We all do it, whether it’s the simple act of walking down the road, seeing a primrose in early spring, touching the hand of a loved one, having a meal with friends, or listening to music. And we all moan about the weather, the government, the state of the world in general, and few of us appreciate how very lucky we are to have the freedom and ability to do these simple basic things.
2020 sees the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and the Soviet army walked through the gates to find more than 7000 people, those too ill to be evacuated onto the March of Death through Poland’s bitter winter, dying of cold and starvation.
It’s hard for us to imagine what those people endured, or how they survived to tell the tale – a tale that was so horrific it wasn’t believed. Imagine knowing that everyone you loved had been gassed. Imagine not knowing if you would live or die at the next ‘selection’. Imagine risking being beaten to death for having a button missing, yet having no needle or thread to sew it back on, or being kicked to death for fainting at Zahlappell. Life and death in Auschwitz was entirely at the caprice of the SS officers. There was never enough water, or food, or medicine, and the brutality of camp life was dealt out with a randomness that must have held the inmates in a constant state of fear.
Most of us take it for granted that water will come out of a tap, there will be food in the supermarkets, a doctor or hospital to tend us if we’re sick, and that we’ll wake up in the morning. The men, women, and children of Auschwitz had no such hope or security, yet friendships were made that would last a lifetime, the spirit of the survivors couldn’t be quashed, and their faith held firm. Such was their courage in the face of adversity we can’t imagine. Such courage should be honoured.
It was to honour this courage that I researched and wrote Touching the Wire. It’s not an easy read – at times you will have to put it down and walk away, and at times you will be in tears, as I was while writing it, but the women of Auschwitz couldn’t walk away, and neither could I.
I am humbled that it has won awards – not my talent, but the courage and resilience of those about whom I wrote – this is the story of all the women who were silenced, and I have attempted to give them a voice, so that they will never be forgotten, and so that this will never happen again.
Royalties earnt during January are donated every year to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to further Holocaust education, and this year, prize money from the IAN Book of the Year prize will also be donated. Please support and share. Thank you for reading.