Did you know that babies were born in Auschwitz? Not many survived, but The Child of Auschwitz, by historical fiction author Lily Graham, tells the story of one, born so small and silent, that there could be a chance.
During the winter of 1942, Eva Adami arrives at Auschwitz, naively volunteering to board the concentration camp bound train in the hopes of reuniting with her husband Michael. With only her friend and bunkmate, Sofie, to lean on, the stark reality of Auschwitz comes raining down on Eva.
With help that eventually comes with cost, Sofie seizes an opportunity to orchestrate a meeting between Eva and Michael. When Eva learns she’s pregnant, though, survival takes on a new meaning. On the night she learns of Michael’s death, Eva goes into labor, giving birth, early, to an impossibly tiny baby. Unable to cry, the child’s silence is the last hope Eva and Sofie may have to survive.
The Child of Auschwitz
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Author: Lily Graham | Publisher: Bookouture
Date: Nov. 2019 | Genre: Historial Fiction
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The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham: Review
Rough hands shave the hair from Eva Adami’s head as she de-boards the train at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The watery soup. A permeating stench of sickness and death. Overcrowded bunks that made Terezín, the Jewish Ghetto outside Prague that she called home for a year, seem luxurious. A week ago, she didn’t believe that camps for extermination even existed.
Though naive with regards to the war, Eva is not weak. Hopeful and determined to survive, to find her husband Michael at Auschwitz.
Love Above All
In a series of flashbacks, readers learn of the innocent and pure love between Eva and Michael. As she pieces together the fabric of their story, Graham reminds us that the root of love is the mundane. Those familial moments at home. Eva’s drawings, Michael’s music, his shoes.
As a parent, I’m reminded that this backstory is how lineage begins. It’s apparent, again, when Eva begins saving photos of families. She finds them tucked away in jacket pockets at the warehouse where she’s assigned to work. Above all else, when Jewish families were ordered to grab a few valuable belongings, the thing held on to the most were photographs. Though saving them can get her killed, she can’t let them go. Or the thought of holding on to the last memory of someone’s child or loved one. As I reader, I can’t either.
By chance, these photographs lead her on a path to Michael. With help from her friend Sofie, who is searching for her own son and cousin after a devastating betrayal, Eva connects with her husband in a peaking moment of hope in the worst place on earth.
The child they conceive in Auschwitz begins to enter the world on the night Eva learns of her husband’s death. Eva and her miraculously tiny, but silent, child are based on the true story of Vera Bein, who gave birth to her child on the top bunk of Camp C at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Too weak and small to cry, the child went undetected.
A Story of Hope and Survival
Eva births her baby with the help of the other weak, but incredibly strong, women around her. Lily Graham drew inspiration from history for them, too. Survivors and the midwives of Auschwitz, who risked their own lives to try to save pregnant mothers and babies born at the concentration camp.
Lily Graham reminds us that for anyone, whether a child or inmate of Auschwitz, survival largely depends on trust. And hope, in a place where those things shouldn’t exist at all.
But is hope enough? Do Eva and Sofie survive? Will they reunite with their children and families?
I appreciated how Graham didn’t end her story with liberation of the camps. Not many historical fiction novels chronicle the aftermath of liberation, and I appreciated how it didn’t make for the typical happy ending.
Graham reminds us that the happiest of happy endings after Auschwitz isn’t truly happy at all, but full of heartbreak and loss. Do those who make it have a home to return to? Are reunions with survivors who didn’t perish even joyful? Liberation certainly was not the end.
Though many historical fiction novels of this period carry the same message, Lily Graham’s is more poignant in The Child of Auschwitz. Her writing is graceful, yet still rough. Isn’t that what survival is? With one final thought, that dawn always breaks, and love always guides us home, The Child of Auschwitz concludes leaving readers in tears of both sadness and hope.
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The Child of Auschwitz is an ideal read for fans of Lily Graham’s other novels – I’ve since started reading The Paris Secret. Add it to your TBR if you enjoy WW2 era historical fiction, stories of women empowerment, or history based family and love stories.
Have you heard of this new release? Read any of Lily Graham’s other books? What WWII era historical fiction titles would you recommend?