"Ravensbruck is an elegantly crafted and comprehensive examination of this dark history. Grimly compelling, it is a harrowing but seductive read that draws the reader ever deeper into an alien world of pain and persecution, in which both the victims and the perpetrators are vividly and convincingly portrayed." The Washington Post
"Although this is not an academic work, it is based on thorough and wide-ranging research in archives in twelve countries, on a comprehensive knowledge of the existing literature, and on interviews with survivors. It makes for absorbing, often horrifying, moving, and sometimes, when acts of resistance are described, inspirational reading ... Helm rejects the common view that the inmates all passively accepted their fate." The New York Review of Books
"A sense of urgency infuses this history ... Ravensbruck deserves to be remembered ... [Helm s] book comes not a moment too soon." The Economist
"[A]chieves just the right balance of judgment, fearlessness and restraint." San Francisco Chronicle
"Ravensbruck helps us understand how thoroughgoing an onslaught on humanity Nazi Germany perpetrated, and how central to its identity was its implacable urge to enslave and kill those it considered undesirable ... Ravensbruck gives us an agonizing sense of the dark heart of the Nazi ethos." The New York Times Book Review
"Ravensbruck recounts the stories of dozens of the camp s inmates ... such sights raise the question of why, exactly, we read about the camps. If it is merely to revel in the grotesque, then learning about this evil is itself a species of evil, a further exploitation of the dead. If it is to exercise sympathy or pay a debt to memory, then it quickly becomes clear that the exercise is hopeless, the debt overwhelming: there is no way to feel as much, remember as much, imagine as much as the dead justly demand. What remains as a justification is the future: the determination never again to allow something like the Nazi camps to exist." The New Yorker
"[A] remarkable and riveting account ... Ravensbruck, Helm concludes, 'should have shaken the conscience of the world.' She has done a signal service in giving the camp its rightful name and place in history.'" Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[A] groundbreaking, detailed biography ... captivating ... There s much to absorb here, from talks of inhumanely cruel punishment to examples of camaraderie, resilience and courage." The Jewish Week
"This book deserves significant attention, both for Helm's notable interviews of aging witnesses and as a beautifully written history of events that offers additional insight into Nazism and those caught in its path." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Helm delivers a detailed analysis of the institution s history, the geographic and administrative origins of its staff, and profiles of many of the camp s prisoners. The book is particularly strong in providing descriptions of the texture of daily camp life; indeed, the reader can almost feel inmates backbreaking labor as well as the casual sadism of the guards and medical staff ... Her work, which is based on extensive archival research and oral histories, will likely become the standard account." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"This untold story of the concentration camp Hitler built for female prisoners illuminates the attempted escapes, executions, and impossible courage of women history conspired to forget." O, The Oprah Magazine
"Compelling... powerful... devastating ...shocking ...What one is left with at the end of this momentous book is a sense of the power of human nature, both for good and for evil." The Independent [UK]
"[A]n epic feat of scholarly investigation ... Considering the herculean nature of her research Helm is admirably self-effacing. Never do her investigations eclipse the vivid personalities of the camp inmates themselves. This is a very disturbing book; but it is also inspiring. The survival of moral values, of courage and generosity in such circumstances, gives much hope for the human species." The Spectator [UK]
"[A] profoundly moving chronicle... As you read this 768-page book, it never feels too long. You will the women of Ravensbruck to live." The Observer [UK]
"There is much here that is new, and not the least of the book's strengths is the way that [Helm] gives a voice and an identity to a vast number of forgotten women ... [A] work of impressive scholarship." Caroline Moorehead, Literary Review [UK]
"[Helm] makes unimaginable suffering seem almost graspable through hundreds ofintimate stories." The Guardian [UK]
"Using material once locked behind the Iron Curtain, Sarah Helm has performed a tremendous feat of historical rescue. This book at last gives full voice to the women of Ravensbruck, the only Nazi concentration camp for women, for the very first time." Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"Ravensbruck is an important cautionary tale of what happens when ideological extremists gain total control over others they disagree with a situation that exists all over the world today. The variety of prisoners who were held at Ravensbruck will be a revelation to most readers, and Helm describes an amazing social structure that, despite all, arose in that encapsulated place, run for and mostly by women. The courage of the prisoners in the face of overwhelming cruelty was extraordinary." Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
"A masterpiece." Sydney Morning Herald
"Just when you thought you knew all about the Holocaust camps, Helm chronicles the history of this much-ignored site for women ... Helm delivers a gripping story of the women who outlasted them and had the strength to share with the author and us 60 years later." Kirkus Reviews
"[A]n important and noble chronicle of lasting value. It will make you cry." Winnipeg Free Press
"Helm has done an amazing job with an enormous and enormously painful topic. Ravensbruck is beautifully written, its prose smoothly transparent. This allows readers to grapple directly with an often ugly subject ... Ravensbruck is a book everyone should read." PopMatters"
A masterly and moving account of the most horrific hidden atrocity of World War II: Ravensbruck, the only Nazi concentration camp built for women
Ona sunny morning in May 1939 a phalanx of 867 women housewives, doctors, opera singers, politicians, prostitutes was marched through the woods fifty miles north of Berlin, driven on past a shining lake, then herded in through giant gates. Whipping and kicking them were scores of German women guards.
Their destination was Ravensbruck, a concentration camp designed specifically for women by Heinrich Himmler, prime architect of the Holocaust. By the end of the war 130,000 women from more than twenty different European countries had been imprisoned there; among the prominent names were Genevieve de Gaulle, General de Gaulle s niece, and Gemma La Guardia Gluck, sister of the wartime mayor of New York.
Only a small number of these women were Jewish;Ravensbruck was largely a place for the Nazis to eliminate other inferior beings social outcasts, Gypsies, political enemies, foreign resisters, the sick, the disabled, and the mad. Over six years the prisoners endured beatings, torture, slave labor, starvation, and random execution. In the final months of the war, Ravensbruck became an extermination camp. Estimates of the final death toll by April 1945 have ranged from 30,000 to 90,000.
For decades the story of Ravensbruck was hidden behind the Iron Curtain, and today it is still little known. Using testimony unearthed since the end of the Cold War and interviews with survivors who have never talked before, Sarah Helm has ventured into the heart of the camp, demonstrating for the reader in riveting detail how easily and quickly the unthinkable horror evolved.
Far more than a catalog of atrocities, however, Ravensbruckis also a compelling account of what one survivor called the heroism, superhuman tenacity, and exceptional willpower to survive. For every prisoner whose strength failed, another found the will to resist through acts of self-sacrifice and friendship, as well as sabotage, protest, and escape.
While the core of this book is told from inside the camp, the story also sheds new light on the evolution of the wider genocide, the impotence of the world to respond, and Himmler sfinal attempt to seek a separate peace with the Allies using the women of Ravensbruck as a bargaining chip. Chilling, inspiring, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbruck is a groundbreaking workof historical investigation. With rare clarity, it reminds us of the capacity of humankind both for bestial cruelty and for courage against all odds."
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