Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly

I resisted reading this book because concentration camp sagas are sad and depressing; the inhumanity hard to digest. But the author quickly drew me into the story about three women from different countries whose paths eventually intersect. Caroline Ferriday, a liaison to the French consulate, is safe in America, but WWII becomes personal when her lover is trapped overseas. Her character is based on the true story of a New York socialite who championed a group of concentration camp survivors after the war known as the Rabbits. In Poland, Kasia Kuzmerick is drawn into the underground resistance; a decision which lands Kasia, her mother and her sister in Ravensbruck, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. The terrible conditions provide for difficult yet compelling reading. Unable to find work, young German doctor Herta Oberheuser answers an ad for a medical job only to find herself at Ravensbruck caring for prisoners. Through Herta, we see how her Nazi upbringing allows her to lose sight of humanity as she oversees heinous medical experiments. Although the subject is gruesome, the book provides at least some small voice for the horrors one group of Polish women endured at the hands of the Nazis.



2 thoughts on “Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelly

  1. I tried to read this, but I had to stop. I was first annoyed that she seemed to forget all about the fact that the Jews were the #1 target of the Nazis. I could have forgiven that (somewhat) but then she described early on in the book a type of Jewish food in a bakery which, I happen to know, was not something that Polish Jews made. That’s when I gave up on the book.


    1. I hear what you’re saying but there are scores of books about Jews in concentration camps, not so many about the million or so others who were also killed by the Nazis in the camps. Also, there were Jews in Ravensbruck which the author does address. The Polish women featured in this book were the victims of medical experimentation made all the more horrific by the fact that it’s a true story. They deserve to have their story told, too. As to the Jewish food Poles did not make, that’s an error which should have been caught and corrected. You know it’s interesting because I communicate occasionally with a Polish woman via social media who is uncomfortable with the situation in her country which she says is very sexist and racist. You’d think after what people went through together during WWII it would have engendered better relations. But, then, what’s happening in the U.S. right now isn’t much better. In any case, if the book makes you uncomfortable then you made the right decision not to read it. I thought it was fairly well done but it’s not a book for the faint of heart.


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