Title: Auschwitz Lullaby
Author: Mario Escobar
Major Themes: Auschwitz, Concentration Camps, Germany, Gypsies, Holocaust, World War II
Synopsis: After she voluntarily went to Auschwitz to stay with her children, Helene Hannemann was asked to run a kindergarten.
A kindergarten in Auschwitz? This sounded so improbable that I was immediately interested in Auschwitz Lullaby. What a story! I can’t say I loved it, because some of the subject matter was so horrible, naturally, but it was quite a story and I could hardly put it down.
Helene Hannemann and her family were arrested from their home several years into the war and taken to Auschwitz. She was German, but her husband was Romani, or Gypsy, and of course their five children were, as well. The soldiers told her to stay behind; they only wanted the Romanis—but she informed them that a mother does not leave her children, and she voluntarily went to the concentration camp with her family.
Helene caught the eye of the infamous Dr. Mengele. He needed a way to make the camp look good when inspectors came, and he needed a place to keep children until he wanted them for his experiments, so he asked Helene to run a kindergarten. She did this, and kept her little family together, caring for them the best she could under the circumstances.
I have read a lot of stories about the concentration camps, but this one stands out. It is told from the perspective of a mother protecting her children in a horrible place. It is a picture of sheer bravery, and of standing for the right no matter what the consequences are. I appreciated that, although Helene was forced to work for and with an evil man, she never compromised. She was forced to be present when people were being selected for killing—but she saved as many people as she could for as long as she could. She provided a refuge from the horrors around her for as many as she could.
This is not a book for children, or for anyone who can’t handle unpleasantness. It is a book for those who appreciate true stories of extreme bravery and integrity. There are scenes that show extreme inhumanity, but Helene’s example of a mother’s sacrificial love shines through.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
WARNING: There is violence and torture here and there throughout the book.WARNING: