There are books you devour, and then there are books you chew on for a while. Auschwitz Syndrome, the latest book by Ellie Midwood, is one you chew on.
From the courtroom and backroom drama of a Denazification court, we’re asked a few questions: Is Franz Dahler guilty of crimes against humanity? Did he beat, rape, and abuse a female inmate who worked under his command, a woman, Helena, who is now his wife? And did he marry her to secure his clearance from the court? You’ll have to make your own decision.
Auschwitz Syndrome is such an emotionally raw and painfully real book that I had to put it down on several occasions. Even the courtroom scenes crackled with intensity as the judge had to bring down his gavel else chaos would have ensued (and sometimes I felt it did, as he kept going back and forth between prosecution and defense).
The dismal imagery portrayed in the novel is hard on the reader, but in a setting such as Auschwitz, readers need to be reminded of just how brutal things got. Trust me in that you’ll hug your pets or children after this one. I had some good snuggles with my dog and blasted The Young Rascals on repeat for a while.
Some of the language may be difficult for readers to take, but I felt it leant towards the reality of the situation. I felt Ms. Midwood handled the sensitivity of the situation with skill and stayed true to the story. There were tender moments between Franz and Helena that lighten things.
The characters and storyline are largely based on real accounts, so if you want moving fiction, then pick up Auschwitz Syndrome. Just have puppies or kittens available for after you read it.
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Rating: Five stars
There is historical fiction, and then there’s Ellie Midwood. No Woman’s Land is a superb novel that brings the Minsk Ghetto to life in all of its harsh cruelty with a sense of hope and grace. Reading a story of the dour conditions of the Holocaust can be difficult on a reader, but Ms. Midwood has crafted a powerful story of the meaning of loyalty, friendship, and love in the bitterest of conditions.
One can’t help but cheer on ghetto occupants Ilse , Rivka, and Liza as they navigate the treacherous dog eat dog world of the ghetto while still holding on to the ultimate thing that keeps them alive: love. Although these three women, and others in the ghetto, come from diverging backgrounds, they form a solidarity as they keep each other together and the hope for freedom alive. Through this narrative, they discover the only thing that keeps one alive is love during the harshest of conditions. I appreciate Ilse Stein’s character arc as we meet her as a timid, sheltered Jewish girl who arrives in Minsk after she and her sisters are resettled into the ghettos. There she meets women like Rivka and Liza, savvy leaders who lost husbands as the winds of war rage over the eastern front. Isle learns just how strong she is as she vows to survive and keep her sisters safe. Although disillusioned and jaded, she learns to trust as she meets Willy Schultz, an officer in the Luftwaffe who befriends her. Their love story is sweet, tender, and real as they let their guards down while coming to terms with being from opposing sides. This book left me wanting to know more of what becomes of Ilse, Willy, Liza, and all of their friends after the book ended, especially because these people existed during World War II. Highly recommended.