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The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt

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From 1942 to 1944, twelve thousand children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp, near Prague, on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In The Girls of Room 28, ten of these children—mothers and grandmothers today in their seventies—tell us how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt from countries all over Europe were a From 1942 to 1944, twelve thousand children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp, near Prague, on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In The Girls of Room 28, ten of these children—mothers and grandmothers today in their seventies—tell us how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt from countries all over Europe were aware of the fate that awaited them, and they decided that it was the young people who had the best chance to survive. Keeping these adolescents alive, keeping them whole in body, mind, and spirit, became the priority. They were housed separately, in dormitory-like barracks, where they had a greater chance of staying healthy and better access to food, and where counselors (young men and women who had been teachers and youth workers) created a disciplined environment despite the surrounding horrors. The counselors also made available to the young people the talents of an amazing array of world-class artists, musicians, and playwrights–European Jews who were also on their way to Auschwitz. Under their instruction, the children produced art, poetry, and music, and they performed in theatrical productions, most notably Brundibar, the legendary “children’s opera” that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. In the mid-1990s, German journalist Hannelore Brenner met ten of these child survivors—women in their late-seventies today, who reunite every year at a resort in the Czech Republic. Weaving her interviews with the women together with excerpts from diaries that were kept secretly during the war and samples of the art, music, and poetry created at Theresienstadt, Brenner gives us an unprecedented picture of daily life there, and of the extraordinary strength, sacrifice, and indomitable will that combined—in the girls and in their caretakers—to make survival possible.


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From 1942 to 1944, twelve thousand children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp, near Prague, on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In The Girls of Room 28, ten of these children—mothers and grandmothers today in their seventies—tell us how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt from countries all over Europe were a From 1942 to 1944, twelve thousand children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp, near Prague, on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In The Girls of Room 28, ten of these children—mothers and grandmothers today in their seventies—tell us how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt from countries all over Europe were aware of the fate that awaited them, and they decided that it was the young people who had the best chance to survive. Keeping these adolescents alive, keeping them whole in body, mind, and spirit, became the priority. They were housed separately, in dormitory-like barracks, where they had a greater chance of staying healthy and better access to food, and where counselors (young men and women who had been teachers and youth workers) created a disciplined environment despite the surrounding horrors. The counselors also made available to the young people the talents of an amazing array of world-class artists, musicians, and playwrights–European Jews who were also on their way to Auschwitz. Under their instruction, the children produced art, poetry, and music, and they performed in theatrical productions, most notably Brundibar, the legendary “children’s opera” that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. In the mid-1990s, German journalist Hannelore Brenner met ten of these child survivors—women in their late-seventies today, who reunite every year at a resort in the Czech Republic. Weaving her interviews with the women together with excerpts from diaries that were kept secretly during the war and samples of the art, music, and poetry created at Theresienstadt, Brenner gives us an unprecedented picture of daily life there, and of the extraordinary strength, sacrifice, and indomitable will that combined—in the girls and in their caretakers—to make survival possible.

30 review for The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    I felt the title of this book deceptive. I was expecting more stories from the girls themselves, but outside of little interview snippets and diary passages that were a quite interesting look into the arts that still flourished in the horror that was the concentration camps (very few survived Theresienstadt, as it was ravaged by several epidemics, and those who did survive were oft shipped to Auschwitz), the book read more like a historical textbook than anything. Horribly dry for a leisure read I felt the title of this book deceptive. I was expecting more stories from the girls themselves, but outside of little interview snippets and diary passages that were a quite interesting look into the arts that still flourished in the horror that was the concentration camps (very few survived Theresienstadt, as it was ravaged by several epidemics, and those who did survive were oft shipped to Auschwitz), the book read more like a historical textbook than anything. Horribly dry for a leisure read, but full of really good information for a research project, this one was hard to slog through. I was a little disappointed, because usually I have a sort of morbid interest in what humanity is capable of in war, and real accounts from people who have lived through it if for no other reason than humanity burns brighter in adversity, but, sadly, the best word I have for this book is dry.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christine Rebbert

    Another book I couldn't finish reading in September... It's basically what the title says it is, but there were a LOT of girls in Room 28, very few of whom were there the whole time, so lots of coming and going, and all the characters started to sort of run together... And kind of drily written, so just couldn't get excited about continuing... Another book I couldn't finish reading in September... It's basically what the title says it is, but there were a LOT of girls in Room 28, very few of whom were there the whole time, so lots of coming and going, and all the characters started to sort of run together... And kind of drily written, so just couldn't get excited about continuing...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Not many girls survived both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, but ten of the 11-14 year girls who lived in this room were interviewed by Brenner. Unfortunately, even with these girls’ diaries, pictures and “Brundibar” the play that they acted out, it’s still not a well-told story, skipping from girl to girl to girl without really letting us get to know anyone of them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The story is remarkable, but it took me forever to get through this book. I don't know what it was (not exactly chronological, unfamiliar names, lots of detail...something), but I had trouble staying with this book. It was worth the effort, though, simply because I learned about a whole different aspect of WWII and the sacrifice Jewish adults made for their children. The story is remarkable, but it took me forever to get through this book. I don't know what it was (not exactly chronological, unfamiliar names, lots of detail...something), but I had trouble staying with this book. It was worth the effort, though, simply because I learned about a whole different aspect of WWII and the sacrifice Jewish adults made for their children.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Jackson

