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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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5063620,102 (3.88)64
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

Work details

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 35 (next | show all)
This is not an easy book to read. We know before we even begin that there are few happy endings. I've read a lot about the conditions in the Nazi labor camps and extermination camps, but the true story of these women brings it clearly and closely to life. This is an account of a couple hundred women arrested for their involvement in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation. After being jailed in France, later in the war they were moved to Eastern Europe, with the intention of leaving their fate unknown to their families, friends, and associates. Their experiences have been well-researched and are vividly recounted -- so vividly, in fact, that it his hard to read. Only a handful of these women survived.

I didn't rate this higher because the book starts so slowly. I know that the explanations of who each woman is, and what she was doing that led to her arrest, is important to their stories. But it's not the main point of the book, and I think it was too long. ( )
  TerriBooks | Nov 7, 2015 |
A story of the women of the French Resistance who were all transported at the same time to concentrations camps in the east. They had been active in distributing and printing leaflets, collecting arms, and arranging some safe passages for Jews and others in the Resistance . Their survival, only a small percentage survived, makes for grim reading but their dedication and support they had for each other allowed many of them to return to their families after the liberation. This is the second book I have read by this author and her approach to organizing the events and researching every woman amounts to a vivid historical voyage into an unbelievable time. Highly recommended. ( )
  augustau | Aug 26, 2015 |
I think I’d have enjoyed reading this book no matter what but I was particularly happy to read it with my reading buddy Diane, and glad that she wanted to read slowly through the book; it made the reading experiencing really fun, if I can use that word, and absorbing and thinking about the information more interesting.

I’ve read extensively about the Holocaust, but I learned so much from this book. I knew little of the treatment of French women Communists and other Nazi resistors. I’m fascinated with this history. I must admit as I read about what befell these women in various places at various times, I found myself thinking about the Jews, and the times, places, events, ways they were being murdered on a parallel timeline with the events in this book.

I was riveted to the account from the start, though the list of names was long and, as I predicted, I sometimes lost track of details about particular people. I resisted taking notes though, and that’s where my buddy came in handy, sometimes interjecting information such as: these two women had been friends before the war and providing the page number. I did enjoy that but was too lazy to try to remember all the details. Even without them, I feel as though I got to know these women, and particularly their friendship, which was a character itself. It’s really a book about the friendship among the group of women, how they were a unit of sorts. While I often forget connections and pre-war activities, I remained engrossed in the book and felt I got more than the gist.

I was thrilled with the two maps and all the photographs. I wised for even more. Those included really enhanced the reading experience for me.

I found myself wanting to know each of the women’s fates and my reading buddy Diane alerted me to one page in the back of the book that listed surviving women who were still alive and were interviewed or their family members interviewed for the book, and that’s when I found the complete list: those women, in alphabetical order the women who survived and then in alphabetical order the women who did not survive. I wanted to find out and to bear witness, so I pretty much stopped reading the book proper and, even though I knew I’d forget specifics and have to refer back to names as I read about them in the book, I read the lists. It was highly disturbing, even reading the fates of the survivors left me feeling extremely sad. Real life horror show! I knew how what the Nazis did have affected more than that one generation but it was powerful to see it spelled out in simple list form. It was hard to avoid using profanity when trying to absorb the facts. I’m really glad that the fates, with a bit of detail, of all the women were revealed.

Even though I wasn’t willing to create it, in addition to the lists of women at the end, I wouldn’t have minded lists at the beginning, showing why the women were arrested, who knew who before capture, etc.

I know in some cases it wasn’t possible to tell more of certain women because of the lack of information and for those women I’m grateful their existence was noted, but for those women who had a lot known about them, I longed for more detailed information about their pre-war and post-war lives. However; the entity of them as a group, of the friendship as the main character was powerful. The juxtaposition of how different people and groups dealt with Nazi occupation was told effectively and I find the subject fascinating.

I was amazed at how brave most of these women were. Because they were not Jewish (known Jews) almost all could have avoided concentration camps, and once they were imprisoned I was so impressed with the big, unexpected, all kinds of kindnesses, often at their own peril and/or deprivation, and often even at risk of saving their own lives. Talk about true friendship!

Whenever reading about the Nazis I always admired the resistors but this time around I kept wondering if mothers of young children really should have been so boldly participating. I am in awe of what they did but a part of me wanted anyone who could stay safe (and hopefully still do some good) to do so.

These French women went through a lot of the almost unimaginable suffering that the targeted groups (Jews, Gypsies, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, homosexual, etc.) did. I’m still glad that at the end, when summing up, the Jews were mentioned and the reader saw how they fared re return rate, and re France’s collaboration and the prevalent anti-Semitism, re overall how they fared worse, and given how these women fared, that was very, very badly. I respect this account even more for all it tried to cover.

I felt so sad to read the fates of the women, not only those who didn’t survive, but also those who did survive. I kept wondering what if they’d had modern day post traumatic stress treatments in 1945 whether some could have greatly benefited, even though I have no illusions that they would be anything other than horribly damaged in many ways. So horrifying what humans can do to others!

I really enjoyed this book but I was left profoundly sad, and also profoundly impressed, and very angry about what happened to these women. I think it’s an important story and I’m very glad that it’s now down on paper. I might have given it 5 stars had I gotten to know at least some of the women better than I did.

These sorts of accounts always have me soul searching about just how brave I’d be, just how altruistic I’d be, just how ethically I’d behave given similar dire circumstances. ( )
  Lisa2013 | May 27, 2015 |
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 |
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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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