Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I started reading Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm many months back. It is very well researched and written and I'm sure I'll give it a solid 5 stars. I read the chapters on the "Rabbit" research then one more chapter and decided I just needed a break.
Lilac Girls is told first person POV by three women. Caroline Ferriday, an amazing woman in New York City, who caught the attention of the author years ago, after Caroline had passed. Herta Oberhauser, the only female doctor at Ravensbruck who took part in the experimental surgery under Goebels (sp?) who also stood trial in Nuremberg after the war. The last progonist is Kasia, a Polish girl who was captured in her hometown of Lublin and sent to Ravensbruck and was later selected as a "Rabbit." Kasia's story is true but a conglomeration of people that were "Rabbits" at the time.
I found the book very addicting from the very beginning without knowing that I was returning to my Ravensbruk reading. Yet the moment I got to the Ravensbruck parts, I began recognizing names and events. This led me back to the original book I was reading and I re-read those two or three chapters. Dorothea Binz was truly sadistic. Less was known about Herta, as a person, but I liked the way Kelly fleshed her character out to be the one she was. The author stays true to all things known of Dr. Oberhauser and only creates scenes that strengthen what is already known yet adds depth to her character. I liked that the author did not try to make her out as an evil villain yet also did not try to change her true character to be one that was empathetic. She was he who she was and I thought the author did a wonderful job of adding the depth.
The book does not go into the same detail as historical documents which makes it easier to stomach. It's still a difficult read during the concentration camp days but is broken up by scenes of Caroline Ferriday in New York which is a much needed reprieve. Caroline is, by no means, a shallow socialite, yet she becomes much more conscientious as her character develops. She is likable from the get-go.
The author adds a note at the end of the book which explains much of what I have just summarized but the story came about when she found an article on Caroline Ferriday and, upon further research, realized that Caroline was an unsung hero. Her objective was to bring Caroline to the attention of the reader but in doing so, she also needed to include Herta and the experiments in Ravensbruck. I'd say she did an extraordinary job.