GIZELLE SAVE THE CHILDREN by Petty with Gizelle Hersh Mann


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Save the children"" was Miriam Hersh's dying charge to her 17-year-old daughter at Auschwitz: three younger sisters and a brother were at stake, and though Gizelle could do nothing for her brother (men were separated from women), she did manage to save the girls--through pluckiness, cunning, and some measure of luck. Luck may seem a strange word to apply: for the final year of the war, the four transplanted Hungarian sisters underwent the daily horrors of slow starvation, rats, disease, and planned dehumanization. Gizelle always managed to discover what she needed to know--her twelve-year-old sister was saved when Gizelle passed her off as 16--until the ""selection"" procedure where she begged the examining doctor to keep the four sisters together; he complied by marking them all for the gas chamber. Further selection procedures landed them in a labor camp instead--a munitions factory where Gizelle served as waitress for the SS, and her sisters manned potentially crippling machines. Their work completed there, the German war effort near defeat, the Hershes were on their way to a mass extermination in the mountains when American troops liberated their boxcars. It was then that Gizelle blurted the carefully-guarded secret of their parents' fate to the others; subsequently she determined that their brother had perished, ironically, in the final week of war. The sisters eventually made a new life in America. Another searing confrontation between the Holocaust's horror and an individual's will to survive, all the more disturbing for its matter-of-factness.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Everest