I read Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly several years ago, and it’s one of my favorites. I am drawn to historical fiction, especially when the story takes place during the Second World War.
The story follows three women who experience World War II from different parts of the world.
Caroline Ferriday witnesses it from the safety of her home in New York City. She spends her time working for the French consulate and collecting needed items for orphanages in France.
Kasha Kuzmerick, is a typical Polish teenager who is falling in love.
She dreams of the day she will finally be a woman and can marry her childhood friend, Pietrik.
Then Germany invades and her life is forever changed. She soon finds herself in a concentration camp with her mother and sister. It is here that she will stay for the entire war.
Herta Oberhausen is a young German woman who loves her country and believes in Hitler. She finishes medical school right before the war starts. Eager to do her part, Herta accepts a job at Ravensbruck where Kasha is a prisoner.
Each chapter focuses on one of the protagonists. I love that we get to experience the story from three different views.
Although the story is fiction, the author did extensive research to ensure that it was accurate as can be. If you love history, this a good story to read.
A bit of real life details
Some of the events in Lilac Girls are real. Here are the true parts.
Ravensbruck was the largest concentration camp for women in Germany. The concentration camp scenes are hard to read. But I read these scenes for history purposes.
By the end of the war, the camp housed around 50,000 women from 30 countries. The highest population of women were from Poland. During their time in the camp, they underwent unethical medical experiments. A lot of women died from these surgeries. Those that did survive suffered long-lasting physical damage.
Caroline Ferriday was a real person. After the war, she became aware of the experiments conducted at Ravensbruck. She arranged for the 53 survivors to travel to the United States and receive treatment to repair the damage done to them.
Herta Oberhausen was also a real person who conducted the experiments at Rvensbruck. She was arrested at the end of the war and sentenced to twenty years in prison. She was set free after ten.
This is a well written story. I wanted to know how it ended, but I didn’t want it to end.