Friday, October 19, 2012

A Train in Winter: Book Review

A Train in Winter
By Caroline Moorehead

Very hard to read, because of the content. But, it is important part of history that should not be forgotten. The books that are written usually has the Jewish perspective. This time it from a objective point, from a journalist. It is a important part of history, about the French Resistant that no one knows much about. It takes place during after and the war. Most of the Resistant fighters, were women, yes you heard right women.

I was happy to read this, because as a Jew, I thought no one was helping us. But, in reality there were people that were helping to end the war and the atrocities of Hitler. We just did not know many of them. I am not talking about a few, but thousands all over Europe in particular France.

These people were ordinary people, doctors, writers, singers, dental surgeon, teachers, students, mothers, grandmothers, parents, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The French did not like what was happening in Spain, or Italy.

They wanted to spread the seed of communism. They wanted to see change in the political arena in Europe. The French wanted to see communism in their country because of what was happening of the effects of Spain, with the likes of Franco, and in Italy what was happening with Mussolini in their country.

The Gestopo, was watching one man, head of the French Resistance, he was a teacher. By the name of Andre' Pican. He was the head of the Front National of the Resistance in the Seine-Inf'erieure. He was thought to lead them to other Resistance Fighter.

March 1941, there was a round up, by the French Police. 113 people, were detained, 35 of them women, the youngest a 16 year old, and the oldest a 44 year old farmer's wife. What the French police confiscated were notebooks, addresses, false ID's, explosives, revolvers, tracts expertly forged ration books, and birth certificates, typewriters, and much, much more.

By 1943, they were taken with the rest of the French Resistance of a total of 230. as political prisoners to Aushwitz, and some of them sent to Birkenau~ the death camps. There were only 49 left of the French Resistance after the war and able to return to France.

The story was about the resilience of these women, their friendship, looking after each other, and share the mutual danger they were able to fight to stay alive. Some of them claim it was just luck that saved them.

In Vichy, and Paris, France, and all over France. Communism was spreading all over Europe, this helped spread the French Resistance It also was happening all over Europe(in Italy, and Poland, etc). The women were more involved then the men. The men were off in the war, and the women left to their own devises at the home front.

Women had safe houses to protect Jews, they spread flyers all over France, wrote propaganda to spread the cause, let other countries know what was happening, attacked trains, etc.

The women, were lonely, and had to hide from their families, to protect them. Do you think you would have done this? I don't know what I would have done. They believed in the cause. To save their country. But, what about your children? They felt they were saving their children. But, they sacrificed themselves for the cause.

Why, how, and where and what happened to them, is the first part. This part of the book is about how each of them got into the resistance. Who they were. How the French were treated after the German's invaded France. How these normal people got involved, and why. What happened to them, while they were in the underground, how it affected them, and their families, and children, and loved ones, and the eventual round up.

Part 2, of A Train in Winter takes place on, January 24, 1943. They rounded up the rest of the French Resistance and sent them to Aushwitz. The decision to work, Aushwitz, or death~ Birkenau. 230 Women were taken to the station.

The second part of the book was very tough to read. The conditions of how they found themselves. They had no idea where they were going. They, as you know were treated horribly. What made this book more awful, than others. This is a journalistic record, not one or a few persons experiences, but that of the whole. Which made this more heart wrenching, and horrible.

The clothes, the food, and staying with thousands of concentration camp prisoners were held out side for roll call in the dark of night, how many do you think were out there in the death of winter? 4,000 possibly in roll call. How long do you think it took to call everyone? a hour, try the next morning. Then the medical experiments, that were done to women. What they did to babies, and children, the survival, and not survival of the women, and prisoners of the concentration camps. I am not going to go into the conditions because like myself, I thought I heard it all. But, I hadn't, but I don't want to keep writing about it to sound redundant, and too awful to repeat.

But one thing that kept a few of these women alive was the comradery, friendship, the shared fear, love of their families, France. " Despite their differences of age, background, education, and wealth, were friends. They spent months together in Romainville very close together and it was a train full of friends, who knew each other's strengths and frailties', who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown".

My critique of the book, this for sure did not read like a grip me read. There is intrigue, and conspiracy, it does remind me of spy novels, from WW2.

My biggest gripe was trying to keep the names and places straight. I did have a notebook by my side. But after a while it was too difficult and I gave up. The book is such a broad topic, and not just a few experiences, that is why so many people, places.

I found it interesting for the first time, that a non-Jew wrote this book. Most Jewish historians think they own this time period. I am happy to read from a non-Jews perspective. I did not realize the French Resistance, or the Resistance in general was so vast.

If you are looking to read this in a day or two, I would not pick this up. This is a tough book to read, but important.  I usually don't read books about the holocaust anymore, since I read many of them when I was younger. I thought I knew everything.  I found part two of Train In Winter, much more engrossing, and engaging then part 1. Not sure why.

This is different, it gives you a wider, and broader topic. I recommend it to anyone that wants to know about the history of WW2, and the time period. To understand what happened in the home front to ordinary citizens, especially women helping the war effort. There were women that wanted, and tried to make a difference, unfortunately most of them did not survive, and they sacrificed their lives.

I was given a copy by TLC Book Tour, and I would like to thank you. I have been wanting to read this since it was first published.         

1 comment:

trish said...

It's interesting to see how you connected to the book seeing as how you have a personal connection to the subject.

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