Author: Mario Escobar
Genre: Historical Fiction
Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.
After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.
Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.
Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.
Reviewer: Laura J. Davis
Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar is a moving account of a German woman imprisoned in the notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp during WWII. I found it hard to put down.
Helene Hannemann is a German woman with five children who married a Gypsy. One day the SS shows up at her door to imprison her husband and children. They insist she is not being arrested (because she is pure German) and are stunned that she chooses to go with her family. But what woman wouldn't sacrifice anything for her children?
While at Auschwitz Helene meets the notorious Dr. Mengele and because she is a nurse he recruits her to establish a nursery and school for the many children in the camp. After suffering from hunger and cold for many weeks, things begin to improve for Helene because of her relationship with Dr. Mengele. But she soon learns of his experiments on twins, and she begins to fear he will soon require her twins for his experiments.
While written as a novel the life and story of Helene Hannemann and her five children are real. It is an incredibly brutal retelling of what took place within the camps. The author has done his research, and it feels as if he had spent time in the camps as it is so detailed and I assume accurate, right down to the smells.
While the book is titled Auschwitz Lullaby, the lullaby itself is not written in English and is only mentioned once. I'm sure it held some significance to the rest of the story, but it was lost to me because it was not translated.
And finally, while this is a superb retelling of the horrors of Auschwitz, it is by no means a Christian book. God is not credited with Helene's sacrifice for her children. God is not credited as her strength and hope throughout her ordeal. In fact, God is barely mentioned. This does not take away from the book by any means, but why it is listed as Christian is beyond me.
That said, it was still an excellent book and one worth reading.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.