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Lilac Girls

A compelling narrative of a twentieth century American hero who uses her resources to assist Polish women maimed during WWII.


SUMMARY The lives of three women from three different countries are explored during WWII and its aftermath. Carolyn Ferriday, 37, is a New York socialite volunteering at the French Consulate in Manhattan. She is overwhelmed with visa requests and other requests for assistance as Hitler invades Poland in 1939, and set his sights on France. In Poland, Kasia Kuzmerick, 17, a former girl guide grows up fast when after the Poland invasion, she begins couriering for the resistance movement in Lublin. Before long, she is arrested along with her mother and sister, and sent to Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp for women. In Germany, Herta Oberheuser recently graduated from medical school finds it impossible as a woman, to find a position in the medical field. When she accepts a government position she finds herself trapped in a nightmare, at Ravensbruck, to which she must quickly adapt. She overcomes her scruples with the opportunity to operate on the inmates for the good of the Reich, and further her ambitious career.

REVIEW This compelling page-turning story is based on the very real efforts of Carolyn Ferriday who championed the Ravensbruck survivors, known as “The Rabbits”. The Rabbits were the women survivors, who like the fictional character of Kasia were subject to medical surgical experimentation at the hands of Herta Oberheuser. LILAC GIRLS is a story of survival, perseverance, and compassion.

Ferriday a former Broadway actress worked tirelessly after the war to raise money for these women. She brought many of them to America, in order to provide them with the best medical treatment and care available at time. She further campaigned for financial compensation from Germany for these women, and for the revocation of Oberheuser’s medical license. Ferriday was a 20th century heroine.

The three women’s stories are told in a parallel with an immense level of detail. Research gathered over a ten year period is the hallmark of MARTHA HALL KELLY’s debut novel. She began by studying Ferriday’s archives located in France, New York and Washington D.C. She traveled to Germany and Poland, talked to survivors and historians and followed the same train route that the Polish women would have taken to Ravensbruck. In order to capture the essence of Oberheuser, she studied the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials. The Ravensbruck scenes were intense and at times difficult to read, but a very necessary part of the book. Overall, the book was enlightening and I found Ferriday’s efforts especially compassionate and heroic. This book showcases a bluestocking American woman who stood in the breech and made a tremendous difference in the lives of some of the Ravensbruck survivors. Ferriday is role model for us all.

I listened to the audio version of this book with a different narrator for each of the women’s stories. The narrators did a fabulous job and made the book all the more gripping and intense. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, Kathrin Kana Book Published April 5, 2016.

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