A Train in Winter

A Train in Winter

An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship and Survival in World War Two

Book - 2011
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"How can you do this work if you have a child?" asked her mother.

"It is because I have a child that I do it," replied Cecile. "This is not a world I wish her to grow up in."

On January 24, 1943, 230 women were placed in four cattle trucks on a train in Compiegne, in northeastern France, and the doors bolted shut for the journey to Auschwitz. They were members of the French Resistance, ranging in age from teenagers to the elderly, women who before the war had been doctors, farmers' wives, secretaries, biochemists, schoolgirls. With immense courage they had taken up arms against a brutal occupying force; now their friendship would give them strength as they experienced unimaginable horrors. Only forty-nine of the Convoi des 31000 would return from the camps in the east; within ten years, a third of these survivors would be dead too, broken by what they had lived through. In this vitally important book, Caroline Moorehead tells the whole story of the 230 women on the train, for the first time. Based on interviews with the few remaining survivors, together with extensive research in French and Polish archives, A Train in Winter is an essential historical document told with the clarity and impact of a great novel.

Caroline Moorehead follows the women from the beginning, starting with the disorganized, youthful and high-spirited activists who came together with the Occupation, and chronicling their links with the underground intellectual newspapers and Communist cells that formed soon afterwards. Postering and graffiti grew into sabotage and armed attacks, and the Nazis responded with vicious acts of mass reprisal - which in turn led to the Resistance coalescing and developing. Moorehead chronicles the women's roles in victories and defeats, their narrow escapes and their capture at the hands of French police eager to assist their Nazi overseers to deport Jews, resisters, Communists and others. Their story moves inevitably through to its horrifying last chapters in Auschwitz: murder, starvation, disease and the desperate struggle to survive. But, as Moorehead notes, even in the most inhuman of places, the women of the Convoi could find moments of human grace in their companionship: "So close did each of the women feel to the others, that to die oneself would be no worse than to see one of the others die."

Uncovering a story that has hitherto never been told , Caroline Moorehead exhibits the skills that have made her an acclaimed biographer and historian. In this book she places the reader utterly in the world of wartime France, casting light on what it was like to experience horrific terrors and face impossible moral dilemmas. Through the sensitive interviews on which the book is based, she tells personal and individual stories of courage, solace and companionship. In this way, A Train in Winter ultimately becomes a valuable memorial to a unique group of heroines, and a testimony to the particular power of women's friendship even in the worst places on earth.

Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, c2011
ISBN: 9780307356949
Branch Call Number: 940 .53 MOO
Characteristics: 374 p. :,ill., maps, ports. ;,25 cm

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s
smilasnow
Dec 27, 2016

Incredible book. Tough read at times but an important part of history I knew so little about. Highly recommended.

e
Eil_1
May 24, 2016

A history of the hundreds of particularly French women , and the men who were Resisters during WWII The horrendous experiences they faced under the monstrous Nazi-controlled countries - in this instance France. It is unimaginable to those who consider people to be human beings. The death camps where women, children and men were gassed to death - their bodies cremated, including babies who were thrown still ALIVE into the flames; the work camps where people from all over Europe were beaten, starved and worked until they died. In this historical novel, these women were never given acknowledgement for their ultimate sacrifices - they were only women!

Hundreds of thousands upon thousands -children, women and men were murdered daily for being Jews, political prisoners, resistors, Prisoners of War and unnamed citizens who helped those in mortal danger, mentally ill people, homosexuals, gypsies and others who were disappeared for offences that were never committed resulting from resentments and the need for money as reward, regards of truth or integrity .

I doubt that there ever was or ever will be a situation that will duplicate these incredibly horrific deeds. If anything, Hitler and his Gestapo/SS/the collaborators in his conquered countries, were the true anti-Christs.

There are some who deny that Germany was the author of this EVIL. If you are one of these, you should educate yourself of the true history of WWII.

Ask yourself: "Does God exist? - Even today with Evil that seems to be unstoppable."

CatherineG_1 Jan 25, 2016

230 French women who were part of the Resistance Movement in Paris, in World War II, were arrested for their crimes. The story in two parts focuses on how they became part of the underground movement and then their time in prison camps. One aspect that few stories ever discuss is what happened to them after their ordeal. Excellent research including materials written by the survivors, themselves. Ironically, I started reading this on the anniversary of their capture. For me, a page turner. (less)

l
Liber_vermis
Jan 08, 2015

Although this historical account of (often) arbitrary arrest, harsh punishment, torture and malnutrition occurs during the Second World War there are loud echoes with contemporary events in the Near East and central Asia. Can we learn from history or must we repeat the mistakes of the past? This gripping story offers great insight on the human condition.

WVMLStaffPicks May 31, 2013

This book shows the French Resistance from the perspective of women from all over France, focusing on 8-10 of the 230 women who were on Le Convoi des 31000. This train with women aged 16-44 was the only train in the entire four years of the occupation to take women from the French Resistance to the Nazi Death Camps. A story of danger, hardship, intimacy, friendship and survival, this is a riveting, sweeping story that continues after the war to follow the lives of these remarkable women.

agbookclub2 Mar 25, 2013

This was an Angus Glen book club title for 2012. This book was well researched and the subject matter was good; however, the story was hard to read and to follow along with. There were too many characters to really connect to the book. Most people counld not finish the book.

p
pardeep84
Mar 13, 2012

After reading the reviews on the novel, i decided to do a quick read before checking it out of the library. As many of you have mentioned, the writing is very dry and difficult to follow- likely due to the manner in which it is edited. Im a huge fan of war lit, but couldn't get myself to get into the book. The book was left on the shelf!

gilby1228 Feb 08, 2012

I totally agree with Jeanie123, part one was soooo difficult to get through that I gave up. I'll give it another try one day but just couldn't get past part one. I'm sure there's a great story in there somewhere.

j
jeanie123
Feb 01, 2012

I agree with the comment that this book simply cries out for editing. In fact, I myself cried out "are there no editors?' several times. Part One is excruciatingly tedious as it introduces us to each of the women. Apparently the only noteable facts that the author could find to describe them was their fathers' occupations which was usually irrelevant and added nothing to the story. It is only in Part Two that "the story" begins. I realize that this is non-fiction, but I really feel that there was a great story to tell here, but the writer really missed the mark. There were enough redeeming moments, however, to keep me reading until the end.

s
sixtyfive
Jan 09, 2012

This is a good book but it suffers from lack of editing. It reads like it was translated and in fact, many of the French words are translated for the reader but unnecessarily so while other French words go untranslated.
There are typos--not accetable in a $32.00 book professionally published. And there are major synatical errors that are just plain unprofessional.
The reporting is good, however, in this book.

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