Ilse Stein is a German Jew deported to the Minsk ghetto with her younger sisters. Her father dies on the train journey and her mother is selected for gassing on arrival. Ilse lives in fear for herself and her sisters, death never far away. But a glimmer of hope and love sparks when she meets Luftwaffe officer Willy Schultz and he sees beyond the yellow star…
The Girl Who Survived is an historical novel set in the early 1940s. It is based on a true story which makes the details and descriptions even more poignant.
Ilse is brave and resilient, determined to retain her humanity and save her sisters. The Nazi atrocities are presented quite objectively as Ilse dissociates herself in order to preserve her mental health and inner strength.
Schultz is a more complex character as he is defying the ideology that has dominated his nation for a decade. I initially followed Ilse’s lead by being distrustful and wary of his intentions. However he continues to show kindness and gradually wins her over, facing danger as he defies Nazi policies towards the Jews.
The writing style is engaging and brings the characters to life. They feel realistic and human even in the most inhumane circumstances. The events in the book do not make for easy reading and the sadness within the pages is occasionally overwhelming.
The Girl Who Survived is a fascinating novel about love and hope in the most tragic and dangerous circumstances. I have previously reviewed The Girl in the Striped Dress, The Violinist of Auschwitz and The Girl Who Escaped From Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood.
Book: The Girl Who Survived
Author: Ellie Midwood
Pub Day: Sept 7th 2021
About the Book:
Germany, 1941: “We live together, or we die together.” A novel that will stay with you forever, The Girl Who Survived tells the inspiring true story of Ilse Stein, a German Jew who was imprisoned in a ghetto––and who fell in love with the man she was supposed to loathe.
For eighteen-year-old Ilse life is unrecognizable. A year ago, she wasn’t forced to wear a star on her clothes. A year ago, her parents were alive, not yet killed by their own countrymen. A year ago, she had her freedom.
Now, at the break of dawn, she steps off the cattle train into a Minsk ghetto. This is Ilse’s new home: trapped by barbed wire, surrounded by SS guards she is forbidden to look in the eye, with no choice but to trade the last of her belongings for scraps of food. Sentenced for the crime of simply existing, she doesn’t expect to live past the summer.
Yet the prisoners in the ghetto refuse to give up––the underground resistance is plotting their escape. Ilse’s first act of defiance is smuggling from the munitions factory, slipping bullets into the lining of her pockets.
But this is just the beginning… When Ilse meets Wilhem, a local SS administrative officer, she never dreams that her greatest rebellion will be falling for him. Wilhem promises that she will survive, even if the cost is his life. But in a world of such danger, daring to love is the most dangerous risk of all…
Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Choice, and Orphan Train will be completely gripped by this heartbreaking tale. Based on a true story, this powerful novel shows that love is stronger than terror, and that when life takes everything from you, death is not to be feared…
This book was previously published as No Woman’s Land.