    The concept of the story was quite good, as this was a side of the holocaust that I didn't know much about. The book, however, I found a bit hard to get into. The characters seems to blend together, and by the halfway point I was losing interest fast. Although I don't regret reading this one, I can't recommend it. The concept of the story was quite good, as this was a side of the holocaust that I didn't know much about. The book, however, I found a bit hard to get into. The characters seems to blend together, and by the halfway point I was losing interest fast. Although I don't regret reading this one, I can't recommend it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    Orphaned girls, some as young as 11, who lived in the barracks at Theresienstadt and suffered the brutality of World War II, survived to find each other after the Iron Curtain was thrown open. They managed to hold yearly reunions, feeling the camaraderie of sisters whenever they got together. This is their story. Fifteen female survivors of Room 28, tell the story of how their little community was created in this supposed, model prison camp. It became a “home” which enabled them to mature and mak Orphaned girls, some as young as 11, who lived in the barracks at Theresienstadt and suffered the brutality of World War II, survived to find each other after the Iron Curtain was thrown open. They managed to hold yearly reunions, feeling the camaraderie of sisters whenever they got together. This is their story. Fifteen female survivors of Room 28, tell the story of how their little community was created in this supposed, model prison camp. It became a “home” which enabled them to mature and make lasting friendships. Yes, conditions in Theresienstadt were better than in most concentration camps, but they were all prisoners, nevertheless, victims of barbarians, awaiting death in horrible ways. They did have the benefit of being allowed to keep their luggage and belongings, few as they were, but they all eventually became hardened to the deprivation and began to appreciate the simplest of things as they watched their numbers dwindle. In the “home”, there was the usual rivalry of “siblings” living in close quarters, but it was quickly conquered as the situation inspired loyalty, and in most cases they swore allegiance to each other vowing never to do anything that would betray any of them. They witnessed horrific scenes, were always hungry, had no creature comforts, but it was better than the situation in the “death” camps. The numbers of children that were lost during this time is unimaginable. It is really hard to understand the inhumanity of these people who perpetrated this travesty of justice upon an innocent population. The adults in Theresienstadt were determined to educate the young children and to give them as much of a normal life as they could, although it became more and more difficult. Counselors welcomed new inmates; classes were held, volunteers taught religious education; holidays were celebrated, and on some occasions, gifts were exchanged; food was shared and plays and operas were put on and performed by the children. The counselors seemed to be quasi-guardians for these orphans, some of whom came to this “model prison” alone, without friend or family member. Although there were too many unrecognizable names to remember and too many excessive descriptions to keep track of, the amazing resilience and courage of all the “inmates” comes through in each of the stories relating their memories. The diaries and notebooks recovered provide an inside look into the horrors of that era and are invaluable. They tell of suicides, escape attempts, and the tragedy of watching loved ones murdered without being able to do anything. It speaks to the courage of those who joined their friends and family who were condemned, rather than go on with their lives without them. They speak of the tender awakening of the girls as some suddenly became aware of, and began to take an interest in, the opposite sex, even in such a place. The romances were often painful because the young lovers were quickly separated and never heard from again. Some took their own lives in the face of the hopelessness. The children and adults in Theresienstadt were kept largely ignorant of the outside world. They had little idea of what was happening except for whispered rumors. They were all united in the hope that the Germans would be defeated so they could be free to pursue normal lives with dreams of homes, an education, good jobs and families of their own. Though they tried hard to keep up their spirits, they often wondered how such a thing could be happening to them; they could not understand what they had done to deserve such treatment. They didn’t understand how The Red Cross and other representatives turned a blind eye to what they would have seen if only they had looked closer when they came to inspect the camp. As the war progressed, conditions worsened. It was harder to keep everything clean; bed bugs and fleas, lice and filth were often problems. These were children who were forced to deal with problems adults might find insurmountable, and yet, they rose to the task. There were constant transports and the fear of losing friends and family was always present. When friends and family were forced to board trains, they were never heard from again. They were shipped to places like Treblinka, Auschwitz, Bergen Belson and, ultimately, the gas showers and the crematoria. They were subjected to inhuman conditions, sadistic human beings, torture and cold blooded murder. When the war finally ended, some survivors were then trapped behind the Iron Curtain, once again prisoners. Some survivors were mere shadows of their former selves, barely able to stand, their bodies broken and their minds lost. Few returned to normal life, few found survivors to reunite with, and few remained in, or were welcomed back to, their own home towns. It is really sad that the world and politics forced some of these miraculous survivors to go from one situation of captivity to another where their freedom was stolen once again. Eventually, some survivors emigrated to Israel, some to America, some to other countries that welcomed them. They were resilient and strong after having survived the nightmare they were forced to live. Their stories tell of miraculous escapes from death, lucky moments of occasional kindness from a German or a soldier that kept them alive. These moments were all too rare. The victims were blamed for the way they were being treated, as if they had brought it on themselves with their “troubling” behavior. Their enemies were cruel and unforgiving and they robbed the world of some of the most talented and brilliant minds. This book is a brief primer about the rise and fall of the Third Reich, the people who brought it about and the people who suffered through it. As the stories are told, the history is brought to life. It is a necessary read. The horror of the Holocaust must never be allowed to disappear from memory, even though years pass and those who experienced it die off. We must learn from the lessons of the past. The children’s opera Brundibar, plays a large role in the book. It was written by Hans Krása who was also a prisoner in Theresienstadt. The opera performances and the plays, inspired the children and adults and gave them all a sense of hope and a few moments when they could forget their despair. Often, storylines held hidden messages for them, which were secret codes of defiance. The book is filled with quotes from operas and plays they performed and from entries in the diaries and notebooks that were preserved. They tell of forced marches, sometimes to nowhere and back, of never knowing from day to day if they would be called for a transport, of not knowing, but soon suspecting, what awaited those called away. Thousands were moved at once, packed like sardines without hygiene or food or fresh air or light. Thousands died from the deprivation and torture. They were starved and died in huge numbers without proper care or nutrition, without the medicine or comfort of loved ones around them. Parents had abandoned their children in orphanages for Jewish children, assuming escape was too dangerous for them, assuming they would reunite with them, send for them, once they were safe. There were special laws for children for awhile, but then, the laws were changed and parents and children were cut off from each other without being able to reunite. In spite of the horrors and hardships, they dreamt of a future and prayed for the war’s end. Because of the excessive detail as the story is told from more than a dozen points of view, it often became repetitive. However, it is a story that must be read so no one will forget the diabolical nature of the perpetrators, so no one forgets how cruelty can exist and grow if unchecked by good people everywhere, if greed and envy flourish rather than kindness and appreciation for the accomplishment of others. The mixing of emotional anecdotal stories with historic facts sometimes became overwhelming. The book would be suitable for a classroom, for middle graders or high school students, too. With the guidance of a trained teacher, this could prove to be an invaluable teaching tool and learning experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robynne Lozier

