Summary of the book from Goodreads:
In 1943 Germany, Helene is just about to wake up her children to go to school when a group of policemen break into her house. The policemen want to haul away her gypsy husband and their five children. The police tell Helene that as a German she does not have to go with them, but she decides to share the fate of her family. After convincing her children that they are going off to a vacation place, so as to calm them, the entire family is deported to Auschwitz.
For being German, they are settled in the first barracks of the Gypsy Camp. The living conditions are extremely harsh, but at least she is with her five children. A few days after their arrival, Doctor Mengele comes to pay her a visit, having noticed on her entry card that she is a nurse. He proposes that she direct the camp’s nursery. The facilities would be set up in Barrack 29 and Barrack 31, one of which would be the nursery for newborn infants and the other for children over six years old.
Helene, with the help of two Polish Jewish prisoners and four gypsy mothers, organizes the buildings. Though Mengele provides them with swings, Disney movies, school supplies, and food, the people are living in crowded conditions under extreme conditions. And less than 400 yards away, two gas chambers are exterminating thousands of people daily.
For sixteen months, Helene lives with this reality, desperately trying to find a way to save her children. Auschwitz Lullaby is a story of perseverance, of hope, and of strength in one of the most horrific times in history.
My personal review:
The historical fiction novel based on true events is a stark picture of the deception and ulterior motives of a horrific regime. I was engaged emotionally from beginning to end. Though I could never imagine the absolute depravity, severity of extreme suffering, abuse, loss, and death — physically, mentally, and spiritually. I felt the sheer will of the human spirit, the perseverance of the mind, and the slow fade of the soul in the face of hope, false hope, diminished hope, and hopelessness.
Some quotes that I took in were:
p. 183 “Sometimes we have to lose everything to find what is most important. When life robs us of what we thought we could not live without and leaves us standing naked before reality, the essential things that had always been invisible take on their true value.”
p. 233 “Sometimes the things we lack or the obstacles we face become allies that help us endure.”
p. 242 “I had not given up; I was ready to fight to the last breath. It seemed to me that defending our lives was the last act of freedom that remained, yet death seemed so safe and secure that I was not opposed to the idea.”
p. 260 “With its voracious appetite, time always devours the memories and faces of those we love. Memory fights to hold on to them through the strength of tears and the painful sigh of love.”