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THE GIRLS OF ROOM 28 by Hannelore Brenner


Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt

by Hannelore Brenner, translated by John E. Woods, Shelley Frisch

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8052-4244-7
Publisher: Schocken

A deeply sympathetic account of a group of concentration-camp dorm mates who stayed in touch years after their release.

Of the 50 or so girls who met in Room 28, only 15 survived, and ten tell their affecting stories here. Located just north of Prague, Theresienstadt (Terezin) was used by the invading Nazi forces primarily as a transit station for prisoners headed for extermination farther east, as well as a so-called model camp with a self-governing Council of Elders that the Nazis could show the outside world as evidence of their fair treatment of the Jews. In fact, the SS ran it, easily duping the outsiders. The Jewish girls, ages 11 to 14, were wrenched from their family from various parts of what the Wehrmacht had set up as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Often sickly and traumatized, they were grouped in Room 28, and soon began a difficult work routine and endured an unappetizing diet, bedbugs and epidemics such as typhoid and encephalitis. However, the youthful spirit of hope could not be extinguished even in the cruelest conditions. Through the diaries and notebooks the girls kept, as well as later personal accounts, Berlin-based journalist Brenner reveals the extraordinary means the girls and their caretakers took to share food and comfort and help each other. The author also 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.