    Several years ago (2013 I think) I happened to come across an article telling about the wonderful town in Czechoslavakia during World War 2, where the Jews were all happy, and healthy and the children were all in good health, and eating good food. This was the report of the International Red Cross who had insisted on seeing a Jewish ghetto or camp for themselves. The Jews were forced by the Germans to clean up the Theresienstadt ghetto, allowed the children to perform their opera, provided extra Several years ago (2013 I think) I happened to come across an article telling about the wonderful town in Czechoslavakia during World War 2, where the Jews were all happy, and healthy and the children were all in good health, and eating good food. This was the report of the International Red Cross who had insisted on seeing a Jewish ghetto or camp for themselves. The Jews were forced by the Germans to clean up the Theresienstadt ghetto, allowed the children to perform their opera, provided extra special food and clean clothes, and generally put on a fake show for the red cross. The red cross went back to America telling everyone that the rumours of poor health and jews dying in the camps was false. I have been interested in the Theresienstadt ghetto ever since. the article mentioned that many of the Jewish Intelligentsia of Prague were in that camp and that the children were allowed to sing, dance, make crafts and they held lessons in secret. So totally different from the other camps such as Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, Chelmno and Sobibor. So when I found this book about life in Theresienstadt at kobo, I grabbed it, but then never bothered to read it - until now. This book was very very enjoyable to read. A little repetitive in places when the same events were being repeated from different perpectives, but otherwise most enjoyable. Many of the Jewish intelligentsia of Prague, Brno and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, had brought their books and musical instruments with them. These were confiscated and now became communal instruments and books - sort of an instruments and books library so to speak. The Germans allowed the Jews to dance, sing, perform plays and operas, and be creative, but school lessons such as history, geography, languages, science, and maths were strictly forbidden, These had to be taught in secret. There was a musical orchestra, and a library and several composers even wrote and arranged operas. The most popular opera was a childrens opera called Brundibar. It was about a organ grinder competing against the animals singing (in a choir) while begging for money. As to the red cross visit in the summer of 1944, this was very meticulously described. I wont got into details because it would take far too long, but you have to read this book for yourself to discover just how far the Germans were willing to go to deceive the western world!! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I gave it 5 stars.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lila Smith

