Auschwitz, 1942: This unforgettable novel, based on a true story, brings to life history’s most powerful tale of forbidden love. Set within the barbed wire of Auschwitz, a man and a woman fall in love against unimaginable odds. What happens next will restore your faith in humanity, and make you believe in hope even where hope should not exist.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” he whispered, pressing a note into her hand. Her entire body trembled when she read it: I am in love with you.
Helena steps off the cattle train onto the frozen grounds of Auschwitz. She has twenty-four hours to live. Scheduled to be killed tomorrow, she is not even tattooed with a prison number. As the snow falls around her, she shivers, knowing that she has been sentenced to death for a crime she didn’t commit.
When a gray-clad officer marches towards Helena and pulls her away, she fears the worst. Instead, he tells her that it’s one of the guard’s birthdays and orders her to serenade him.
Inside the SS barracks the air is warm, thick with cigarette smoke and boisterous conversation. After she sings to the guard, Franz, he presses a piece of cake into her hands––the first thing she has eaten in days. On the spot, he orders her life to be saved, forever changing the course of her fate.
What follows is a love story that was forbidden, that should have been impossible, and yet saved both of their lives––and hundreds of others––in more ways than one.
Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Choice, and The Orphan Train will be utterly entranced by this unputdownable page-turner. This completely heartbreaking yet beautifully hopeful novel shows that love can survive anything and grow anywhere.
*Previously titled: Auschwitz Syndrome
Readers of stories taking place during this time period have most likely experienced the gut-wrenching emotions that accompany each character’s story. To write books on this time period require extensive research to stay true to the events, horrid conditions, dispicable treatment, and the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Ellie Midwood clearly has a passion and a personal connection to this story.
Readers will be entranced, gutted, infuriated, and shocked throughout this story. For me, after reading the opening chapters and learning about the hearing taking place that would decide Franz’s fate…guilty or innocent of crimes against humanity, I already deemed him guilty. What else is there to know? He wore the SS uniform. He took orders to beat and torture people solely because they were Jewish. He witnessed horrendous crimes of torture being committed to other human beings and turned his cheek. I never in a million years thought that reading the story from alternating POV’s (Helena and Franz) would allow my mind to think anything differently. After Franz declared his love for Helena…everything changed.
“How dare he? In this cemetery where we dug our own graves daily, to give it to a Jew he’d watch go up in smoke one day? He was in charge of the work detail that sorted dead people’s belongings daily. How dare he even utter the word love in this place? How dare he imply that he could feel anything?”Chapter 3. Helena
Dr. Hoffman was the psychiatrist responsible for hearing all sides, including the POV of another prisoner who adamantly fought to present Franz as a cold blooded murderer. As each character’s story unfolded, Dr. Hoffman became increasingly confused, as did I. Is Franz a manipulative Nazi or a rehabilitated person?
“All I’m asking is for you to start listening to that heart of yours and not that garbage that your superiors are putting into your head. When you feel inwardly that something is wrong, it’s wrong. That’s your moral compass guiding you. Do what feels right.”Chapter 21. Helena
Is Helena suffering from survivor’s guilt? Has she been brainwashed into believing Franz’s proclamation of love for her? How can they possibly be happily married? Ellie Midwood invites readers to think, question, and ponder what truth lies within their stories.
Dahler’s motive was only too clear. What would look better on his new resume than marriage to a former concentration camp inmate?Chapter 22. Dr. Hoffman
What drives a person to put on an SS uniform yet claim to “only be following orders”? Does this excuse the silence?
“It was the hardest for us, who grew up in a world that only had one master race; which drummed it into our heads since school how our lives belonged to the Führer and the Fatherland;…”Chapter 30. Franz
What, if anything, can Franz do going forward that would tell the world he has learned to be more than an SS soldier?
“None of us should ever be silent in the face of injustice. The victims need people to talk for them, otherwise, it’s much too easy to pretend that they never existed.”Chapter 32.
In Germany, 1947, the war might have been declared over, the crematoriums destroyed, and prisoners set free but the world will never be the same.
“The hatred, the racism, the xenophobia didn’t miraculously disappear with Hitler”.Chapter 32.
Do you think it is possible for a Jewish prisoner to fall in love with a Nazi SS soldier? I encourage you to read Helena’s story and decide for yourself.
**Also a side note (and this doesn’t change my rating of the book), I really like the previous title “Auschwitz Syndrome”.**
This story is an absolute must read! 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, The Girl from Berlin.’ Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.
In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.