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They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

Topics: The Holocaust, Nazis, Female Friendship, Rebellion, Concentration Camps, World War II, Heartbreaking, Gripping, France, Germany, Poland, and Based on a True Story

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062097767
List price: $10.99
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Obviously, I don't read too much nonfiction these days, still not recovered from the glut of required readings for my history major and also unable to resist the page-turning allure of fiction. Still, there are a few subjects that can tempt me into some scholarly reading, one of which is World War II. For whatever reason, I have always been drawn to everything about both WWI and WWII. As such, when I had the opportunity to review this, I jumped at it.

Very few history books read as smoothly as fiction, or as quickly. Moorehead's reads like history, and not like a story, but her prose is still beautiful and much less dry than most of the history texts I've encountered. Her phrasing also reads as delightfully un-American, very suited to the French women she's describing. I intended to just sit down and read this the way I do my fiction books, but ended up reading it in fits and starts, because it just went down better in small gulps, giving me time to mull things over, rather than frustrate myself by trying to read speedily.

Although the focus of this on the surface is a train, the train that took 230 female members of the resistance in France to Auschwitz, about half of the book focuses on how they got caught. Moorehead met with many of the still-living survivors as part of her research, and she obviously knew more about these women and the ones they were close to then some of the others. She doesn't tell the stories of all 230, of course, but she gives a nice picture of life in Occupied France, and the various roles women played in the resistance. This was an area I knew little of, so I was thrilled to expand my knowledge.

Sent to the Auschwitz, these women endure all the hardships there, most of which are probably quite familiar, as the horror of the Holocaust is already well-known. Moorehead's central thesis is that the reason so many of them (49/230) managed to survive was because of the kinship between these women. The friendships they developed and the way they supported one another in the camp greatly heightened their odds of survival.

These French women did their best to keep their minds active, reciting snippets of remembered poems and holding classes. They shared their food voluntarily, giving the largest portions to those most in need. At the freezing roll calls, they propped up those who could not stand. They secreted women who would otherwise be taken to the gas chambers away. They made each other Christmas presents from odds and ends they managed to steal. In short, the camps were still hell, but they were just slightly better with friends, serving as evidence that not all humankind is so evil and incapable of feeling.

One of my favorite things about A Train in Winter, I must admit at the risk of sounding childish, were the pictures. Okay, okay, hear me out. Many history texts include photos of the important figures, but they're often sectioned off into the middle so the photos can be glossy, which is nice, except that, by the time you get to that section you don't remember who most of them are. Moorehead located many pictures of the women, including ones taken in some of the camps. Seeing the change in the women once incarcerated is astonishing. Even more horrifying is the picture of some of the Auschwitz guards, presumably on some holiday, smiling and looking like any young, healthy folks out for a good time in the 40s, not like abusive killers.

Moorhead touches on so much, and I find reviewing history books a bit difficult. I thought her book quite well done, and would recommend it to those interested in studying the Holocaust or the French Resistance, whether for fun or for school.more
Wow, an extraordinary story indeed! During the German occupation of France, the French police rounded up women from all over the country who were believed to be involved with the Resistance. The women included a dentist, a midwife, chemists, office workers, innkeepers, cafe owners, farm wives, school girls, and an opera singer. They were interred together in the fort at Romainville, where they grew to know and protect one another. In January 1943, these 240 women were sent together on a train to Auschwitz/Birkenau, where their friendship and solidarity helped them survive. All but one were later transferred to Ravensbruck. An amazing 49 were liberated and lived to return home. The book begins with a look at how French resistance to the German occupation began and how women were involved from the very beginning. Because of their work in offices, many women were able to write, print, and distribute anti-Nazi leaflets. French women were able to hide resisters in their cafes, inns, and homes, as well as escort them across the demarcation line. Chemists made materials for bombs, others were able to make or procure medicines. Some even transported arms and participated in sabotage. And neither the French police nor the Gestapo suspected women of taking these sorts of risks, so for a while they operated in the open without being suspected. But a meticulous and patient French policeman named Fernand David began a system of surveillance in the Paris region where every suspected member of the resistance, especially communists, were followed and notes were taken on their appearance, movements, and those of everyone with whom they spoke. Although it was a slow process, the day came when he had dossiers on everyone as well as their relationships. It began with the Phase Pican, in which 19 people were arrested, nine of them women. Later sweeps would bring in a hundred suspects at a time, all linked through networks. Whereas the men were tortured, executed, or held as hostages to be executed in retaliation for a German death (at rates as high as 100 Frenchmen for one German), the women were not, as a rule. tortured or executed, but imprisoned at Romainville.It is while imprisoned that most of the women met for the first time, although a few already knew each other through their networks. Here they bonded and began to think of group survival as more important than individual survival. It was this group unity and friendship that sustained them in the camps. Their experiences were horrible, and few survived, but more would have died if it weren't for their group mentality. When the survivors returned, they spoke of missing the camaraderie that had sustained them for so long. Especially since the French population was not keen to listen to their stories. Most French, encouraged by De Gaulle, were ready to move on, rebuild, and to think of the French Resistance as a national movement that was heroic and liberated a proud country. These sad, sick, and bedraggled women were not what the country wanted for symbols of the Resistance, and the women's attempts to confront their betrayers, the collaborators, and those who joined the Resistance in the final hour, were thwarted. No one wanted to dwell on the collaboration, they wanted to look to the future, something many of the survivors found depressingly hard to do.In addition to extensive research, the author interviewed six of the survivors and spoke with the families of many more, often being allowed to read diaries, letters, and see photographs. She tracked down the names, fates, and characteristics of all but a couple of the women. Although the book focuses more heavily on a few women, it is a collective narrative. I learned a great deal about the beginnings of the Resistance and the role women played. I was stunned by many of the things I learned in the book. But a couple of things stand out. First, the role French policeman played in the capture, torture, and execution of their own countrymen. I hadn't realized how large a role they played in collaboration with the Gestapo and other Nazi organizations. Second, I had been ignorant of this unique group of 230 women, the only ones to be deported to the camps from France. Finally, it's astonishing how the ties of friendship between these women allowed them to fight and survive at higher rates longer than other demographics in the camps. This camaraderie assisted by the strong ideology of the communists in the group is unique among my reading, at least, and is astonishingly inspiring.I highly recommend this book.more
Incredible book - devastating and inspiring all at the same time. I wept at the horrors these women went through and wept for their strength and camaraderie in the face of evil.more
The writing, I'm afraid, is costing this a star: it was very hard to keep track of the cast of dozens, it's frequently unclear which of the several "Charlotte's" or "Germaine's" is being referred to. At one point, she interrupted the narration of 1944 to go back to 1943, but it wasn't clear why, and it wasn't clear when she was going back to 1944. So it did feel like a bit of a confused mess.But the story is compelling. And I appreciated Moorehead's decision to spend so much time on the re-integration period: so many stories of WWII leave off at liberation, as if being free suddenly made everything all right. Overall, I would still recommend it.Beyond that, I only just finished reading it, and I suspect it will be awhile before of the thoughts it provoked have settled.more
Having just put down this book it's difficult for me to marshal my thoughts for a considered review simply because of the impact this harrowing account has had on me emotionally and psychologically. It has left me weeping for the unimaginable cruelty humans are capable of wreaking on their fellows, and my heart full for the extraordinary sacrifices and selfless kind acts that others have been prepared to make in the face of such barbarity even while victims themselves, imprisoned in a man-made hell.My World War II reading has been patchy, and I'd read nothing in any detail about the occupation of France or the Resistance before opening Caroline Moorhead's book. I was astonished, in the first section, to learn of the degree of collaboration the Germans had from the French, especially the police and the petty authorities, not only in Vichy but across the country. Was it fear, or is evil so easily transferable, people so culpable and corruptible? Surely not just fear judging by the relish for violence and denunciation that comes through these early chapters.And yet what risks the resisters were prepared to take in their struggle against the Nazis. Moorhead acknowledges that most of the women who became involved - whether as disseminators of resistance literature, 'passeurs' for the escapees, hiders of weapons or even directly as sabouteurs and guerrillas - were terrified; but they carried on through all their fears without reward. The majority were part of a family of resisters and many saw husbands, fathers, brothers deported or shot for their own acts of defiance, but they carried on regardless, even redoubling their own efforts as if to make up the loss. Inevitably they were caught themselves, or denounced by neighbours, and bundled onto the transports heading east to the concentration camps along with Jews, homosexuals, criminals, and some who had nothing to do with the Resistance at all, but who may have made the mistake of passing an opinion unfavourable to their occupiers, or been maliciously denounced by a jealous neighbour or business competitor.If conditions in occupied France were dreadful, nothing could have prepared them (or us) for what they encountered in the camp at Auschwitz. Moorhead spares no detail in her descriptions of the filth, the crowding, the denial of life's basics, the unrelieved and pointless labour in the bedraggled cold, and above all the unending cruelty, inhuman violence and savage murder that led to a litter of disregarded corpses, the miasma of death and a growing swamp of mass graves. What makes the account heartbreakingly poignant as well as horrifying is that we follow named women among the 200-odd French contingent of 'Le Convoi des 31000' and watch many of them sink and die, others mutilated or brutally murdered, and steadily the band decreases.What saves us from utter despair is exactly what saved some of the women - the individual selfless acts and the support network they provided for each other. Early on the indomitable members of the French group persuaded the others that 'everyone for themselves' could end only in the elimination of all. Instead they looked out for each other, often taking the same risks as they did in France, protecting and hiding the weaker members from the guards and saving them from execution or the gas chamber, sharing food, nursing them through the worst of their illnesses. With this combination of friendship, comfort and help, rather than through luck or miracle, some of the women survived - 42 of the original group.The book has no fairytale ending. Most of the survivors came back to find that husbands and other family members had been shot or perished in their own camp travails. Many of the women had illnesses that dogged them for the rest of their lives, and several died early. Only seven were still alive when work started on the book in 2008, and only four on its completion. Some were given credit and honours by the post-war French government, but there was surprising indifference to their stories for the most part, and a general unwillingness to dwell on this dark chapter of human history. The majority of the women, who had lived only for the dream of returning home, reported a flatness and a continuing unhappiness after they did. An appendix summarises not only what happened to the survivors after the war, but also records as far as possible how each of the women who did not make it met her end. It's a sad, sad catalogue, but a valuable record. Equally important, some of the women have written their own accounts and memoirs of their time in the camps and after. Caroline Moorhead has drawn on these extensively and acknowledges the fact along with a long list of helpers throughout her painstaking research. I have not read the first-hand accounts of the survivors, but I'm sure that this powerful account is faithful to their memories, and stands as a hugely important testament in its own right. The final message I will take from this fine book is an optimistic one - that even in the midst of hideous cruelty there is to be found compassion, kindness and courage.more
A very tough book to read and even begin to try and absorb. I kept expressing my feelings aloud as I read and I had to put the book down every now and then to just stop the flood of pictures the author provided. I was so appreciative of the last chapter---an end that was no end at all, just a continuing background nightmare for anyone who survived. And of course, the horror of the fact that no only did no one really want to listen but that there were sceptics....as in the trial...'how can you look so healthy one year later if what you describe is true?" About midway I almost didn't want to continue reading but I felt that I had to. Man's inhumanity to man.more
A Train in Winter tells the fascinating story of the French resistance during World War II. The author, Caroline Moorland, focuses her book on the women of the French resistance. These women might not wield guns or plant bombs, but they do house refugees in their hotels, print papers in their basements, and hand out flyers in the streets. These women chose to risk their lives rather than run to safety or simply endure. The women are grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and children, and all are drawn into the fight for different reasons. Some women fight for their children’s futures. Others fight for those who are being oppressed. Others still fight because they wish to continue the work of their arrested husbands, brothers, and fathers. A Train in Winter follows these women as they endure arrests at the hands of both the French and Nazis, torture and starvation in the death camps, and watching as all those they hold dear die around them. Reading the introduction and book jacket, I expected something entirely different from A Train in Winter. I expected the author to focus more on the personal experiences of the women in the resistance and less on the overarching, historical events. Unfortunately, there are a minimum of fifty women mentioned in A Train in Winter, making it impossible for the reader to connect with any of the women. I would have much preferred Moorland to focus on several women rather than including everyone. The book would have been much better if she had alternated between chapters with background information and chapters with selections from her interviews. As it was, I couldn’t keep anyone straight and felt no connection to the women or their stories. The book lacked a sense of purpose and strength because of this excess of information. It became merely a dry, history book about an interesting topic, instead of the celebration of women and the friendships that kept them alive.more
A powerful and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the early days of the French Resistance and underground communism movement. Although it is always difficult to read any book covering the Nazi atrocities and this book is no exception, it is also so much more. There is generosity in the face of adversity, self sacrifice and friendships that help many of the woman get through their imprisonment at Auschwitz. Although way to many died, still more than average lived, the care these woman took of each other was awe inspiring. This book deserves to be widely read and these women deserve to be remembered.more
I found this book a mixed bag. While I wanted to like the story of the women and their work as resistance patriots for France, I was torn because of their motivation of Communism. I'm not a follower and don't subscribe to the articles or beliefs of communism and it sqelched the story for me, personally. In additon, I found the story somewhat bogged down in minute and repetitve detail. It did not flow to the point of making it a "readable" story. I found it more a text book type book.All in all, I can't recommend it to anyone except those who enjoy a historical perspective of the French Resistance from a communist perspective.more
Read all 12 reviews

Reviews

Obviously, I don't read too much nonfiction these days, still not recovered from the glut of required readings for my history major and also unable to resist the page-turning allure of fiction. Still, there are a few subjects that can tempt me into some scholarly reading, one of which is World War II. For whatever reason, I have always been drawn to everything about both WWI and WWII. As such, when I had the opportunity to review this, I jumped at it.

Very few history books read as smoothly as fiction, or as quickly. Moorehead's reads like history, and not like a story, but her prose is still beautiful and much less dry than most of the history texts I've encountered. Her phrasing also reads as delightfully un-American, very suited to the French women she's describing. I intended to just sit down and read this the way I do my fiction books, but ended up reading it in fits and starts, because it just went down better in small gulps, giving me time to mull things over, rather than frustrate myself by trying to read speedily.

Although the focus of this on the surface is a train, the train that took 230 female members of the resistance in France to Auschwitz, about half of the book focuses on how they got caught. Moorehead met with many of the still-living survivors as part of her research, and she obviously knew more about these women and the ones they were close to then some of the others. She doesn't tell the stories of all 230, of course, but she gives a nice picture of life in Occupied France, and the various roles women played in the resistance. This was an area I knew little of, so I was thrilled to expand my knowledge.

Sent to the Auschwitz, these women endure all the hardships there, most of which are probably quite familiar, as the horror of the Holocaust is already well-known. Moorehead's central thesis is that the reason so many of them (49/230) managed to survive was because of the kinship between these women. The friendships they developed and the way they supported one another in the camp greatly heightened their odds of survival.

These French women did their best to keep their minds active, reciting snippets of remembered poems and holding classes. They shared their food voluntarily, giving the largest portions to those most in need. At the freezing roll calls, they propped up those who could not stand. They secreted women who would otherwise be taken to the gas chambers away. They made each other Christmas presents from odds and ends they managed to steal. In short, the camps were still hell, but they were just slightly better with friends, serving as evidence that not all humankind is so evil and incapable of feeling.

One of my favorite things about A Train in Winter, I must admit at the risk of sounding childish, were the pictures. Okay, okay, hear me out. Many history texts include photos of the important figures, but they're often sectioned off into the middle so the photos can be glossy, which is nice, except that, by the time you get to that section you don't remember who most of them are. Moorehead located many pictures of the women, including ones taken in some of the camps. Seeing the change in the women once incarcerated is astonishing. Even more horrifying is the picture of some of the Auschwitz guards, presumably on some holiday, smiling and looking like any young, healthy folks out for a good time in the 40s, not like abusive killers.

Moorhead touches on so much, and I find reviewing history books a bit difficult. I thought her book quite well done, and would recommend it to those interested in studying the Holocaust or the French Resistance, whether for fun or for school.more
Wow, an extraordinary story indeed! During the German occupation of France, the French police rounded up women from all over the country who were believed to be involved with the Resistance. The women included a dentist, a midwife, chemists, office workers, innkeepers, cafe owners, farm wives, school girls, and an opera singer. They were interred together in the fort at Romainville, where they grew to know and protect one another. In January 1943, these 240 women were sent together on a train to Auschwitz/Birkenau, where their friendship and solidarity helped them survive. All but one were later transferred to Ravensbruck. An amazing 49 were liberated and lived to return home. The book begins with a look at how French resistance to the German occupation began and how women were involved from the very beginning. Because of their work in offices, many women were able to write, print, and distribute anti-Nazi leaflets. French women were able to hide resisters in their cafes, inns, and homes, as well as escort them across the demarcation line. Chemists made materials for bombs, others were able to make or procure medicines. Some even transported arms and participated in sabotage. And neither the French police nor the Gestapo suspected women of taking these sorts of risks, so for a while they operated in the open without being suspected. But a meticulous and patient French policeman named Fernand David began a system of surveillance in the Paris region where every suspected member of the resistance, especially communists, were followed and notes were taken on their appearance, movements, and those of everyone with whom they spoke. Although it was a slow process, the day came when he had dossiers on everyone as well as their relationships. It began with the Phase Pican, in which 19 people were arrested, nine of them women. Later sweeps would bring in a hundred suspects at a time, all linked through networks. Whereas the men were tortured, executed, or held as hostages to be executed in retaliation for a German death (at rates as high as 100 Frenchmen for one German), the women were not, as a rule. tortured or executed, but imprisoned at Romainville.It is while imprisoned that most of the women met for the first time, although a few already knew each other through their networks. Here they bonded and began to think of group survival as more important than individual survival. It was this group unity and friendship that sustained them in the camps. Their experiences were horrible, and few survived, but more would have died if it weren't for their group mentality. When the survivors returned, they spoke of missing the camaraderie that had sustained them for so long. Especially since the French population was not keen to listen to their stories. Most French, encouraged by De Gaulle, were ready to move on, rebuild, and to think of the French Resistance as a national movement that was heroic and liberated a proud country. These sad, sick, and bedraggled women were not what the country wanted for symbols of the Resistance, and the women's attempts to confront their betrayers, the collaborators, and those who joined the Resistance in the final hour, were thwarted. No one wanted to dwell on the collaboration, they wanted to look to the future, something many of the survivors found depressingly hard to do.In addition to extensive research, the author interviewed six of the survivors and spoke with the families of many more, often being allowed to read diaries, letters, and see photographs. She tracked down the names, fates, and characteristics of all but a couple of the women. Although the book focuses more heavily on a few women, it is a collective narrative. I learned a great deal about the beginnings of the Resistance and the role women played. I was stunned by many of the things I learned in the book. But a couple of things stand out. First, the role French policeman played in the capture, torture, and execution of their own countrymen. I hadn't realized how large a role they played in collaboration with the Gestapo and other Nazi organizations. Second, I had been ignorant of this unique group of 230 women, the only ones to be deported to the camps from France. Finally, it's astonishing how the ties of friendship between these women allowed them to fight and survive at higher rates longer than other demographics in the camps. This camaraderie assisted by the strong ideology of the communists in the group is unique among my reading, at least, and is astonishingly inspiring.I highly recommend this book.more
