Compelling stories of a group of brave French women in Nazi-occupied France.
Of the so-called Convoi des 31,000, including 230 women political prisoners sent to Auschwitz in January 1943, only a handful survived to tell the horrendous tale of their plight. Biographer Moorehead (Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era, 2009, etc.) interviewed survivors of the convoy and tracked down family and stories of numerous others to reconstruct a fraught period in French history when collaboration was assumed the norm, while underneath seethed a current of active subversion. After the shock of the arrival of the Nazis in Paris in June 1940, the Vichy government advised the French citizens to cooperate with the Germans. While most French didn’t protest the treatment of exiles and Jews, some did, especially idealistic youth who had been radicalized in the ’30s by the Spanish Civil War. One of the women, a dentist named Danielle Casanova, was the leader of a youth wing of the French Communist Party who recruited other young women secretaries and office workers as couriers of underground literature. With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, resistance against the Nazis was ratcheted up and acts of sabotage were endorsed by the various factions of the Resistance. Unfortunately, the German spy network, aided by French police, grew more alert, and after attacks at the metro and in Rouen, Nantes and Bordeaux, traps were set and a sweep of “terrorists” netted by March 1942. The prisoners, both women and men, were first sent to La Santé, in Paris, where they were interrogated and tortured, then to the military fort of Romainville, before deportation to Auschwitz. Moorehead weaves into her suspenseful, detailed narrative myriad personal stories of friendship, courage and heartbreak.
A sound study of research and extensive interviewing.