind. But she doesn't. The last lines are from a woman named Charlotte who survived. She says: "looking at me, one would think I'm alive...I'm not alive. I died in Auschwitz, but no one knows it." Harsh, yes, but I think ultimately more honest, and true to the horrors these women suffered. But, as one of the survivors notes, it is important to read these accounts, because even in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, few people wanted to listen to what the survivors had to say. It was too painful; they had their own traumas; de Gaulle was desperately trying to unite postwar France; and who wanted to listen to such awful accounts, anyway? Perhaps it was better to just let these women fade into the tepid decades that followed, as French society began to grow and blossom again. But we can't do that. When the author began working on this book in 2008, nine of these women still survived. Incredible. Some of them had survived to testify in the war crimes trials in the immediate postwar period, as well. She includes careful details from many, although not all, the women's lives--impressive, given how carefully the retreating SS officers had tried to extinguish all evidence of their crimes. It is a good, thorough account of a group of women who might go unnoticed by the reader with a casual interest in WWII history--the narrative of the French resistance tends to focus on men, who of course did incredible things during the occupation; however, Moorehead notes, only six of over one thousand people made "Compagnons de la Libération", the highest honor, were women-this despite the fact that of the 40,000 political resisters who returned to France, nearly 9,000 were female. To add to this, I think it is incredibly rewarding, if emotionally taxing, to read the stories of women during the Second World War for the simple reason that they absolutely astound me, not only with their courage, but perhaps even more importantly, with their compassion. Some of the anecdotes I read here reminded me very much of Eugenia Ginzburg's Gulag memoirs, Journey into the Whirlwind, wherein she recounts countless story after story of women stealing food for each other; lending each other socks, sweaters, etc; protecting each other in their sleep from rats, rough guards, nightmares, when these acts could, and did, cost them their own survival. I do think this is unique to many female prisoners of war and victims, and that this shines an important light on women's experiences during the Second World War. The book is shorter than it seems because of all the notes, so I definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in women's history, holocaust history, etc.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    How do you write a review on a book that contrasts the absolute cruelty and sadistic imaginations with friendship and altruism? It is very difficult, indeed. I've read many books on WWII that describe the Jewish POV and soldier POV. This time the POV is that of female political prisoners of war. This point of view hit closer to home as I am neither Jewish nor a soldier. It begs the question, if placed in a situation where not in immediate danger, what side of the line would I stand? The first part How do you write a review on a book that contrasts the absolute cruelty and sadistic imaginations with friendship and altruism? It is very difficult, indeed. I've read many books on WWII that describe the Jewish POV and soldier POV. This time the POV is that of female political prisoners of war. This point of view hit closer to home as I am neither Jewish nor a soldier. It begs the question, if placed in a situation where not in immediate danger, what side of the line would I stand? The first part of the book is a little difficult to slog through but important in establishing the extremes of the French people. When German tanks and troops rolled into Paris in neat little rows and friendly faces, the Parisians were wary but complacent. Under the current French government, the citizens were encouraged to cooperate. Shortly thereafter, the German agenda became apparent. The citizens suffered under their rule. While many stayed complacent, others organized themselves in a resistance. The printed, sabotaged, broke curfew, hid Jews, etc. at the high price of possibly losing everything. At the other end of the spectrum, the country also held men and women who collaborated with the Germans, particularly the French police, patiently watching suspected criminals then cracking down with the brutality to rival the German SS force. We are introduced to many of the members of the resistance in the first half of the book. To me, it was still pretty muddled. In fact, I will go ahead and make the remark that the book is written like a school history book, including extraneous details that might offer insight but generally is too much information and not organized in a way my linear brain works. In fact, the overall writing style was a little muddled and unclear. As I was reading an advanced reader's copy with multiple typos, I can't really complain but the writing style was not one I was comfortable reading. At the same time, the subject matter is not one I would turn to for comfort. It is not easy reading but provided a different perspective that I wanted to understand. The second half of the book is brutal. The prisoners are sent to the worst of the worst concentration camps. The begin in Auschwitz (Birkenau) then to Ravensbrook and eventually to Mathausen. In agonizing yet necessary detail, the brutalities are exposed, along with names of kapos and others that needed identification. Again, this is not a "feel good" book. It is horrifying and brutal considering that these acts were carried out by the same creatures as their victims. They are dehumanized in so many ways. And yet this horrific treatment is the catalyst for their durabond friendship. In the most hopeless of circumstances, the women cling to one another, watch each other's backs, hide each other when they are ill and then there is the occasional mention of humanity in the face of the German guards or an act of grace carried out by a hated kapo. In circumstances of war, starving hunger, plummeting temperatures, carnage and illness, it is the acts of kindness and camaraderie that make the difference between death and life. Although part of the second section of the book, the author continues the stories of the survivors and the loneliness, emptiness and lack of depth they experience upon return. They all go their separate ways as they are reunited with family or begin a new life someplace else but they all distinctly feel the loss of the friendships that sustained them through their 19 months of horror. What distinguishes this book from others is that the women are people who didn't have to take a stand to survive. The reader is also struck by the lengths many of the women are willing to take to help another survive. It is well worth reading.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    If a book is to be judged on how fiercely it pierces the consciousness of its reader, this book deserves multiple stars. Like others, I have seen the horrific photographs of the prisoners released from labor and concentration camps as the Allied forces swept through Europe. I am always stunned and appalled to see in those photos what human beings can do to other human beings. I'm also quick to look away, because the prisoners, emaciated, filthy,and shorn of hair, seem almost not real, not human If a book is to be judged on how fiercely it pierces the consciousness of its reader, this book deserves multiple stars. Like others, I have seen the horrific photographs of the prisoners released from labor and concentration camps as the Allied forces swept through Europe. I am always stunned and appalled to see in those photos what human beings can do to other human beings. I'm also quick to look away, because the prisoners, emaciated, filthy,and shorn of hair, seem almost not real, not human, and I choose not to dwell at length on their degradation and suffering. A Train in Winter gave me my clearest insight to date of how vibrant, congenial, hopeful persons of conviction can be transformed into the lifeless forms in the concentration camp photos. The book traces the circumstances that led 230 women living in occupied France to a prison outside Paris in 1942 and then on a journey in cattle cars to their next destination, and finally, to the liberation by the Red Army of the 49 who survived. Almost none were Jewish. The 230 women ranged in age from teenage girls to grandmothers in their sixties. Among them were a doctor, a dentist, a midwife, chemists, stenographers, café proprietors, teachers, journalists, furriers, hoteliers, engravers, secretaries, factory workers, writers, and students. Some were well educated; some were not. Some had grown up poor and hungry; some had grown up with security and connections. Many left behind beloved children; many had already seen husbands, fiancés, and parents imprisoned, tortured, or executed by the Nazis or by the Vichy government. Most, but not all, had found their way to prison because of secret involvement with resistance organizations. In the book's early chapters, as the author tries to share background about the lives and experiences of several of the women, I found it difficult to keep them all straight and to distinguish one from the other. They were a jumble of Maries, Madeleines, Simones, and Germaines, But gradually, I began to identify some of them as individuals with unique personalities, attributes, and motivations who would meld into a group identity. What united them was a will to fight for the group, to protect the weak among them, and to ensure that as many as possible would survive to bear testimony of their shared experience. As each new, unimaginable challenge presented itself, they faced it walking together, singing the "Marseilles." I understood just how good this book is, when as I finished it, I found it difficult to pick up another title. I am someone who always has two or three books going and a long list of "to-reads," but it seemed as though no other book would be able to rise to the level of this one; I didn't want to let go of what I'd come to feel for these women.

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