    A little lengthy. It was a great book overall being that they incorporated Auschwitz as well! Mostly told by Helga but shows everyone's feelings. It wasn't boring at the beginning. though which is a plus. A little lengthy. It was a great book overall being that they incorporated Auschwitz as well! Mostly told by Helga but shows everyone's feelings. It wasn't boring at the beginning. though which is a plus.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kayrene Smither

    What a treasure! So important that these stories are learned and remembered. This book includes a lot of girls in it, and I had a hard time keeping up with who was who. Really liked it though, and so glad I know this story, of the girls in Room 28. Horrific, hard to believe, still, and yet someone said to her, agh, it wasn't that bad. Don't Forget!!! What a treasure! So important that these stories are learned and remembered. This book includes a lot of girls in it, and I had a hard time keeping up with who was who. Really liked it though, and so glad I know this story, of the girls in Room 28. Horrific, hard to believe, still, and yet someone said to her, agh, it wasn't that bad. Don't Forget!!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    The girls of the title all resided at one time or another in room 28 of one of the girl's homes at the concentration camp Theresienstadt. As a concentration camp Theresienstadt is famous for a number of things. First of all, it was known as Hitler's "showcase" camp, where he fooled the International Red Cross into believing that the Jews were being well-treated. Secondly, and in relation to this, the camp had a lively cultural life, with famous musicians, composers, artists, and others passing t The girls of the title all resided at one time or another in room 28 of one of the girl's homes at the concentration camp Theresienstadt. As a concentration camp Theresienstadt is famous for a number of things. First of all, it was known as Hitler's "showcase" camp, where he fooled the International Red Cross into believing that the Jews were being well-treated. Secondly, and in relation to this, the camp had a lively cultural life, with famous musicians, composers, artists, and others passing through on their way East to Auschwitz. Many musical compositions survived from the camp, and are still performed today. The children's opera, "Brundibar," brought to this generation by Maurice Sendak, had its first performances there. Also well-known are the thousands of pieces of artwork created by the children in the camps. Some of these can be found published in the volume: "I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp." While it can be argued that those who participated in these creative endeavors, sometimes at the command of the Germans, were cooperating with their captors, the creativity expressed under these despicable circumstances has lived on to enrich the lives of generations to come. The population of the camp had an irregular turnover. Sometimes months could go by without transports to the East, and at other times they happened frequently. The turnover in Room 28 is reflective of that, but this book focuses on a group of ten girls who lived in Room 28 for a period of time, and who survived to tell their stories. Separated at the end of the war by all kinds of circumstances, these girls, now women, began to meet once a year to celebrate the special bond they formed. Brenner uses diary excerpts and photographs, maps and drawings, to reveal the experiences of this group of girls, and of life in the camp in general. Highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    This is the memoir of 10 girls who passed through the Theresienstadt interment camp, near Prague. They were some of the twelve thousand children who passed through the Theresienstadt on their way to Auschwitz from 1942-1944. Only a few hundred of those children survived the war and these 10 girls share their story and how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt were from countries all over Europe. Among those that passed through this interment camp were some of the the most amazing world This is the memoir of 10 girls who passed through the Theresienstadt interment camp, near Prague. They were some of the twelve thousand children who passed through the Theresienstadt on their way to Auschwitz from 1942-1944. Only a few hundred of those children survived the war and these 10 girls share their story and how they did it. The Jews deported to Theresienstadt were from countries all over Europe. Among those that passed through this interment camp were some of the the most amazing world class artists, musicians, and writers of Europe. They decided that they would protect the children as much as possible from the horrors of the war and so created a disciplined environment where the girls were given instruction from these amazing talents. They preformed the legendary children's opera, Brundibar as Hitler used Theresienstadt as his "Ptomekin" village...fooling the International Red Cross into thinking that his concentration camps for Jews were more like resorts, where Jews had good food and lived privileged lives. It worked...the Red Cross believed what they saw on the one street of the camp that they were allowed on...no questions were asked and they didn't even look past the street that was made to look like a resort. In 1990, journalist Hannelore Brenner, met 10 of these women and decided that their story must not be forgotten. She recorded their stories and those of other girls from room 28 who weren't as fortunate as these survivors. This was an interesting book with lots of journal entries from the girls along with art work and poetry they had done. This wasn't a page turner but another good reminder of what can happen when people turn their backs on evil.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rdonn

