The Nazis Knew My Name by Magda Hellinger and her daughter Maya Lee
What can I say about this book? For one, I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those page-turners that has your heart in your mouth because we all know a little about the Nazi concentration camps. We think we know the atrocities that the SS inflected on the occupants of the camps. Jews, Gypsies, Criminals, and Political prisoners. However, putting it in writing, listening to a personal account moves that understanding to a reality of what the SS did. It makes the account real, vivid and breaks my heart.
I didn’t know that the Slovak government selected the first inmates of the camp to be women. The ages of which were from 16 to 25. Not only that, the women were sold for 500 Reichsmarks (£44) each to the German Authorities.
The lies they told the young women to get them to obey, of working in factories for 3 months. In reality, most of the women never saw their families again, if they survived. Then the inhumane processing of these women. Making them stand naked on footstools while all their hair was cut and taking their clothes and jewellery. In our liberal beliefs today, we would find this shocking. However, in 1942, women still had chaperones for evenings out, and the head of the house controlled their daily lives. It must have been devastating.
Book Review under 400 Words
This is the story of Magda Hellinger Blau, who at 25 and a kindergarten teacher and business owner. She was one of the first women sent to the concentration camps (Auschwitz) and how she survived. The role she played in saving and helping other women survive the camps and her determination to help the other women live through the horror. The torture of the female prisoners is beyond belief, trying to sterilise the women so that they couldn’t have more children, measure their brains, and the indignity bestowed upon them just for living.
Then the manner in which the bodies are thrown away like a dirty bag of potatoes. Magda was extraordinarily lucky in her time in the camp. (If you can use the word luck in these circumstances, may be blessed or fortunate, I can’t think of another way to put it). She was selected by the SS to become a Jewish leader within the camp and eventually became a Lageralteste (Camp leader). This enabled Magda to help the women around her, to show them how to survive and live to tell their stories. Stories that must be told so we never forget.
It is harrowing, and every new chapter is worse than the last and yet strangely compelling. You want to yell out to do something, stop the cruelty, and stupidly hoping that Magda survives. We know she survives. This is her story, but you can’t help wanting to put out a gentle hand to say come this way. Let me help you.
The Nazis Knew My Name is an important book, what a shame it is still happening in the world
The saddest part of this book is that it is still happening today. Women are still being tortured, being brutalised, and treated with disdain.
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