Adlington does an excellent job of telling the story of Marta and all the other women whose lives were spared because they had the skills to work in the comparative safety of the Upper Salon. She also provides the greater historical context of how the Nazi government viewed fashion as both a powerful propaganda weapon and an important tool for funding the Holocaust ... This information is helpful in understanding the journeys these designers, seamstresses and cutters took to Auschwitz and the Upper Salon, and overall Adlington weaves historical information into the individual dressmakers’ stories well. But the most powerful lesson from The Dressmakers of Auschwitz is how the bonds of friendship, family and skill allowed these women to survive with humanity while resisting the brutality around them.
Adlington brings new research to many decades of Holocaust studies ... The book gives a solid overall impression of life in Auschwitz-Birkenau (including how hierarchies were formed and how prisoners coped), and relays insights about high-ranking Nazi officers and their families, especially their wives who also benefitted from and profited off the work of the imprisoned seamstresses. Adlington posits the importance of clothing among both guards and inmates, in a rich historical narrative that relies on extensive primary sources and includes archival photographs of some of its subjects ... This book’s staggering accounts of inhumanity can be difficult to read, but the incredible stories of Holocaust survivors and the lives they built during and after the war are worth it.
After all that has been told about the Holocaust, it is both appalling and remarkable that there are newly told stories that can still shock with their cruelty ... The author is a historian with a specialty in fashion, and uses illustrations from magazines of the era to great effectiveness.
Adlington poignantly delineates how closely clothing and dignity were linked, especially in the camps, where the women were denuded and deloused mercilessly. The author also clearly shows the sickening insouciance with which Nazi wives would plunder the camp warehouse, crammed with stolen clothes and possessions from the enslaved workers ... A fresh, moving Auschwitz survival story involving a remarkable group of women.
The clothing workers’ experiences are vividly recreated through the author’s extensive research ... Even those who feel that they’ve read enough survivor accounts will find themselves surprised and affected.