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The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt + Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust + I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242447
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brenner, a Berlin-based journalist, focuses on 10 former child survivors, women in their late 70s, who went through the Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Holocaust. She notes that 12,000 children entered the camp from 1942 to 1944, but only a few hundred survived to war's end, and a handful of women of Room 28 in the camp's Girls' Home, now scattered around the world, reunited for the first time in 1991. The insights of the survivors and stories of the camp's victims are unforgettable and full of poignant humanity, conveyed through letters, photos, diaries and remembrances. Forced into exile and almost certain death under the Nazi regime, the children confronted hunger, cold, terror and the soul's endurance as many of the girls of Room 28 were slowly eliminated; the small band of survivors is committed to keeping their memory alive. Well-detailed and inspiring, Brenner's book, especially her heartfelt epilogue, pays glowing tribute to these heroic survivors. B&w photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"This beautiful evocation of heartwarming friendship in the darkest of times is unforgettable."
—Elie Wiesel

"The insights of the survivors and stories of the camp's victims are unforgettable and full of poignant humanity, conveyed through letters, photos, diaries, and remembrances. . . . Well detailed and inspiring, Brenner's book, especially her heartfelt epilogue, pays glowing tribute to these heroic survivors."
Publishers Weekly

“Brenner chronicles the remarkable artistic experiments undertaken by the girls, especially their enthusiastic production of the children’s opera Brundibár. An inspiring story of courage rendered through impressive personal and historical detail.”
Kirkus Reviews


"The story of this children's home in Theresienstadt takes us to the limit of the bearable, to the place where compassion, fear, and the temptation to simply turn away all lie in wait. To resist that temptation--isn't that what the historical record must achieve?
DIE ZEIT

"This handful of girls wanted their memories of their dead friends and their time in Theresienstadt not to be forgotten. They wanted to make the story of their survival, and the love and friendship that their caretakers showerd them, unforgettable. Together with the author, they have succeeded. In Hannelore Brenner, these women have found someone who listened to them, who read their albums of poetry, their diaries, and their chronicles, and who has written a wonderful book."
PRAGER ZEITUNG

"
Brenner has gathered together these stories with great sensitivity. She makes the past spring to life and gracefully places the personal memories of these girls into a historical context, while at the same time offering solid research and background information regarding life in Theresienstadt and the political situation of the time."
SÄCHSISCHE ZEITUNG

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
And then I began to read this book.
S. McGee
In my opinion this book is very well written, however in parts when she is describing a women's family, or birth place, the story got hard to follow.
T. Baker
Congratulations to Hannelore Wonschick for telling this important story with such love, gentleness and respect.
Pamela J. Adams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Growing up in Europe during the late 1960s and 1970s, World War II was an immediate reality, if not one I had any firsthand experience of. Still, everywhere around me there were people who had -- as combattants, as civilians who had suffered bombing and invasion and occupation. I visited Anne Frank's House for the first time at the age of 7, and read her diary in the car as we traveled from the Netherlands to Denmark. By the time we arrived at the German frontier, I was hysterical at the idea of visiting the country whose Nazi leaders had murdered Anne Frank, my parents tell me.

Now, decades later, a lot more attention has been paid to the Holocaust. There have been histories of all kinds, from the straightforward ones by Martin Gilbert to Daniel Goldhagen's provocative analysis of the makeup of the extermination squads in Eastern Europe; there have been documentaries (Shoah) and dramas of all kinds (Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List) and innumerable memoirs. It sometimes feels as if there can be little left to say about the Holocaust and that the subject itself is in danger of becoming too ubiquitous to pack the same kind of powerful punch that it did when I first read Anne Frank's diary decades ago.

And then I began to read this book. From the very first pages, I was gripped by the story of young Helga Pollak, the central character around whom journalist Brenner carefully structures the stories of the young girls (aged between 12 and 14) who at one point or another inhabited Room 28 of Theresienstadt's Girls' Home. When we meet Helga, she has said farewell to her mother, who has brought her to a town in Czechoslovakia where she hopes Helga will be safe from the growing anti-Jewish sentiment in Nazi-occupied Vienna.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Pamela J. Adams on November 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Wonschick's lovely book chronicles the story of children caught in the horror of Nazi Germany's internment camp at Theresienstadt near Prague. The story, of course is horrific, but told beautifully by the writer. The treasure of the book is the witness to the enormous spirit, love and courage by the children to keep pressing on in the midst of insanity, and to create a semblance of normalcy in their lives. The adults, in the face of death, devised an atmosphere where the hildren could think there was a life worth living. They sacrificed their gifts in music, art, drama, and poetry to distract their fellow captives from the daily threats deportation to Auschwitz. The story reminds us of what we are all called to create . . . love among our fellow men. The inmates at Theresienstadt overcame evil and fulfilled their destiny. Sadly, most of the children and adults did die at Auschwitz, but remarkably, some of the diaries, art and stories have all been salvaged. Hannelore has gathered all the stories with love and gentle care. Remarkably, due to the efforts of some of the artists at Thresienstadt, art therapy was created in the camp, and today is helping children overcome the travails in their lives today. Congratulations to Hannelore Wonschick for telling this important story with such love, gentleness and respect.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Teacher/Photographer on April 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am somewhat obsessed with Holocaust literature and have read scores of personal accounts. This one stands out. Well researched and beautifully written. Heartbreaking yet hopeful. It makes one realize that the Nazis and their cohorts didn't just kill Jewish bodies, they killed potential genius in the arts & sciences and future contributions to society at large by extinguishing so many talented Jewish souls.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By gilly8 on September 28, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read a lot of Holocaust nonfiction. The best overall, I think, was "Treblinka" by Steiner. It was written in the '60's when the author could still interview many adult survivors. Trreblinka was a death camp, where the camp prisoners eventually staged a revolt.

Steiner describes in depth how the people gradually became used to less rights, (no school for children, no work for the adults), then to being moved into "Jewish" (or Gypsy) ghettos,where they lived in unbearably crowded conditions; then to promises of resettlement and a better life "in the east"....at the point where the ghetto people were starving and disease ridden, many people volunteered to go east. Once on the trains, they were locked into a situation they could not escape, and the majority were gassed immediately upon arrival.
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Now, essentially the only living people able to be interviewed are those who were children during World War II. Children's memories usually are not as good as those of adults, and often because they do not understand the big picture of which they were a part, they cannot provide the clarity that an adult could.

The author got to know, and interviewed many times, the surviving girls of room 28 from the camp called Theresienstadt. She was able to get the mental picture of the prewar backgrounds of the girls, their gradual loss of freedom, being sent from their schools and sports teams, their non-Jewish friends refusing to speak to them, then the transport to the camp, with or without their parents.

Many, many girls, mostly between ages of 12-14, lived in a dorm-like atmosphere in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.
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