Published by Thomas Nelson on 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical, General, War & Military, Cultural Heritage
Based on the true story of a brave German nurse tasked with caring for Auschwitz's youngest prisoners, Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann--a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene's worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family--sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.
After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.
Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele's intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz--an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.
Based on a true story, Mario Escobar's Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity--even when all hope seems lost.
"Auschwitz Lullaby grabbed my heart and drew me in. A great choice for readers of historical fiction." --Irma Joubert, author of The Girl from the Train
An international bestseller
Full-length World War II historical novel
A finalist for 2019's Empik Award for Literature
Includes discussion questions for book clubs, research notes from the author, and a historical timeline
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021. So I wanted to share a book that impacted me greatly, Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar.
I could summarize my reaction to this story in only one way: SOOOOO MANY TEARS!!!
Auschwitz Lullaby is such an emotional story! I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it! I know that doesn’t sound like a good time to everyone, but I was ready to re-read this one as soon as I finished it… and put myself through the misery all over again!
Helene is a wife and mother we can all look up to. She loves her family fiercely. She’s been supporting them for some time now since her Romani husband is no longer able to work in Nazi territory. And she doesn’t show fear when the Nazi’s come! When faced with the decision to either stay behind and live a comfortable life or follow her husband and children into the Nazi’s camp, she makes it clear there was only one choice:
“There’s no need for you to come, Frau Hannemann,” the sergeant insisted.
I looked straight into his eyes and asked, “Do you think a mother would leave her children in a situation like this?”
“You’d be shocked if I told you all I’ve seen in the past few years,” he answered. “Very well, come with us to the station. We have to get them to the train before ten o’clock.
This wasn’t the only time Helene was given the chance to leave. But she won’t abandon what she knows is right. She ends up protecting not just her own family, but every child in the camp comes under her protection. At one point, she tells the doctor this:
“My family is here. I can’t leave without them. I’m a mother, Herr Doktor. You all wage your wars for grand ideals, you defend your fanatical beliefs about liberty, country, and race, but mothers have only one homeland, one ideal, one race: our family.
One of the hardest things to read in this story centered around the experiments Dr. Mengele was performing on twins. Helene has a set of twins and she lives in constant fear of someone showing up to take them. Mengele uses this on more than one occasion to force Helene to bend to his will. We’re currently fostering twins and I’ve become a huge fan of all twins! I find myself automatically drawn to and loving every twin I meet (real or fictional). So this aspect of the book drew me in and caused an even deeper emotional wound for me.
There isn’t a single character in Auschwitz Lullaby that I didn’t feel some connection with. I either loved or hated them, but don’t expect to get a lukewarm feeling about anyone! That being said, there were times when I was confused on how I felt about a couple characters. In a situation like this it’s easy to think of the guards as less than human. It’s really the only way to rationalize what they do. But somehow, Mario Escobar managed to keep reminding me that they’re real people, with real feelings (good & bad), and no one is purely evil or purely good.
This truly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Helene’s journey and sacrifices to protect her family and others around her is amazing and will stick with me for a very long time!
I received a free review copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers. This in no way influenced my review.
What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!