Foreword by Caroline Moorehead
New York Times Bestselling Author of A Train in Winter
On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women boarded a train in Poprad, Slovakia. Filled with a sense of adventure and national pride, they left their parents’ homes wearing their best clothes and confidently waving good-bye. Believing they were going to work in a factory for a few months, they were eager to report for government service. Instead, the young women—many of them teenagers—were sent to Auschwitz. Their government paid 500 Reich Marks (about $200) apiece for the Nazis to take them as slave labor. Of those 999 innocent deportees, only a few would survive.
The facts of the first official Jewish transport to Auschwitz are little known, yet profoundly relevant today. These were not resistance fighters or prisoners of war. There were no men among them. Sent to almost certain death, the young women were powerless and insignificant not only because they were Jewish—but also because they were female. Now acclaimed author Heather Dune Macadam reveals their poignant stories, drawing on extensive interviews with survivors, and consulting with historians, witnesses, and relatives of those first deportees to create an important addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history.
An excerpt from
999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz
The rumor started as rumors do. There was just a hunch. A sick feeling in the stomach. Still, it was just a rumor. What more could they do to Jews? But even the weather seemed against them.
The snow began falling as Jewish mothers all over Eastern Europe prepared the Sabbath candles. In the Friedmann home, Emmanuel Friedmann came in through the front door clapping and singing, “Shabbat Shalom! Shalom! Shalom!” Daughters Edith and Lea joined their father, circling him with hugs and kisses. Then the family gathered around the Sabbath table, to watch as their mother lit the Sabbath candles, and welcomed the miracle of love and light into the home.
By Shabbat morning the blizzard had dumped over a foot of snow, and by midday it was thigh high. It was unusual for the town crier to make announcements on Saturdays. But in the afternoon, out in front of town halls all over Eastern Slovakia, drums started beating.
Normally, the town crier waited for a crowd to begin his announcement. Not today. He began at once, so he could get out of the damp weather that was wetting his collar and freezing his neck. Sputtering, the man raised his voice over the din: Girls over the age of 16 are ordered to come to a registration office, to be appointed, on a date to be announced with more details to be forthcoming...