As the thunderclouds of imminent war blackened the skies over Europe in the late summer of 1939, a profound trepidation surged through the Jewish communities of Poland. But the painful reality of the Nazi conquest was far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. Shortly after the invasion, the Jews were sequestered in overcrowded, heavily guarded ghettos and exploited as slave laborers while they awaited their sinister fate. "Sisters in the Storm," the fifth volume in "The Holocaust Diaries," is set primarily in the ghetto of Lodz, Poland, one of the largest, most vibrant Jewish communities of pre-war Europe. It tells the dramatic story of a sheltered young girl who lived through the heartbreak of the ghetto and was eventually deported to Auschwitz. "Sisters in the Storm" begins in Lodz during the fading peace when the author was little more than a child, a time when the sounds of Torah and tefillah and animated conversation reverberated through the teeming Jewish streets of Lodz. Then the Nazi juggernaut struck. The roseate hues of the author's sheltered life exploded into shock, violence and desperation, but she responded with resourcefulness and courage remarkable for a girl in her early teens. When the first Germans appeared on the streets of Lodz, she went out to forage for food so that her bearded father and brother could remain out of sight, and when the ghetto walls were erected, she and her sister became the family breadwinners. When the author and her sister arrived in Auschwitz, they were the only remnants of the family, and they clung to each other with the fierce devotion and selfless sacrifice characteristic of numerous other siblings and close relatives and friends who endured the nightmare together. In this darkest hour, with the specter of death a constant companion, the instinct for self-preservation was transcended by the finer instincts of humanity, and concern for a sibling, a parent, a child or a close friend became more important than survival itself. The final part of the book offers a fascinating firsthand account of the experiences of those survivors who chose to emigrate to Palestine, including encounters with the British Navy on the high seas and the internment in displaced persons camps in Cyprus. "Sisters in the Storm" is a deeply moving story that provides insight into the thoughts and feelings of all those who passed through the inhuman crucible of German fiendishness, of those who perished and those who survived.
by Anna Eilenberg