Incredible book - devastating and inspiring all at the same time. I wept at the horrors these women went through and wept for their strength and camaraderie in the face of evil.more
The writing, I'm afraid, is costing this a star: it was very hard to keep track of the cast of dozens, it's frequently unclear which of the several "Charlotte's" or "Germaine's" is being referred to. At one point, she interrupted the narration of 1944 to go back to 1943, but it wasn't clear why, and it wasn't clear when she was going back to 1944. So it did feel like a bit of a confused mess.But the story is compelling. And I appreciated Moorehead's decision to spend so much time on the re-integration period: so many stories of WWII leave off at liberation, as if being free suddenly made everything all right. Overall, I would still recommend it.Beyond that, I only just finished reading it, and I suspect it will be awhile before of the thoughts it provoked have settled.more
Having just put down this book it's difficult for me to marshal my thoughts for a considered review simply because of the impact this harrowing account has had on me emotionally and psychologically. It has left me weeping for the unimaginable cruelty humans are capable of wreaking on their fellows, and my heart full for the extraordinary sacrifices and selfless kind acts that others have been prepared to make in the face of such barbarity even while victims themselves, imprisoned in a man-made hell.My World War II reading has been patchy, and I'd read nothing in any detail about the occupation of France or the Resistance before opening Caroline Moorhead's book. I was astonished, in the first section, to learn of the degree of collaboration the Germans had from the French, especially the police and the petty authorities, not only in Vichy but across the country. Was it fear, or is evil so easily transferable, people so culpable and corruptible? Surely not just fear judging by the relish for violence and denunciation that comes through these early chapters.And yet what risks the resisters were prepared to take in their struggle against the Nazis. Moorhead acknowledges that most of the women who became involved - whether as disseminators of resistance literature, 'passeurs' for the escapees, hiders of weapons or even directly as sabouteurs and guerrillas - were terrified; but they carried on through all their fears without reward. The majority were part of a family of resisters and many saw husbands, fathers, brothers deported or shot for their own acts of defiance, but they carried on regardless, even redoubling their own efforts as if to make up the loss. Inevitably they were caught themselves, or denounced by neighbours, and bundled onto the transports heading east to the concentration camps along with Jews, homosexuals, criminals, and some who had nothing to do with the Resistance at all, but who may have made the mistake of passing an opinion unfavourable to their occupiers, or been maliciously denounced by a jealous neighbour or business competitor.If conditions in occupied France were dreadful, nothing could have prepared them (or us) for what they encountered in the camp at Auschwitz. Moorhead spares no detail in her descriptions of the filth, the crowding, the denial of life's basics, the unrelieved and pointless labour in the bedraggled cold, and above all the unending cruelty, inhuman violence and savage murder that led to a litter of disregarded corpses, the miasma of death and a growing swamp of mass graves. What makes the account heartbreakingly poignant as well as horrifying is that we follow named women among the 200-odd French contingent of 'Le Convoi des 31000' and watch many of them sink and die, others mutilated or brutally murdered, and steadily the band decreases.What saves us from utter despair is exactly what saved some of the women - the individual selfless acts and the support network they provided for each other. Early on the indomitable members of the French group persuaded the others that 'everyone for themselves' could end only in the elimination of all. Instead they looked out for each other, often taking the same risks as they did in France, protecting and hiding the weaker members from the guards and saving them from execution or the gas chamber, sharing food, nursing them through the worst of their illnesses. With this combination of friendship, comfort and help, rather than through luck or miracle, some of the women survived - 42 of the original group.The book has no fairytale ending. Most of the survivors came back to find that husbands and other family members had been shot or perished in their own camp travails. Many of the women had illnesses that dogged them for the rest of their lives, and several died early. Only seven were still alive when work started on