RENA'S PROMISE: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich with Heather Dune Macadam Gelissen

RENA'S PROMISE: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The amazing story of one of Auschwitz's longest survivors. There's no such thing as a typical Holocaust story; the ""Final Solution"" was so atypical as to effectively nullify the concept. Still, Gelissen's story is particularly unusual in that she was on the first transport to Auschwitz in 1942 and survived until the camp's liberation in 1945. The number on her arm, 1716, was so low that guards were disbelieving, thinking nobody could have lived that long. But Gelissen survived: a woman in her early 20s who was neither mistress to a guard nor a kapo; who received no preferential treatment except that which she ""organized"" for herself; who was so honest that she was chosen unanimously by over a hundred starving women to divide ten Red Cross packages that somehow made it into their block. Gelissen explains that it was precisely because she was on the first transport that she lived: As the Nazis were perfecting their death machine, she was honing her ""organizing"" skills, learning to acquire things through barter and cunning. When her sister Danka contracted malaria, for example, she got her quinine with the help of sympathetic fellow Polish male prisoners. She arranged for Danka and herself to be chosen by Dr. Mengele for what she believed would be easier, indoor work, but discovering that they had been chosen instead for experiments, Gelissen pulled Danka off the doomed line and the two blended back into camp life. Later, as winter approached, Gelissen had herself and Danka chosen by Mengele again, this time for the relatively humane laundry detail, where they worked until the death marches that immediately preceded liberation. Despite the interpolations and footnotes of Gelissen's coauthor, a freelance writer who doesn't seem to fully understand the culture of prewar Polish Jewry and who provides verification in an unnecessary attempt to strengthen Gelissen's testimony, this is an uplifting tale of courage and humanity.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1995
ISBN: 0807070718
Page count: 275pp
Publisher: Beacon