A tragic love story set in Auschwitz between an SS officer and a Jewish woman he saved from the gas chambers. Based on a true story, Franz and Helena fall in love under the most unlikely circumstances, both risking death for this illicit love…
The Girl in the Striped Dress is the third book I have read from accomplished author Ellie Midwood. She manages to bring the horror and brutality of Auschwitz to life but never loses the human element to the stories she shares.
In this book the research is once again impeccable as the author tells a love story fraught with risks. In 1947 Franz Dahler faces a Denazification Trial and the key witness for his defence in his wife Helena. She was a Jewish inmate in Auschwitz but has she been coerced into marrying and supporting him?
Three perspectives are used to convey the plot: Helena and Franz in the first person during their time in the camp, and the third person at the trial with a focus on the psychiatrist. Through Helena’s eyes, we see her struggle with her emotions as she struggles to survive both physically and mentally with her circumstances. We do not see Franz’s viewpoint until the final part of the book and it shows how he was affected by the things he saw in the camp.
This book pulls no punches. The brutality and barbaric behaviour is descibed in detail and I had to put the book down several times to step away from the atrocities described within the pages. The characters are oh so human and this makes their choices more heart wrenching. I am haunted by the fact that Helena’s sister was saved at her request but her nephews went to their deaths alone.
The Girl in the Striped Dress is wonderfully terrible. The human tragedy is never shied away from and the book is both beautiful and terrifying. I have previously reviewed The Violinist of Auschwitz and The Girl Who Escaped From Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood.
Book: The Girl in the Striped Dress
Author: Ellie Midwood
Pub Day: August 9th 2021
About the Book:
Auschwitz, 1942: This unforgettable novel, based on a true story, brings to life history’s most powerful tale of forbidden love. Set within the barbed wire of Auschwitz, a man and a woman fall in love against unimaginable odds. What happens next will restore your faith in humanity, and make you believe in hope even where hope should not exist.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” he whispered, pressing a note into her hand. Her entire body trembled when she read it: I am in love with you.
Helena steps off the cattle train onto the frozen grounds of Auschwitz. She has twenty-four hours to live. Scheduled to be killed tomorrow, she is not even tattooed with a prison number. As the snow falls around her, she shivers, knowing that she has been sentenced to death for a crime she didn’t commit.
When a gray-clad officer marches towards Helena and pulls her away, she fears the worst. Instead, he tells her that it’s one of the guard’s birthdays and orders her to serenade him.
Inside the SS barracks the air is warm, thick with cigarette smoke and boisterous conversation. After she sings to the guard, Franz, he presses a piece of cake into her hands––the first thing she has eaten in days. On the spot, he orders her life to be saved, forever changing the course of her fate.
What follows is a love story that was forbidden, that should have been impossible, and yet saved both of their lives––and hundreds of others––in more ways than one.
Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Choice, and The Orphan Train will be utterly entranced by this unputdownable page-turner. This completely heartbreaking yet beautifully hopeful novel shows that love can survive anything and grow anywhere.
*Previously titled: Auschwitz Syndrome
Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, The Girl from Berlin.’ Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.
In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.