Title: The Midwife of Auschwitz
Author: Anna Stuart
Major Themes: Poland, Germany, Auschwitz, Concentration Camps, World War II, Jewish Holocaust
Synopsis: When two Polish midwives, Jewish Ester and Catholic Ana, are sent to Auschwitz together, they do all they can to help the women there and keep each other alive, trying to beat their captors.
A midwife in Auschwitz? I never heard of such a thing. This title, The Midwife of Auschwitz, sure caught my eye in a hurry when I was scrolling through a list of books, and I wanted to read it. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down! What a story Anna Stuart has woven based on the life of a real woman who worked as a midwife in the infamous concentration camp. So many books have been written about World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust—and yet, this author has found a fresh new way to bring Auschwitz to life.
As a young woman, Ester studied to become a nurse. When she married her sweetheart, one of the invited guests was Ana, the midwife who had delivered Ester. The same day, the Germans started openly trying to destroy the Jewish community. A few years later, Ana and Ester found themselves on the same transport to Auschwitz. Ana boldly declared that she was a midwife—and Ester her assistant! What horrible conditions they had to bring babies into, only to see most of the babies killed immediately. Ana kept telling Ester that they must stay alive; that was their only weapon against evil. Was it even possible, though?
Around the time they realized that Ester would also be bringing a baby into the world in this awful place, the Germans started taking healthy blond babies for German families to raise. Was there any way the babies could be reunited with their real families after the war? Ester thought of a possible solution—she tattooed each baby with its mother’s number. Could she stay alive until the war was over, though? Would she ever find Filip? And what about their baby, who was taken by the Germans?
Anna Stuart almost made me feel like I was in Auschwitz along with Ana and Ester and so many other women. The conditions were unbelievably horrible. The sheer horror these ladies experienced when they arrived and had to see newborn babies being murdered, and others torn from their mother’s arms to be given to other families, was hard to read. It is terrible to read about people treating other people so terribly—but at the same time, it is wonderful to see how some are so kind and gentle in the midst of such a place. When you pick up The Midwife of Auschwitz, be prepared for an emotional journey through the heights and depths of the human experience.
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: The physical side of marriage comes up three or four times. A couple of times, the seduction of young girls by German officers is alluded to. Prostitution is mentioned several times. There are descriptions of the murder of newborns and of people being killed and put in the crematoriums. As with any book about the Holocaust, there are many scenes that are difficult to read. The worst is an execution scene after a woman tried to escape. I would allow teenage girls to read this book, although probably not boys, as there are birth scenes. As far as language, I noticed “d*mn” a few times and “bl**dy” once, although I likely overlooked some of that because I read too fast.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults