221 of 225 people found the following review helpful
There have been many first person accounts of the concentration camps. Rena's story is among the most detailed and gripping.
Rena as a young woman turned herself in as a Jew in order to prevent problems for a family that was helping her. Little did she know of the ordeal that lie ahead. And when I say ordeal that does not begin to describe the terrifying journey that Rena takes.
In the camps, Rena is eventually reunited with her sister Danka and makes a promise to her (hence the title of the book) that if she (Danka) is to be killed Rena will go with her. They will die or live together. As the story unfolds you really grasp the utter evil of the Nazi's as they played their evil games with the prisoners. How Rena and Danka manage to escape deaths door on so many occasions is a miracle. But they do. Yet the pain and suffering they experience is unimaginable. And the pain and suffering of those who meet untimely, unthinkable torture and deaths is described too.
Whenever I am tempted to whine or moan or b*tch about something, I think of Rena and Danka and their incredible endurance. It puts my problems in perspective. The book also has made me appreciate the little things, like a hot shower or good book, a warm meal or a lazy morning sleeping. Things that Rena and Danka never received but could only dream of.
This is a graphic book, but one that can change your way of thinking of life. A truly bold tale that opens your eyes to the deepest evil and the strongest love.
287 of 295 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2004
Hey everyone, I am Danka (Dina) Brandel's grandson, Andrew Brandel. Rena is my great aunt. It's really great to hear all of your praise about the book, and that you enjoyed reading about the stories I grew up on. My grandma gave these first hand accounts often, especially when I was younger and I know our whole family was very excited when my Tante Rena wrote it all down. They are both as amazing people in real life as they are portrayed in the story, I can assure you first hand. Anyway, I am glad you all enjoyed their story!
82 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2005
This was a very involving and detailed book; even though the content can be too much for some people, I really like how many specific details were given about what happened every day, instead of, like some other Shoah memoirs, just skipping between the most important events during the author's incarceration, or not giving enough details about daily life. I've read some pretty detailed Shoah memoirs, but this one by far has been the most intricately detailed one, complete with footnotes elaborating even further on the event or date being described. Rena and Danka were also prisoners in the camp from practically the very beginning, among the first civilian transports, as opposed to how there were originally only male political prisoners there. These incredible sisters had some incredible strokes of luck the way they escaped nearly certain death so many times, like when they just walked away from the roll call taking place before Mengele was to begin medical experiments or when Rena evaded detection at several roll calls after she stole potatoes in the last camp they were in. I would have liked some extra chapters on how they got by after the liberation too, but the afterword sufficed, telling us the basics about what happened to them and their friend Dina, as well as the fates of the various other people we met throughout the book, like the male prisoners who helped to save them at various points, or the fate of their other relatives and friends. I also liked how the story was told in nonlinear perspective at the beginning (i.e., in different voices and at different times). It was also surprising to read at the beginning that Rena had had her tattoo surgically removed and kept it in a jar of formaldehyde; I've only heard of a handful of survivors who elected to have their tattoos removed.
60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
Having toured Auschwitz-Birkenau, I decided to purchase and read Rena's story. I was hooked immediately; it was difficult to put my Kindle down. I love the author's style of writing, "method writing", as I read the story I felt at times I was sitting in the room with her and Rena. This is truly one of the best books I have ever read. What an incredible story of love, fear, emotional strength, survival, hope, and shear determination. Ms. Macadam was so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet such amazing women, Rena and Danka. Since the first book I read about the Holocaust more than 20 years ago, I have been on a quest to try to understand how such a horrific event could have actually taken place. Of course, I will never be able to fully answer any of the questions that this event has raised. My only hope is that people will never forget.
In January 2010, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, it was such a surreal experience that I cannot even begin to explain the emotions I experienced. The day I visited, it was around 21F or -6C, it had been snowing the previous day and the ground was covered with a few inches of new snow, of which there was already several feet from previous snow storms. The day I visited, it was sunny, windy, and very cold. Even though I was dressed for the elements, I could still feel the cold. As I toured the camp, I tried to imagine how anyone could have survived for even a day. I looked at all the photos, read all of the names of the men, women, and children that were brutality murdered for no other reason than they were Jews. As I walked into the areas that human hair, clothing, shoes, luggage, and other personal items were kept I could not stop myself from crying. The pictures of the children and their clothing were heart wrenching. As I continued my tour into the living quarters, I tried to imagine how even animals could have survived in such sub-human conditions.
More than a year later, I am still haunted by my visit. Rena's promise had such a profound effect on me. As I read Rena's story and the descriptions of the camps, having been there, I was able to put somewhat of a real visual image to the words. I remembered how warmly I was dressed and how I still felt the cold, and cried as I read how she was stripped of all dignity and the clothing she was forced to wear or not given to wear. As I read Rena and Danka's story I was amazed they were able to survive for more that three years. I can't even begin to understand that level of determination to live.
My favorite part of the book was the epilogue, it was the third time while reading Rena's story that I smiled through tears. As I read about her being taken to a mansion and being able to take a bubble bath, sleeping in a real bed with down pillows, and all the food she could ask for, I pictured a happy girl, smiling, kicking the bubbles and looking forward to the promise of what life had to offer. Knowing that she and her sister not only survived the camps, but lived a life full of love gave me such a feeling of euphoria. The first time I smiled through tears was as I read about her meeting and flirting with the men during her work assignment in the laundry. It was such a simple act that is/was done by people on a daily basis. But for the prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau it was an act that would have resulted in death had they been caught, it made me happy to read she was able to feel an emotion other than despair if only for a moment. The second time I was overcome with emotion was while reading the final chapter when she, Danka, and Dina arrived at the crossroad and are trying to determine if they should go toward the Russians or the Americans. As Rena describes seeing the vision of her mother and how she makes her decision based on her vision broke my heart. I felt her sadness as I read her admitting to herself, the one hope of seeing her mother again, which helped keep her alive for three years and 41 days, was dead and would only be a memory for the rest of her life.
Rena's Promise is a must read book for anyone that wants to understand what true love and compassion is for another human being. I also recommend this book for anyone studying the Holocaust. Rena's story will help to explain why so many Jews chose to turn themselves into the Germans, believing the propaganda and not understanding their decision would most likely result in their death. Students will also find the Bibliography to be a valuable source for further research.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 1999
hello! i am 17 old and my name is tali koren from israel. this book is very special for me because Erna Drenger was my grandmother (she died 3 years ago) . my grandmother never told anyone what happened to her in the holocost . last year , after i read this book i desided that it will be the most respectfull thing to do for my grandmother sake that i loved the most from all my family, is to go to polin and birkenau to visit all those places that my grandmother had been. only because this book I desided to go and that trip changed my life. so I like to thank here to the writer and to rena for telling her story to us and to me and by no knowingly , she changed my life as well.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2005
I am still trying to come to terms with the Holocaust,although it happened long before I was born. I am trying to understand how humans could act with such incredible hatred and cruelty toward their fellow humans.
This book has helped me in a different way.It has shown me how holding on to the sanctity of life can allow you to act in a totally selfless way.Rena promised she would bring her baby sister Danka back to Mama.The two endured years of struggle,and starvation,and disease and unspeakable cruelty,and they did it with the goal of freedom in sight. Day after miserable day.Year after miserable year.Rena's tenacity in keeping her promise shows just how good a human being can be when she is without greed,or vindictiveness. When she is faced with seemingly one insurmountable challenge after another.
I will keep the memory of Rena and Danka and her family,and the lives of the women that Rena touched in Auschwitz the rest of my life.
If you have a need to reaffirm your belief in the basic goodness of human nature,I suggest you read this book.In it you will find the worst a human can be,but in the end,who won out? Not the nazis .But Rena and Danka and thousands of others who simply hung on and endured.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2011
"I have just finished Rena's Promise on my kindle this week...I have read many Holocaust books, this book was written so well I couldn't put it down. I felt by the end I knew the sisters so well and have gained far more knowledge of these tragic years. Thank you for bringing Rena's story to everyone."
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2000
I've been looking for a book about the Holocaust that I could read to my two daughters for a long time, and now I have found it!
My daughters instantly bonded with Rena and her younger sister Danka. Seeing the world through Rena's eyes they were able to see many things I found hard to tell them. Though the eyes of a young girl-woman whom they could identify with, my daughters listen to and follow every word as I read.
They see the devoted love of Rena's mother who shaved her head in Jewish Orthodox style in devotion to her husband, they watched as Rena flirted with a prohibited young gentile boyfriend who steals a first kiss, they see Poland invaded by Nazi power, they listen unbelievably as Rena steps in front of German soldiers with guns ready to shoot as she tells them you will have to shoot me first before I let you kill my father. We follow as she mistakenly sacrifices herself to save the others by turning herself into the German authorities and then becomes one of the first to be interned at Auschwitz only to see her younger sister Danka follow. My daughters listen on the edge of their seats as Rena makes a solemn death oath to her sister to protect and if necessary die for her and with her. We listen in tears as Rena is badly beaten for letting the older women in her work group rest. My girls recoil in shock as Rena tells of mothers and daughters waiting in line nude to be shaved from head to toe sometimes even by their own brothers and fathers under threat of death.
There is much more, but, I can't do this book justice by trying to describe it here. So, in closing, I say this, Rena's Promise is a must buy and should be read by every teenager in the world.
A MUST BUY!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 1998
Rena's Promise is the beautifully told story of two remarkable young women in their early twenties who endure and survive nearly three and one half years as prisoners of the Nazis in Auschwitz and Ravensbruck. The love that Rena has for her younger sister, Danka, sustains her and helps her to endure the atrocities and indignities forced upon them on a daily basis by the Nazis. During the time they are prisoners, Rena never once forgets the promise to her mother to take care of her younger sister. There are numerous times when Rena unhesitatingly gives up her daily crust of bread in exchange for medicine or a much needed salve for Danka. And at times when Rena is able to "organize" an extra tidbit of food such as a tiny piece of potato peeling, she meticulously divides it and without exception shares it with her beloved sister. Although Rena is the stronger of the two sisters, Danka's strength emerges during the death march when Rena becomes so weak she cannot stand and walk without assistance. Danka refuses to leave her and with the help of a friend, they support Rena until she regains sufficient strength to walk. In the mist of thousands of starving prisoners when a crust of bread could mean the difference of life or death, Rena retained both dignity and honesty. She was once chosen unanimously by more than a hundred women prisoners with whom she worked to divide ten Red Cross packages of food that miraculously made their way into Rena's block. Numerous footnotes are provided by Rena's freelance co-author which helps the reader to place the events of Rena's story into the sequential order of previously documented facts of the Holocaust. Rena's Promise is a testimony of how the love for her sister gave her the will to go on and how something so simple as the offering by a Nazi of a rag to clean her beaten and bloody face was viewed as a great act compassion.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2011
This book was great, can't say enough good things about it. However, the editor(s) should be fired! The direction goes from third person to first person within the same sentence sometimes! I even found a few grammatical errors, doubled words, and misspellings. For that, I gave it four stars. The substance does not, in any way, deserve less than five.