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70th Anniversary: The First Women in Auschwitz moved to Birkenau - Rena's Promise

70th Anniversary: The First Women in Auschwitz moved to Birkenau - Rena's Promise

On August 6, 1942, a start was made to move female prisoners out of the main camp (Auschwitz I) to Birkenau. Though the records of the numbers of women in Auschwitz at that time, have been lost; we do know that new transports were numbering women at 15,000+ (men, of which there were a great more, were being numbered in the 50,000+ range). One of the few women to survive from the first registered transport of Jews (all young women) tells us of that day in her memoir RENA'S PROMISE: "Wait! We've turned. We are moving away from Auschwitz.[1] Voices murmur through our ranks. We march. This is a change to our routine. The unknown is dangerous. Eyes vigilant, senses alert, we march away from Auschwitz, away from the walls and watchtowers. The sun sets. There are fences and more barbed wire towering before us. We march under a different gate with the same sign, ARBEIT MACHT FREI. We are not fooled... They have moved with us to this new camp... The floor is dirt. There are no bunk beds here; there are shelves, wood planks, three tiers high. We are supposed to sleep here? Where are the mattresses? Our beds look like horse stalls. There is a sour smell of human odor. There are rags for blankets. We stand, squeezing our bread in our hands, unable to cope, unable to move. A girl begins to cry. Like fire in a stable her fear grabs us, and like dried straw we burn inside. Tears cannot quench these flames of disaster. We are lost. This is Birkenau" (Gelissen #1716, Rena's Promise). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] "August 5-10 [1942] .... The women's section at Auschwitz I is moved to Section B- Birkenau" (Rittner and Roth, 29 ). "Birkenau was a swamp fenced off by electrified wire. No roads whatsoever, no paths in between the blocks.... March to mid-August 1942 ... about 17,000 women prisoners, most of them Jews, arrived at Auschwitz. A large number of them (probably about 5,000) perished before the transfer of women to the camp at Birkenau" (Strzelecka, 401, 394).
Heather Dune Macadam should be included in that rare category of literary mystery masters such as Lawrence Block, Craig Holden, and Giles Blunt, whose lyrical prose and beautifully developed characters have a great deal to say about the troubled world we live in and its legacy of violence.

Kaylie Jones, author of Celeste Ascending and A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

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