A Train In Winter
By Caroline Moorehead
Complimentary copy given by TLC Book Tour.
A Train in Winter is a hard to read because of the content. But, it is a important part of history that should not be forgotten. The books that are written usually has the Jewish perspective. This time it from a objective point, from a non- Jewish journalist. It is a important part of history, about the French Resistance that no one knows much about. It takes place during after the war. Most of the Resistant fighters, were women. Yes, yes!, you heard right women.
I was happy to read this. Because as a Jew, I thought no one was helping us. But, in reality there were people that were helping to end the war and the atrocities of Hitler. We just did not know many of them. I am not talking about a few, but thousands all over Europe in particular France.
These people were ordinary people, doctors, writers, singers, dental surgeon, teachers, students, mothers, grandmothers, parents, ordinary people with ordinary lives. The French did not like what was happening in Spain, or Italy.
The Gestopo, was watching one man, head of the French Resistance, he was a teacher. By the name of Andre' Pican. He was the head of the Front National of the Resistance in the Seine-Inf'erieure. He was thought to lead them to other Resistance Fighter.
March 1941, there was a round up, by the French Police. 113 people, were detained, 35 of them women, the youngest a 16 year old, and the oldest a 44 year old farmer's wife. The French police confiscated notebooks, flyers, addresses, false ID's, explosives, revolvers, tracts expertly forged ration books, and birth certificates, typewriters, and much, much more.
By 1943, they were taken with the rest of the French Resistance of a total of 230. as political prisoners to Aushwitz, and some of them sent to Birkenau~ the death camps. There were only 49 left of the French Resistance after the war and able to return to France.
The story was about the resilience of these women, their friendship, looking after each other, and share the mutual danger they were able to fight to stay alive. Some of them claim it was just luck that saved them.
Because of the spread of communism in Europe, this spread the resistance fighters all over Europe, and in France in particular. French citizens wanted to see communism in France because of the politics, and civil war in Spain.
In Vichy, and Paris, and all over France communism was spreading all over Europe, this helped spread the French Resistance It also was happening all over Europe(in Italy, and Poland, etc). The women were more involved then the men. The men were off in the war, and the women left to their own devises at the home front.
Women had safe houses to protect Jews, grenades for blowing up trains,they spread flyers all over France, wrote propaganda to spread the cause, let other countries know what was happening.
The women, were lonely, and had to hide from their families, to protect them. Do you think you would have done this? I don't know what I would have done. They believed in the cause. To save their country. But, what about your children? They felt they were saving their children. But, they sacrificed themselves for the cause.
Why, how, and where and what happened to them, is the first part. This part of the book is about how each of them got into the resistance. Who they were. How the French were treated after the German's invaded France. How these normal people got involved, and why. What happened to them, while they were in the underground, how it affected them, and their families, and children, and loved ones, and the eventual round up.
Part 2, of A Train in Winter takes place on, January 24, 1943. They rounded up the rest of the French Resistance and sent them to Aushwitz. The decision to work, Aushwitz, or death~ Birkenau. 230 Women were taken to the station.
The second part of the book was very tough to read. The conditions of how they found themselves. They had no idea where they were going. They, as you know were treated horribly. What made this book more awful, than others. This is a journalistic record, not one or a few persons experiences, but that of the whole. Which made this more heart wrenching, and horrible.
The clothes, the food, and staying with thousands of concentration camp prisoners were held out side for roll call in the dark of night, how many do you think were out there in the death of winter? 4,000 possibly in roll call. How long do you think it took to call everyone? a hour, try the next morning. Then the medical experiments, that were done to women. What they did to babies, and children, the survival, and not survival of the women, and prisoners of the concentration camps. I am not going to go into the conditions because like myself, I thought I heard it all. But, I hadn't, but I don't want to keep writing about it to sound redundant, and too awful to repeat.
But one thing that kept a few of these women alive was the comradery, friendship, the shared fear, love of their families, France. " Despite their differences of age, background, education, and wealth, were friends. They spent months together in Romainville very close together and it was a train full of friends, who knew each other's strengths and frailties', who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown".
My critique of the book, this for sure did not read like a grip me read. There is intrigue, and conspiracy, it does remind me of spy novels, from WW2.
My biggest gripe was trying to keep the names and places straight. I did have a notebook by my side. But after a while it was too difficult and I gave up. The book is such a broad topic, and not just a few experiences, that is why so many people, places.
I found it interesting for the first time, that a non-Jew wrote this book. Most Jewish historians think they own this time period. I am happy to read from a non-Jews perspective. I did not realize the French Resistance, or the Resistance in general was so vast.
If you are looking to read this in a day or two, I would not pick this up. This is a tough book to read, but important. I usually don't read books about the holocaust anymore, since I read many of them when I was younger. I thought I knew everything. I found part two of Train In Winter, much more engrossing, and engaging then part 1. Not sure why.
This is different, it gives you a wider, and broader topic. I recommend it to anyone that wants to know about the history of WW2, and the time period. To understand what happened in the home front to ordinary citizens, especially women helping the war effort. There were women that wanted, and tried to make a difference, unfortunately most of them did not survive, and they sacrificed their lives.
Here are the other stops that are participating in TLC's Book Tour for Train in Winter.
Tuesday, October 23rd: An Unconventional Librarian
Wednesday, October 24th: Book Him Danno!
Thursday, October 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, October 29th: The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, October 30th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, October 31st: Maple & a Quill
Friday, November 2nd: What She Read … - joint review
Monday, November 5th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, November 6th: Between the Covers
Wednesday, November 7th: The Written World
Thursday, November 8th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Friday, November 9th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
TBD: In the Next Room
I was given a copy by TLC Book Tour, and I would like to thank you. I have been wanting to read this since it was first published.