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A train in winter : an extraordinary story…

A train in winter : an extraordinary story of women, friendship, and… (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Caroline Moorehead

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Title:A train in winter : an extraordinary story of women, friendship, and resistance in occupied France
Authors:Caroline Moorehead
Info:New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 2011.
Collections:Your library
Tags:France, Resistance, World War II, Birkenau, Ravensbruck

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A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (2011)

  1. 10
    None of us will return by Charlotte Delbo (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Charlotte Delbo was one of the women on the train.
  2. 00
    Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies (srdr)
    srdr: Both books show the heroism of individual women during WW II. A Train in Winter tells a group story; Anne Frank Remembered reveals the risks taken by Miep Gies and her husband to help the Frank family.
  3. 00
    The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt by Hannelore Brenner (meggyweg)

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
During 1942, women of the French Resistance were rounded up in a variety of police stings. This is the story of the 230 women who were sent from France to Nazi concentration camps. I do wish that this book was written as a story rather than a recitation of facts. This greatly slowed the story down and took away from the stories of these women. The book was very heartbreaking at times, and a story format would have greatly enhanced this. Overall, a decent book. ( )
  JanaRose1 | May 18, 2015 |
This book was probably not the best choice for this time of year, considering the content, but there were those of us who found an amazing read within its pages, regardless.
The abuse and degradation these resistance fighters experienced in Birkenau is not easy to take in, and we are all aware of the horrors committed during Hitler’s rein, but the story of these women’s strength and endurance under such extreme conditions and cruelty cannot help but impart a real sense of wonder and respect. The bond created by these women attests to the power of human fortitude when pushed to the limits. Was this what helped keep some of them alive? No doubt, although we did comment that some succumbed very early on, before a real connection was formed. Did this make a difference? Unanswerable questions to be sure.

Our conversation extended beyond the women and their plight into the general politics of WW II, Hitler’s strategies and the overall effects of war. The attempted annihilation of the Jewish population took us to a very broad and edifying discussion of multiculturalism, racism and the tenuous condition of the human spirit after extreme suffering. Heavy stuff? Not really. Everyone felt more informed after reading this book and it always feels better to speak about what you have discovered, coming to terms with information that ordinarily would be unacceptable.

In the end, Moorehead summed up the book well with survivor Charlotte and her quote - ‘Looking at me, one would think that I’m alive … I’m not alive. I died in Auschwitz, but no one knows it.’
  DaptoLibrary | Jan 19, 2015 |
36. A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship, and Survival (Audio) by Caroline Moorehead, read by Wanda McCaddon (2011, 384 pages in written form, Listened June 6-18)

This left me emotionally raw.

Read terrifically by Wanda McCaddon, who I felt added to the experience, this is a more-or-less straight-forward overview of the French resistance during WWII and then of 230 French woman arrested, at different times and places, as part of the resistance. They were found and arrested by French Vichy police, imprisoned, mistreated, and then sent together on one train to Auschwitz.

The book starts off as a fascinating history of the build up of the French resistance, which at first, after France's defeat by Germany, was notable for the lack of resistance. Then it begins to cover various stories of the different woman and the men they worked with. Moorehead goes into detail into the different ways they contributed, and into the careful observations made by the French investigators, who not only collaborated with the Germans, but went the extra mile (extra KM?) and put in painstaking effort to trace as many resistors as they could. The arrests come in bunches as one person with a list leads to several others and so on. The men are tortured brutally, often to death or near death, again by French investigators. Then any man arrested was likely to end up executed in retaliation for resistance activities. The Germans would execute them a 100 at a time over the course of the war, an act of terror that proved counter-productive as it resulted in popular anger and fed a build-up in the resistance.

This is pretty discouraging all around, as we watch these proud woman each eventually get caught and then suffer in prison. But that in no way prepares the reader for what comes next. Entering Auschwitz, in January 1943, is such a shock that many of these French woman were to die shortly after of no apparent cause. The experience is beyond anything I can say here, and is presented by Moorehead with incredible power. I've read and seen enough about Auschwitz to have a sense of what to expect when it is talked about again. But this is a different angle and it brings up an entirely new way of looking at this. Somehow it seemed even more terrible here. For the rest of the book I never fully got over the shock of their introduction to Auschwitz, I still haven't.

The experience in Auschwitz will leave 52 of these woman alive, a number extraordinary for how high it was. Unlike most people sent to these camps, these French woman felt proud about what they had done to get them here. They also bonded closely together, helping each other in every way they could. As a group they were stronger.

A mistaken death notice leads to public questioning in France of what became of these woman. As a result of this, most of the survivors were sent from Auschwitz, an extermination camp, to a labor camp. Death was still constant, and there were still gas chambers, but any women strong enough were treated such as to be kept alive for their labor. Only a few more would die.

With liberation came disappointment. A large percentage of survivors from the various German camps would die within the next several years. These woman were broken, often unable to come to terms with a post-war France determined to rebuild, limit punishments and move forward. Many were communists and were discouraged to find so many communist leaders dead and to find the French government generally unwilling to work with communists. They also had difficulty reacquainting themselves with their families and children who did not recognize them. And it seems it was only on repatriation that they were finally able to deal with the deaths they had witnessed, including the many husbands who were executed.

This is a stunning book, made only better in audio by the excellent reader. It's difficult to read but highly recommended. ( )
2 vote dchaikin | Jun 21, 2014 |
This was a hard book to read, but it should be - the Holocaust was an atrocity millions did not survive, and reading about it should never be easy. But I believe we owe the survivors the dignity and honor of telling their stories, in whatever way they feel those stories should be told. That is why I continue to read books like this, that are not easy, that make me feel shock and sadness. Because the survivors deserve to be heard, and those who did not survive deserve to be remembered. ( )
  NeedMoreShelves | May 24, 2014 |
This is the incredible story of 230 women of the French resistance who were rounded up from all parts of France in early part of 1942 and sent to Romainville/ Frontstalag 22, Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Ravensbruck. Most of them met for the first time on the train "Le Convoi des 310000. They bonded and helped each other physically, emotionally and spiritually to get through the days of "*Nacht und Nebel" that followed. Only 49 women would survive and most of them carried physical, and emotional scars for the rest of their lives. A few were able to testify at the war crimes trials that followed WW II.
* ("Night and Fog, beyond the frontier...totally isolated from the outside world.")
  HolocaustMuseum | May 16, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Caroline Mooreheadprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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What surprised the Parisians, standing in little groups along the Champs-Elysees to watch the German soldiers take over their city in the early hours of 14 June 1940, was how youthful and healthy they looked.
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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 15 who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; 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 49 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.
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In January 1943, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women of the French Resistance and sent them to Auschwitz. This is their story, told in full for the first time--a searing and unforgettable chronicle of terror, courage, defiance, survival, and the power of friendship to transcend evil that is an essential addition to the history of World War II.… (more)

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