Violette Szabo theme book 2: If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm.

Today marks day 2 of the Violetter Szabo theme and I have chosen this non-fiction book due to it being focused on Ravensbruck Concentreation camp & in particular the treatment of the women.

If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women by [Helm, Sarah]

If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm

The blurb:

On a sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 800 women – housewives, doctors, opera singers, politicians, prostitutes – were marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded through giant gates. Whipping and kicking them were scores of German women guards.

“Consider if this is a woman, without hair and without no name, with no more strength to remember, her eyes empty and her womb cold like a frog in winter. meditate that this came about: I commend these words to you.”

Primo Levi, if ‘This is a Man’

My review:

This is  non-fiction read of some very dark & serious subject matter. The holocaust is never ever going to be easy reading. Yet it is such an important part of history. One that should never be forgotten. This book focuses on the women but it does separate them by reason for being at Ravensbruck such as criminals, resistance, Jehovah Witnesses etc. By doing this we learn how each groups were treated and how they found strength. This was one of the first WW2 & holocaust non-fiction books that gave attention to the Jehovah witnesses. I had deep admiration for the women & despite their harsh & inhumane treatment their refusal to contribute to the war effort due to their beliefs. I was staggered by the amount of the JW women who were killed within the camps. This has always struck a chord with me since I read this book.

The book is informative without being a series of facts & figures. It almost written in a story format, which makes it much easier to read but also more disturbing that this happened and you are reading real peoples stories. The book does detail the commandants & guards. Irma Grese is mentioned for her time at ravensbruck prior to her move to Belsen camp. There are also some people’s stories that are shocking and you almost wish they were a character in a book (re: Clap-wanda page 400-1). This book at 848 pages builds a broad scope of what women really faced in Ravensbruck. It is moving, educational and thought provoking. 5*



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