    I'm going to give my talk again on Art as a means of Survival, and have become very well acquainted with Terezin Concentration Camp and the remarkable people who were incarcerated there. In my talk on Friedl Dicker Brandeis, I especially learned about Room 28 and the girls who lived there in the girls barracks. After the Wall came down it was found that 15 of them survived and were in their 70s. Ten of them met at a resort in Czechoslovakia and renewed friendships forged in impossible circumstan I'm going to give my talk again on Art as a means of Survival, and have become very well acquainted with Terezin Concentration Camp and the remarkable people who were incarcerated there. In my talk on Friedl Dicker Brandeis, I especially learned about Room 28 and the girls who lived there in the girls barracks. After the Wall came down it was found that 15 of them survived and were in their 70s. Ten of them met at a resort in Czechoslovakia and renewed friendships forged in impossible circumstances all those years ago. The author was interested especially in the production of the children's opera "Brundibar" and found Ela, who had played the Black Cat all 55 performances. She was invited to meet the others at their annual meeting. From that she decided to write a book about these girls, both the ones who survived and the many who were killed. Most of the women desperately wanted the memory of those who died was kept aide. As Ela said in an intervies - that the book "I Never Saw another Butterfly" with the poems and paintings of the children of Terezin, and the memories of these few survivors are all that remain of those children. The last part of the book, following some to Auschwitz, etc. became a bit confusing to me as she jumped locations back and forth. Also so many children you get mixed up. Hanka Handa, Ela, Eva, two Helgas, and so on. I should have made a list in the beginning as a guide. However, I found the book gave me a picture of the everyday life of these girls which I hadn't found anywhere else, except perhaps Helga's diary. It's an important book for the above reasons.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shelley

    4.5? The story of the 15 girls (of hundreds) who survived the Czech interment camp Theresienstadt, some of whom even spent time in various concentration camps. I was, honestly, completely riveted throughout. I couldn't put this down--it was utterly fascinating and heartbreaking and wondrous by turns. It opens with the autograph albums the girls made while in the camp, and seeing their handwriting and drawings puts this into sharp perspective from the start; you recognize these kids, 11, 12 years 4.5? The story of the 15 girls (of hundreds) who survived the Czech interment camp Theresienstadt, some of whom even spent time in various concentration camps. I was, honestly, completely riveted throughout. I couldn't put this down--it was utterly fascinating and heartbreaking and wondrous by turns. It opens with the autograph albums the girls made while in the camp, and seeing their handwriting and drawings puts this into sharp perspective from the start; you recognize these kids, 11, 12 years old, from how similar they are to tweens now. This camp was nominally organized like a city, and many families had their children living together in dorms like room 28, with counselors who created as much a sense of normalcy with chores, classes and camaraderie as they could. While it was a terrible experience for some, most credited it with saving their lives and sanity. One thing the camp is noted for is their performances of Brundibar, and I would so love to see it. One of the survivors travels the US talking about it, and I'd love to hear her. I appreciated the ending, with photos of the women now and information on their lives since. Many ended up in the same kibbutz in Israel. One, once arrived there, had her aunt ask her what had happened during the war--and then accuse her of lying, that things couldn't have been that bad. Most never spoke of it after, to the best of their ability.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    About 1/4 of the way through, I called it quits. I was hoping for a more engaging read, but because the writing style doesn't really allow you to connect with the characters, it felt more to me like I was reading a chapter in a history book. About 1/4 of the way through, I called it quits. I was hoping for a more engaging read, but because the writing style doesn't really allow you to connect with the characters, it felt more to me like I was reading a chapter in a history book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Danelle

