Unique concentration-camp memoir by an Italian Jewess who was sent to Birkenau in April 1944, and later moved to Auschwitz. Italy's fascist government was paid 5,000 lire for every Jew turned over to the Germans. One of these was Tedeschi, who found herself parted from her husband, two daughters, and her mother-in- law: Only she and her children survived the war. Tedeschi's memoir is unusual in that she and the women she barracked with were stripped of their sexuality (starvation, for one thing, halted menstruation) and turned into neuter beings. It makes for a strange tale to identify with a human being treated and self-seen as a third kind of being. The author's worst moments came in the fierce grip of memories that could sweep over her, dangerously—for example, of combing her daughters' hair: ``And like a devouring cancer the nostalgic thought of my daughters would take hold of me, together with the vivid, tormenting sensation of the warmth of their skin, the softness of their curls. You felt at once the need to remember, to lose yourself in yearning....'' Meanwhile, the Germans had Tedeschi working in sand-pits, then in the shoe- dismantling shop where tons of shoes from prisoners being burned in the Birkenau furnaces were taken apart and shipped for further use back to Germany. As would be true of anyone mired in such horror, Tedeschi seldom got the big picture, only rare glimpses of what seemed like thousands of barracks just like hers stretching away into the distance. Each day, she and her companions feared being selected for the furnaces. Later, in Auschwitz, life was slightly easier: Auschwitz had no furnaces, so there was no daily selection. The author's story ends with a tremendous death-march on which she went without food for ten days, until the Russians and French arrived. Sharply, even poetically written, under waves of nightmare.
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