the book in 2008, and only four on its completion. Some were given credit and honours by the post-war French government, but there was surprising indifference to their stories for the most part, and a general unwillingness to dwell on this dark chapter of human history. The majority of the women, who had lived only for the dream of returning home, reported a flatness and a continuing unhappiness after they did. An appendix summarises not only what happened to the survivors after the war, but also records as far as possible how each of the women who did not make it met her end. It's a sad, sad catalogue, but a valuable record. Equally important, some of the women have written their own accounts and memoirs of their time in the camps and after. Caroline Moorhead has drawn on these extensively and acknowledges the fact along with a long list of helpers throughout her painstaking research. I have not read the first-hand accounts of the survivors, but I'm sure that this powerful account is faithful to their memories, and stands as a hugely important testament in its own right. The final message I will take from this fine book is an optimistic one - that even in the midst of hideous cruelty there is to be found compassion, kindness and courage.more
A very tough book to read and even begin to try and absorb. I kept expressing my feelings aloud as I read and I had to put the book down every now and then to just stop the flood of pictures the author provided. I was so appreciative of the last chapter---an end that was no end at all, just a continuing background nightmare for anyone who survived. And of course, the horror of the fact that no only did no one really want to listen but that there were sceptics....as in the trial...'how can you look so healthy one year later if what you describe is true?" About midway I almost didn't want to continue reading but I felt that I had to. Man's inhumanity to man.more
A Train in Winter tells the fascinating story of the French resistance during World War II. The author, Caroline Moorland, focuses her book on the women of the French resistance. These women might not wield guns or plant bombs, but they do house refugees in their hotels, print papers in their basements, and hand out flyers in the streets. These women chose to risk their lives rather than run to safety or simply endure. The women are grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and children, and all are drawn into the fight for different reasons. Some women fight for their children’s futures. Others fight for those who are being oppressed. Others still fight because they wish to continue the work of their arrested husbands, brothers, and fathers. A Train in Winter follows these women as they endure arrests at the hands of both the French and Nazis, torture and starvation in the death camps, and watching as all those they hold dear die around them. Reading the introduction and book jacket, I expected something entirely different from A Train in Winter. I expected the author to focus more on the personal experiences of the women in the resistance and less on the overarching, historical events. Unfortunately, there are a minimum of fifty women mentioned in A Train in Winter, making it impossible for the reader to connect with any of the women. I would have much preferred Moorland to focus on several women rather than including everyone. The book would have been much better if she had alternated between chapters with background information and chapters with selections from her interviews. As it was, I couldn’t keep anyone straight and felt no connection to the women or their stories. The book lacked a sense of purpose and strength because of this excess of information. It became merely a dry, history book about an interesting topic, instead of the celebration of women and the friendships that kept them alive.more
A powerful and intense read covering the Nazi takeover of France and the early days of the French Resistance and underground communism movement. Although it is always difficult to read any book covering the Nazi atrocities and this book is no exception, it is also so much more. There is generosity in the face of adversity, self sacrifice and friendships that help many of the woman get through their imprisonment at Auschwitz. Although way to many died, still more than average lived, the care these woman took of each other was awe inspiring. This book deserves to be widely read and these women deserve to be remembered.more
I found this book a mixed bag. While I wanted to like the story of the women and their work as resistance patriots for France, I was torn because of their motivation of Communism. I'm not a follower and don't subscribe to the articles or beliefs of communism and it sqelched the story for me, personally. In additon, I found the story somewhat bogged down in minute and repetitve detail. It did not flow to the point of making it a "readable" story. I found it more a text book type book.All in all, I can't recommend it to anyone except those who enjoy a historical perspective of the French Resistance from a communist perspective.more
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