    In it are the living memoirs of the murdered girls from Room 28 and the sorrow of their unfulfilled hopes and dreams. (p. 5) From 1942-1944, 12,000 children passed through Theresienstadt, an internment camp that was the last stop before Auschwitz. Jews from all over Europe were sent there and the adults knew what was ahead, so they poured everything they had into the children. The children, the adults knew, had the best chances for surviving. The Jewish adults in the camp, prisoners themselves, ma In it are the living memoirs of the murdered girls from Room 28 and the sorrow of their unfulfilled hopes and dreams. (p. 5) From 1942-1944, 12,000 children passed through Theresienstadt, an internment camp that was the last stop before Auschwitz. Jews from all over Europe were sent there and the adults knew what was ahead, so they poured everything they had into the children. The children, the adults knew, had the best chances for surviving. The Jewish adults in the camp, prisoners themselves, made sure that there was an order and routine to the children's lives. They provided them with instruction in whatever subject area they themselves were proficient in (clandestinely, harsh punishment resulted if the SS found any evidence of learning). With the talents of some of the world's best Jewish professors and musicians and artists, the children's barracks were somewhat of a refuge, albeit a very small one. Under their teaching, the children created art, sang, and even put on operatic productions. The adults did their utmost to provide a sense of caring and normalcy in a place ruled by fear and survival. Then, in the 1990's, ten of the surviving girls of Room 28, met with the author of this book at a Czech resort, where the girls meet every year. Through her, they tell their stories and the stories of their dear friends and teachers who were murdered by the Nazis. This entire book, told by the girls who survived the Holocaust, is absolutely heart wrenching, especially the chapter describing the visit of the Red Cross. In all my years of learning about the atrocities that occurred at the hands of the Nazis, I still find myself in shock when I come across another little known fact or awful reality of what happened in that time. The most haunting line of the book, from page 280: But when we told them about Auschwitz we could sense they didn't believe us. This is a necessary read - and one that would be appropriate for middle school and up. While enduring unimaginable suffering, the children of Theresienstadt also studied, played, danced, sang, did gymnastics, created art, wrote poems, and appeared in theatrical productions. This is why many of those who survived, particularly those whose road to survival also took them through the death camps, remember Theresienstadt as a last instance of humanity, a place where there was still love, education, art, and culture. (p. 14)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    The Girls Of Room 28 was a powerful story that merged the recollections and diary entries of several teens who ended up in Room 28 of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. The Jews in Theresienstadt were allowed to manage themselves to a certain point. The elders recognized how important it was for the children to be cared for so that they could live through the horrific war. The elders gave larger food rations to the kids and set them up in separate live in quarters with more heat, and better The Girls Of Room 28 was a powerful story that merged the recollections and diary entries of several teens who ended up in Room 28 of the concentration camp Theresienstadt. The Jews in Theresienstadt were allowed to manage themselves to a certain point. The elders recognized how important it was for the children to be cared for so that they could live through the horrific war. The elders gave larger food rations to the kids and set them up in separate live in quarters with more heat, and better shelter. One such room for girls 12-15 years old was Room 28. 
The survivors met several years after the war and became acquainted with the author, who took on the immense task of telling their story. The author explained so much about the war, the Nazis, and the emotional journey of the children in a way that created a powerful story. The story really followed Helga Pollack, who was the main focus of the novel. Helga kept a journal which miraculously survived as did she. 
She was one her own very early in as a result of the war, and ended up making friends with the other girls once she arrived at room 28. The other girls became a focus throughout the novel as they interacted with Helga, and each was given a small biography. This was the best way to honor each girl without making the story too cluttered with every single person’s experience. 
It was simply amazing what the girls endured. Despite the increased rations, they barely ate, had threadbare clothes, and bathed infrequently. Their counselors attempted to have a normal routine for them, which included sending them to school, with revolving teachers giving instruction in the various subjects they taught until the teacher was sent out of the camp on a transport to Auschwitz. A composer in the camp rewrote his opera specifically to be performed easily by children, and this weekly production was a source of joy to all prisoners as well as launched several children to celebrity status in the camp. The propaganda films of the joyous and plentiful camps were filmed here, and many of the children who were the focus of the book were forced to be a part of the film. 
This was an amazing story of survival and was made even more heart wrenching given that the focus were young girls who exhibited such bravery.


  17. 5 out of 5

    Traci

    I found this book hard to read until midway through because first there was to much detailed information mixed with a lot of different people's stories. The writing seemed to calm down and become more of a story which then made it easier to keep up with everything. God bless these survivors. I found this book hard to read until midway through because first there was to much detailed information mixed with a lot of different people's stories. The writing seemed to calm down and become more of a story which then made it easier to keep up with everything. God bless these survivors.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Heart breaking tales of heroism.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bbhall

    DNF. I was wating for an actual story but all the narrator talked about were plays and stating name after name after name. Too many characters to even begin to enjoy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Fantastic

