Violette Szabo theme, Final day: Born survivors by Wendy Holden 5*

I chose this novel for the final day of the Violette Szabo theme as although it is centred around WW2 & the holocaust it also features a strong theme of motherhood. Violette Szabo left her young daughter behind when she left for France on an SOE mission. She would go on to be captured an executed at Ravensbruck concentration camp. Her young daughter Tania Damaris Desiree Szabo would later receive her George Cross medal posthumously.

Citation from the Gazette:
St. James’s Palace, S.W.1. 17 December 1946

The KING has been graciously pleased to award the GEORGE CROSS to: —

Violette, Madame SZABO (deceased), Women’s Transport Service (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry).

Madame Szabo volunteered to undertake a particularly dangerous mission in France. She was parachuted into France in April, 1944, and undertook the task with enthusiasm. In her execution of the delicate researches entailed she showed great presence of mind and astuteness. She was twice arrested by the German security authorities but each time managed to get away. Eventually, however, with other members of her group, she was surrounded by the Gestapo in a house in the south-west of France. Resistance appeared hopeless but Madame Szabo, seizing a Sten-gun and as much ammunition as she could carry, barricaded herself in part of the house and, exchanging shot for shot with the enemy, killed or wounded several of them. By constant movement, she avoided being cornered and fought until she dropped exhausted. She was arrested and had to undergo solitary confinement. She was then continuously and atrociously tortured but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances or told the enemy anything of any value. She was ultimately executed. Madame Szabo gave a magnificent example of courage and steadfastness.


When I think of Violette Szabo, I see a strong woman, a hero who showed ultimate courage and gave her life for her country. But it is only when I look at the above image of her daughter, I truly see what she sacrificed in her fight for freedom. She sacrificed her mother hood

RIP Violette Szabo

Product Details

Born Survivors by Wendy Holden 5*

My review:

I read this novel several years ago, buying it as soon as it was released in hardback. The book is the non-fiction story of Priska, Rachel and Anka & their fight for survival in Auschwitz. What separates this book from the many others, is that when Priska, Rachel & Anka arrive at Auschwitz they are hiding a secret……..They are pregnant.

I don’t need to expand & do a full review as the blurb gives full details. But I will say that I have read many non-fiction holocaust and WW2 reads and I found this one incredibly moving & very well written. 5*

The blurb:

Among millions of Holocaust victims sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, Priska, Rachel, and Anka each passed through its infamous gates with a secret. Strangers to each other, they were newly pregnant, and facing an uncertain fate without their husbands. Alone, scared, and with so many loved ones already lost to the Nazis, these young women were privately determined to hold on to all they had left: their lives, and those of their unborn babies.

That the gas chambers ran out of Zyklon-B just after the babies were born, before they and their mothers could be exterminated, is just one of several miracles that allowed them all to survive and rebuild their lives after World War II. Born Survivors follows the mothers’ incredible journey – first to Auschwitz, where they each came under the murderous scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele; then to a German slave labour camp where, half-starved and almost worked to death, they struggled to conceal their condition; and finally, as the Allies closed in, their hellish 17-day train journey with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria. Hundreds died along the way but the courage and kindness of strangers, including guards and civilians, helped save these women and their children.

Sixty-five years later, the three ‘miracle babies’ met for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the liberation that ultimately saved them. United by their remarkable experiences of survival against all odds, they now consider each other “siblings of the heart.” In Born Survivors, Wendy Holden brings all three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the war.

A heart-stopping account of how three mothers and their newborns fought to survive the Holocaust, Born Survivors is also a life-affirming celebration of our capacity to care and to love amid inconceivable cruelty.

*Although this is the final day of the Violette Szabo theme. I shall be running further themes and this will include WW2 fiction & Non-fiction reads. I plan to run it in memory of those who gave their lives during D-Day. Also in memory of the bravery shown by some of my personal heroes Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Luard & Alan Turing. So there will be a mixture of themes such as: Specific battalions, military tactics, code-breaking, LGBTQ Characters and much more. As with this theme, I will be celebrating the bravery of these men by male writers. This will run for a full week from the 6th June!

Violette Szabo theme day 5: The Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust by Lyn smith 5*

Violette Szabo Theme day 5: The forgotten voices of the Holocaust by Lyn Smith.

This is my second non-fiction pick of the theme. I own about 50/60 ww2 non-fiction reads, I am a huge fan of Laurence Rees, Max Hastings books and many that feature individual units surrounding D-Day. Especially the Para’s! I will most definitely feature these at a later date. However to keep with my Violette Szabo theme, I wanted to feature female writers of the WW2 era in both fiction and non-fiction. The author Lyn smith is a Professor of Politics, International relations and Human rights and the book is written in association with the Imperial War Museum. The book also features an foreword  from Laurence Rees.

Product Details

My review:

What I like about this non-fiction read, is difficult to fully explain, So I have decided to use photographs of my copy of the book to fully show what I mean. Each chapter details a different part of the Holocaust such as: the search for refuge, the ghetto, the camps, liberation and aftermath etc. Each chapter has a factual introduction and then the subject is explored via written testimony of interviews from the individuals whom lived it. This could be the survivors or the very soldiers who liberated the camp. (Belsen camp was liberated by British soldiers). There are images imprinted onto the paper pages and they do make for disturbing viewing. But in my opinion, that is part of the learning about the era and in particular the Holocaust. My daughter (soon to be 14) has borrowed these books from me for school work & I have just offered to explain anything I can to her, rather than shield her from the facts. That being said, that’s just my opinion for my daughter.











