Caroline Moorehead: Resistance and Survival at Auschwitz

Caroline Moorehead's book, "A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship and Resistance in Occupied France," is out this month.

On Jan. 24, 1943, 230 French women who had been arrested for resistance activities were put on a train at Compiegne, outside Paris, and sent to Auschwitz. The youngest had just celebrated her 17th birthday; the oldest was 67. They were teachers and seamstresses, students and farmers' wives; there was a doctor, a dentist and several editors and chemists. They were to be a lesson to other would-be troublemakers.

The women were not Jewish, so they were not sent immediately to be gassed. However, they were subjected to interminable roll calls in arctic conditions, crushingly tough physical labor and the random, ceaseless brutality of the SS guards. Typhus was rife in the camp. There was very little to eat and almost no water to drink. Minor transgressions were punished with excessive savagery.

Even so, 49 of these women lived to return to France in the late spring of 1945. It was an exceptionally high proportion: More than 1 in 5 made it through the war in a camp in which death was virtually inevitable....

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