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    This is a nonfiction book. The author has gathered notes and interviews from people who were at Theresienstadt during WWII. While Theresienstadt was not a death camp like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, it was an internment camp nonetheless where inmates suffered deprivation. The Nazis used Theresienstadt as a "showcase" to fool the International Red Cross into thinking that the internment of the Jews was pleasant and enriching. The camp had musical and artistic activities that no other camp had. Wh This is a nonfiction book. The author has gathered notes and interviews from people who were at Theresienstadt during WWII. While Theresienstadt was not a death camp like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen, it was an internment camp nonetheless where inmates suffered deprivation. The Nazis used Theresienstadt as a "showcase" to fool the International Red Cross into thinking that the internment of the Jews was pleasant and enriching. The camp had musical and artistic activities that no other camp had. When the Red Cross visited, the Nazis has spruced up the camp, hidden the frail and sick, and given strict instructions that no one was to speak to the visitors. Because Theresienstadt was such a "fine example" of the Nazis care for the Jews, the Red Cross declined to visit any other internment camps--thus never seeing the horrors of the death and work camps. The book compiles memories of the "Girls of Room 28," young Jewish girls from the ages of 10-14 who lived together in a room in one of the barracks. Some of the girls' relatives also lived in the camp, but they were not housed together. Written from the girls' point of view, there is an innocence and hope portrayed. They did not know about Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen or the other camps. They did know that people were sent on transports and never returned. This book is an important preservation of the memories of Theresienstadt.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    Hannelore Brenner’s The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt is a compelling historical read concerning the Shoah/Holocaust in its focus on ten young teen-aged survivors who witnessed what no child or adult should ever have to confront. Their individual stories, told to Brenner when they were in their seventies, are filled with courage and strength, I feel privileged to have read their stories. Not only have the girls honored and payed tribute to all of the girls wh Hannelore Brenner’s The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt is a compelling historical read concerning the Shoah/Holocaust in its focus on ten young teen-aged survivors who witnessed what no child or adult should ever have to confront. Their individual stories, told to Brenner when they were in their seventies, are filled with courage and strength, I feel privileged to have read their stories. Not only have the girls honored and payed tribute to all of the girls who entered the walls of the ghetto and of room 28, but also the memories of all the children who were unwilling participants in the Shoah/Holocaust, Jewish or otherwise. Their darkest hours and days are depicted with respect and sensitivity. Hannelore Brenner has paid true tribute and honor to all of them with her extensive research and dedication, and her sensitivity to the issues at hand. The historical content in this book is invaluable. The Girls of Room 28 is seen from the unique perspective of teen-aged girls held within the Theresienstadt concentration camp, ranging in ages that span approximately twelve to fourteen. It belongs in every public school, college, university, library and on every personal book shelf.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michaela

    The Girls of Room 28 is a great book but a really hard read. I am interested in book about World War II and this book was even more interesting for me because it is describing a city from my country (Czech Republic). I have found most of non-fiction books quite hard to read for me but this one was also because of the writing style. Few pages are written as a description of the place, then you are reading a part from one of the girls diary, then diary of a dad of the girls, another description, th The Girls of Room 28 is a great book but a really hard read. I am interested in book about World War II and this book was even more interesting for me because it is describing a city from my country (Czech Republic). I have found most of non-fiction books quite hard to read for me but this one was also because of the writing style. Few pages are written as a description of the place, then you are reading a part from one of the girls diary, then diary of a dad of the girls, another description, then girls´ stories about their life. So confusing. You do not even know which of the girls you are reading about. Apart from these I really liked the book. You can find brief description of lives of the girls before they came to Terezin. Stories of their lives there and in some other camp later are really touching. You can imagine what the life there was about. In some part it does not sound that horrible but then you turn a page and you know it was hard! I would recommend this book to everybody who is interested in this kind of topic. It is a narration of girls/women who experienced it and sometimes you will not believe that people can treat other people this way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Hagen

    The Girls of Room 28: Stories of Friendship, Love and Survival in Theresienstadt, by Hannelore Brenner, narrated by Suzanne Toren, produced by BBC Audio Books America, downloaded from audible.com. I can’t say it better than the publisher’s note except to say that it is a wonderful thing that the author found these ten women to interview, and extremely generous that these women let her see their diaries from the war. Publisher’s Note: From 1942 to 1944, 12,000 children passed through the Theresienst The Girls of Room 28: Stories of Friendship, Love and Survival in Theresienstadt, by Hannelore Brenner, narrated by Suzanne Toren, produced by BBC Audio Books America, downloaded from audible.com. I can’t say it better than the publisher’s note except to say that it is a wonderful thing that the author found these ten women to interview, and extremely generous that these women let her see their diaries from the war. Publisher’s Note: From 1942 to 1944, 12,000 children passed through the Theresienstadt internment camp on their way to Auschwitz. Only a few hundred of them survived the war. In the mid-1990s, German journalist Hannelore Brenner met 10 of these child survivors - women in their late 70s today.Weaving these interviews with excerpts from diaries that were kept secretly during the war and samples of the art, music, and poetry created at Theresienstadt, Brenner gives us an unprecedented picture of daily life there, and of the extraordinary strength, sacrifice, and indomitable will that combined to make survival possible.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    For all my reading on WWII, I had not heard of Theresienstadt in any depth and this was enlightening for that side of it alone. It really is incredibly luck for future generations that so many letters and journals from these years survived and that more peoples from around the world who were directly involved are beginning to tell their stories. Compared to a lot of survival stories from WWII, these people were luckier than most - at least for most of the war, but that is not to say that they we For all my reading on WWII, I had not heard of Theresienstadt in any depth and this was enlightening for that side of it alone. It really is incredibly luck for future generations that so many letters and journals from these years survived and that more peoples from around the world who were directly involved are beginning to tell their stories. Compared to a lot of survival stories from WWII, these people were luckier than most - at least for most of the war, but that is not to say that they were not oppressed and devastatingly hungry. It's amazing how much mention is made of food and lack of it in these memoirs. The Nazi propaganda machine is seen at its finest, and I am reminded again that without readily available and reliable news, it was easy for everyone to hope that the worst was over, right up until another 'worst' came along.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Understanding evil in history may help to recognize it in the future. Theresienstadt was an internment camp near Prague. It was the last step before the transport to Auschwitz. Families were housed in different units, but had limited visitation with each other. There were meager rations, poor living conditions, and disease. Yet in this desolate place, 12 to 14 year old girls found friendship in their Room 28. Education was forbidden for Jewish children, but through secret classes, art, music and Understanding evil in history may help to recognize it in the future. Theresienstadt was an internment camp near Prague. It was the last step before the transport to Auschwitz. Families were housed in different units, but had limited visitation with each other. There were meager rations, poor living conditions, and disease. Yet in this desolate place, 12 to 14 year old girls found friendship in their Room 28. Education was forbidden for Jewish children, but through secret classes, art, music and plays, learning continued. I especially found Helga's diary entries compelling because they told the whole story...her life before the war...her family's attempt to keep her safe during the war...her life at Theresienstadt...the transport...and her value and appreciation for her family and her friends of Room 28.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