I bought this book several years ago & it was in fact first published in 2005. But I hope I have shown why it is such a worthy entry to the theme. A 5* non-fiction read of a very difficult period of history.

The Blurb:

Following the success of Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Lyn Smith visits the oral accounts preserved in the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive, to reveal the sheer complexity and horror of one of human history’s darkest hours.

The great majority of Holocaust survivors suffered considerable physical and psychological wounds, yet even in this dark time of human history, tales of faith, love and courage can be found. As well as revealing the story of the Holocaust as directly experienced by victims, these testimonies also illustrate how, even enduring the most harsh conditions, degrading treatment and suffering massive family losses, hope, the will to survive, and the human spirit still shine through.



Violette Szabo theme Day 4: The Shadow Ally by Dianne Ascroft 5*

Product Details

The Shadow Ally By Dianne Ascroft.

My review:

The shadow ally is book 1 in a Yankee years series. They each have a variety of themes and centre around the lives of women during ww2 in Northern Ireland. Each book is a short story.

The shadow Ally opens up in the rural countryside of northern Irelands. It centres around the relationship between Ruth & Harry. Although the novel centres around a romantic relationship, I wouldn’t class this as romantic fiction. What the author does is cleverly waive real issues into the plot & dialogue. Ruth & Harry’s story is one of a 1940’s courtship and describes the reality of the 1940’s era’s influence on relationships. It shows the power divide between men & women, ultimately this was the era when women were just starting to find their voices. I absolutely love the subtle feminism within the story & I was glad it was written so very well

‘careless talk costs lives’

The plot primarily focuses on the secrecy, mystery & suspicion that was engrained into society. With the Americans not in the war yet, spies lurking in the midst & Lord Haw Haw on the radio. This was a time of fear and suspicion of even those closest to us! Ruth helps her mother run a local hotel. The hotel has many Americans residing and in particular handsome Frank. This is the story of how Ruth, Harry & Frank make it through the war. This novel is very well written & very well researched. A brilliant 5* short story!

The Shadow Ally is available on Kindle Unlimited for members or just £1.21 on Kindle Ebook.

The Blurb:

America is not yet at war, but the country is preparing for it. And it is essential that this remain secret.

June 1941: Ruth Corey is puzzled by the attractive, enigmatic Italian-American civilian contractor, Frank Long, who is staying at her family’s hotel in Irvinestown, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Serious and reserved, he is nothing like the friendly, outgoing British and Canadian servicemen she knows. Nor, she discovers, does he even use his real surname.

War is a time of alliances and secrets. The biggest secret in the county is the construction of an American flying boat base outside Irvinestown. Since their country is not at war, the American contractors must conceal the building project. America’s neutrality will be destroyed if Germany discovers its existence.

Ambitious local reporter, and Ruth’s almost fiancé, Harry Coalter is consumed with curiosity about the new American airbase. But why? When Ruth finds a letter Harry has written about the flying boat base she fears he is pursuing a path that will land him in serious trouble. She enlists Frank’s help to stop Harry from making a terrible mistake.

Can Ruth safeguard a military secret that will have a profound impact on the course of the war and protect her beau?

Violette Szabo theme day 3: Without a trace by Lesley pearse.

Today’s pick is something a little different. In that it doesn’t scream ww2 at you! I decided to pick this as I have a fond love of the authors writing style & the way in which she negotiates historical accuracy with heart warming characters. My favourite novel of the author’s is Remember me. But this is the one most relevant to the theme.

Without a Trace

The blurb:

Coronation Day, 1953.
In the Somerset village of Sawbridge, young shopkeeper Molly Heywood slips away from the celebrations to her friend’s cottage and makes a shocking discovery: Cassie is dead and her six-year-old daughter Petal has vanished without a trace.
In her grief, Molly seeks help from her childhood friend George, now the village policeman, but no one can find Petal. The only clue is a letter from London, where Cassie once lived. Despite George’s reluctance and her growing feelings for him, Molly resolves to go to London in the hope of discovering the missing child.
Arriving in the big city, Molly quickly learns it’s a dangerous place for a country girl on her own. But there’s hope too – in the Blitz-ruined East End, she unexpectedly finds friendship with strangers from Cassie’s past and, with handsome, mysterious workman Charley, the possibility of something more.
However, the closer Molly gets to the truth, the more perilous her journey becomes. She has given up everything – her home, happiness and a chance at love – all to find Petal. But is she also risking her life?

My review:

As stated above, I chose this as some of the picks in the Violette Szabo theme are incredibly dark. Ultimately I wanted a theme that would appeal to all readers. This novel opens up in 1953 & deals with the repercussions & aftermath of ww2. An era of generational change & particularly for women! I don’t need to fully expand on this novel to review it as the author is well known and the blurb spells out the storyline. So to not risk or leave any spoilers. I will simply say, it is one for the feels & most definitely has you feeling as though you knew the characters! 5*

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*