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.Read more...
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More About A Train in Winter by Caroline MooreheadOverview
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 lycee; 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.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In an unfocused account, Moorehead relates the story of 230 women accused of being members of the French Resistance who were sent on one train to Auschwitz in January 1943; fewer than 50 survived the war. In fact, only some of the 230 were involved in actual Resistance activities. The youngest prisoner, 16-year-old Rosa Floch, caught writing "Vive les Anglais!" on her school's walls, died of typhus in Birkenau. Alsatian psychiatrist Adelaide Hautval was arrested after exhorting German soldiers to stop mistreating a Jewish family; she survived the war, but committed suicide after recording the horrors she saw when forced to participate in Josef Mengele's medical experiments at Auschwitz. Moorehead (Human Cargo) wants to recount how these women supported one another and to honor women of the Resistance, but she tries to tell too many stories about a highly diverse group of women, many of them not Resistance members. Though moving, the lack of focus may leave readers confused. Photos. (Nov.)BookPage Reviews
Friendship and survival in occupied France
With the Arab Spring occupying much of the media lately, resistance and liberation are not far from anyone’s mind these days. Caroline Moorehead looks at the topic from a new angle in A Train in Winter, which tells the story of 231 women of the French Resistance imprisoned during the German invasion of World War II. Moorehead weaves a historically accurate narrative of women banding together for survival in the face of death and deprivation.
The women’s story begins at the start of the German invasion, with teachers, students, chemists and writers printing anti-Nazi newspapers, transporting weapons, helping Jews to safety and relaying messages of the resistance. They were young and old, from cities and villages, and all determined to save their France. This defiance led to their eventual capture by the Gestapo, bringing them together first in a fort-turned-prison outside Paris and later, in the end, at Auschwitz in 1943.
With cooperation and resourcefulness, these women kept themselves educated, informed and safe, often hiding the sickest among them and putting on plays to maintain hope, as well as to remember who they were and were determined to be again. As many of the women died or heard of relatives and friends who died, their bond strengthened. “We didn’t stop to ask ourselves whom we liked and whom we didn’t,” one woman later explained. “It wasn’t so much friendship as solidarity. We just made certain we didn’t leave anyone alone.” This solidarity is what kept some alive and made sure that this story of terror, starvation and death was told.
By using original sources and giving each woman a name, the book can occasionally make the mind spin. However, the knowledge that these were real women makes the atrocities all the more real and their identities essential. The personal interviews and archival research are woven seamlessly into the narrative, making this war chronicle unforgettable. An appendix gives the names and stories of life and death of all 231 women.
Unforgettable and riveting, A Train in Winter is not an easy read. It is, however, an essential read for those who believe—or long to believe—in the power of friendship.