In March 1942, at the age of 25, kindergarten teacher Magda Hellinger was deported from her hometown in Slovakia along with 998 other young women. The SS soon discovered that by putting prisoners in day-to-day charge of the accommodation blocks and even the camps at large, they could both reduce the number of guards required to use these 'leaders' to deflect attention away from themselves. Magda was one such Jewish prisoner selected for leadership.
... a compelling and seamless portrait of a young woman who managed to survive and save others through cunning bravery and compassionate leadership ... offers dreadful insights into the workings of Auschwitz-Birkenau, but at its heart, it remains an extraordinary portrait of one young woman who fought for others in the midst of unimaginable horror.
Magda’s unusual perspective is fascinating not only for its insight about how the SS ran the camps, but in how she occasionally glimpsed the unofficial side of monstrous Germans ... Readers of this compelling memoir will join those who marvel at the scope of Magda Hellinger’s bravery.
... heartbreakingly sad but also somehow hopeful ... Hellinger has written an important perspective of the Holocaust, of a kind that we rarely see. A standout memoir that will draw the interest of readers of World War II history and women’s memoirs or biographies.