Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko
Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.
After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.
Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.
Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.
While this story breaks a lot of the rules of what a successful book must have, it truly is an incredible story based on truth, to give us insight into the experiences of people inside the camps. It is successful in its own right because of that!
I found it especially heart-wrenching as you see so clearly that the guards, doctors and others didn’t really believe they were doing anything wrong. In fact, they believed they were doing right. It reminded me of many of things I see in our society today, where people defend treating others with inhumane treatment simply because others agree with it.
While not really a book to read for a happily ever after story, it shows the bravery of those that went before us and teaches such valuable lessons. I would say even if you are one that likes to pretend bad things do not happen, this is such a valuable piece of history, while being an easier read than some placed in this time period, I would recommend it.