    It is hard to fathom the depth of experiences detailed in this book, that people so young endured such suffering and yet were able to form deep friendships and a lust for life that is quite overwhelming. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a lesson for humanity, one that sadly, I fear, humanity has yet to learn. Other reviewers have found this text hard to read, or dry. I disagree. It seemed well ordered, extremely well researched, with easy language and illustration throughout. Perhaps because It is hard to fathom the depth of experiences detailed in this book, that people so young endured such suffering and yet were able to form deep friendships and a lust for life that is quite overwhelming. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a lesson for humanity, one that sadly, I fear, humanity has yet to learn. Other reviewers have found this text hard to read, or dry. I disagree. It seemed well ordered, extremely well researched, with easy language and illustration throughout. Perhaps because of my background I am more used to reading historical non-fiction than other readers, or seeking salient points out of passages of text. If you normally read novels and pick this up, you might find it dry, but if you regularly read academic texts or papers, you will find it rich, diverse and well expressed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I gave this book a 4 because it was written in a style that was hard to read. However, the content and first person accounts of life in Terezin brought that segment of the Holocaust to light. I have visited this "camp" and along with this book now understand what transpired there and have a deeper understanding of the Nazi's strategic plan. I love that those who became friends in Room 28 and survived... truly had a lifelong friendship; that they made it a priority to have regular reunions. The f I gave this book a 4 because it was written in a style that was hard to read. However, the content and first person accounts of life in Terezin brought that segment of the Holocaust to light. I have visited this "camp" and along with this book now understand what transpired there and have a deeper understanding of the Nazi's strategic plan. I love that those who became friends in Room 28 and survived... truly had a lifelong friendship; that they made it a priority to have regular reunions. The fact that they lived life well- beyond the Holocaust is a testament to their courage and strength.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kitchengrrl

    Obviously I was not expecting a bunch of laughs with this book, but I really wish they had picked a better ending. You could stop anywhere, and where they chose to stop was not what I would have done. The Epilogue was a better ending. I'm not sure that I learned anything new from this experience, but I did connect more dots that deepened and broadened my understanding of the Holocaust. I got a much better picture of how people gradually found out about what was happening to them. The whole frog Obviously I was not expecting a bunch of laughs with this book, but I really wish they had picked a better ending. You could stop anywhere, and where they chose to stop was not what I would have done. The Epilogue was a better ending. I'm not sure that I learned anything new from this experience, but I did connect more dots that deepened and broadened my understanding of the Holocaust. I got a much better picture of how people gradually found out about what was happening to them. The whole frog in slowly heating water thing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I really wanted to like this book, but I found it very repetitive and convoluted. Maybe if I had read the ebook I would have had an easier time with it, but the audiobook was not the best. Keeping track of the individual girls was difficult, and I thought it would have been better if all of the accounts had been blended together to avoid the repetition. I appreciate the amount of research that went into it, and making it halfway through the book, I did gain a lot of insight into what life was li I really wanted to like this book, but I found it very repetitive and convoluted. Maybe if I had read the ebook I would have had an easier time with it, but the audiobook was not the best. Keeping track of the individual girls was difficult, and I thought it would have been better if all of the accounts had been blended together to avoid the repetition. I appreciate the amount of research that went into it, and making it halfway through the book, I did gain a lot of insight into what life was like for the children living in Theresienstadt.

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