Book Review | Riveting, extremely moving

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The Nine: How a Band of Daring Resistance Women Escaped from Nazi Germany.
The Nine: How a Band of Daring Resistance Women Escaped from Nazi Germany.

BOOK TITLE: The Nine: How a Band of Daring Resistance Women Escaped from Nazi Germany

AUTHOR: Gwen Strauss

PUBLISHER: Manilla Press

REVIEWER: Anthony Stidolph



This book tells the incredible true story of nine women resistance fighters during World War 2 who find themselves imprisoned in a country that has itself become a criminal conspiracy.

Having been captured while fighting against their German occupiers, they were interrogated, tortured and sent east into greater Germany to a concentration camp at Leipzig where their lives were made a living hell.

What comes over, with striking force, on reading about their experiences here, is, once again, the sheer barbarity and depravity of the SS and the Gestapo, as well as a Nazi government that saw fit to licence mass slaughter as a political process.

Not all the German soldiers were complicit in this almost unimaginable cruelty. In the Leipzig camp, for example, there was one kindly older guard who, realising the game was up, smuggled in a pair of wire-cutters for the prisoners.

"Gwen Strauss, the author, is the great-niece of Helene and in this riveting, impeccably researched and extremely moving story of hope and courage in the face of seemingly impossible odds, she tells the harrowing tale of their capture, imprisonment and subsequent flight to freedom."
Anthony Stidolph

They never got to use it.

With the allies closing in on all sides, the women, already badly malnourished, were forced out onto the open road.

The German plan seems to have been to march them to their deaths since there was no longer any food at Leipzig and they had no gas chambers or efficient ways to execute them en-masse. Many were indeed slaughtered by machine guns along the way.

Determined that this would not be their fate, the nine women, by now close friends, made plans to escape. Led by the indomitable, well-educated Helene, they finally seized their chance.

Gwen Strauss, the author, is the great-niece of Helene and in this riveting, impeccably researched and extremely moving story of hope and courage in the face of seemingly impossible odds, she tells the harrowing tale of their capture, imprisonment and subsequent flight to freedom.

Nor did problems end when they finally got back to their homes. At the time, the population was urged to put the war behind them as quickly as possible and get on with their lives.

This was easier said than done.

Damaged and changed forever by their traumatising experiences in the German camps, they suffered from depression, shame, rage, helplessness and guilt, and found it hard to settle back into a peacetime existence they hardly recognised at all.

Written from the viewpoints of each of the women involved, The Nine is always absorbing, frequently horrifying but with odd unexpected moments of humour to lighten the load.

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