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Helene Hannemann is an Aryan, German woman who is deeply in love with her husband of 20 years, Johann, a concert musician. They have five children. One day in 1943, Helene is getting ready to take the kids to school and go to work (she is a nurse), when the Gestapo come with an order to take her five children and her husband. Why? Her husband is a gypsy, and therefore, so are her children. The Nazis tell Helene not to go, but she refuses to leave her family. So begins Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar.
About Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar
Immediately upon reaching Auschwitz (actually Birkenau), the Nazis separate Johann from his wife and children. In her assigned barrack, Helene fights to keep her possessions and find room for her children to sleep. She learns there is a hospital in the camp, and she volunteers to work there, thinking that if she’s useful, she can do more to keep her family from the crematorium.
She begins working with the Angel of Death, Dr. Mengele. However, she’s not in the hospital long when Mengele, impressed by her German qualities, assigns her to open and run a school in Auschwitz. That’s right. She orders many supplies, and Mengele gets all of them for her.
Helene runs the school for over a year. At the school, children are given much better food than the usual concentration camp rations, and they also have a place to occupy their time. In return, Helene and her children get to sleep in the school barracks, which are much warmer than the rest of the camp.
If you’d like to read more book about the Jewish experience in WWII, I highly recommend:
A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal
The Moon Was My Witness by Abraham Levy
My Thoughts on Auschwitz Lullaby
I was surprised to find that this story was based on a true story. I didn’t know (or didn’t remember) that they had a nursery school in Auschwitz. However, I did already know about Dr. Mengele’s horrible twin experiments, which this book touches on.
(If you’d like to learn more about the horrible things Mengele did, I recommend Children of the Flames. I read this book 25 years ago, and I still remember how horrifying the things he did were.)
This book led me down a rabbit hole to learn what happened to Mengele and whether or not he served any time for his crimes.
I enjoyed the haunting quality of this story and highly recommend it.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.