Franci's War

Franci's War : The incredible true story of one woman's survival of the Holocaust

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What are you willing to do to survive? What are you willing to endure if it means you might live?

'Achingly moving, gives much-needed hope . . . Deserves the status both as a valuable historical source and as a stand-out memoir' Daily Express

'A story that neads to be heard' 5***** Reader Review

Entering Terezin, a Nazi concentration camp, Franci was expected to die. She refused.

In the summer of 1942, twenty-two-year-old Franci Rabinek - designated a Jew by the Nazi racial laws - arrived at Terezin, a concentration camp and ghetto forty miles north of her home in Prague. It would be the beginning of her three-year journey from Terezin to the Czech family camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, to the slave labour camps in Hamburg, and finally to Bergen Belsen.

Franci, a spirited and glamorous young woman, was known among her fellow inmates as the Prague dress designer. Having endured the transportation of her parents, she never forgot her mother's parting words:

'Your only duty to us is to stay alive'.

During an Auschwitz selection, Franci would spontaneously lie to Nazi officer Dr Josef Mengele, and claim to be an electrician.

A split-second decision that would go on to endanger - and save - her life.

Unpublished for 50 years, Franci's War is an astonishing account of one woman's attempt to survive. Heartbreaking and candid, Franci finds the light in her darkest years and the horrors she faces instill in her, strength and resilience to survive and to live again. She gives a voice to the women prisoners in her tight-knit circle of friends. Her testimony sheds new light on the alliances, love affairs, and sexual barter that took place during the Holocaust, offering a compelling insight into the resilience and courage of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.

Above all, Franci's War asks us to explore what it takes to survive, and what it means to truly live.

'A candid account of shocking events. Franci is someone many women today will be able to identify with' 5***** Reader Review

'First-hand accounts of life in Nazi death camps never lose their terrible power but few are as extraordinary as Franci's War' Mail on Sunday

'Fascinating and traumatic. Well worth a read' 5***** Reader Review
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 27mm | 392g
  • Michael Joseph Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0241441048
  • 9780241441046
  • 384,624

Review quote

In a compelling voice, Franci illuminates the horror, shock, small graces, and capriciousness of surviving the Holocaust * Library Journal * A brave, timeless, important work -- Professor Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University A riveting account of how a young fashion designer in Prague survived the Holocaust, written with remarkable clarity, candour, and intelligence. Deeply moving and extraordinary -- Helen Fremont, international bestselling author of 'The Escape Artist' An incredible narrative, so finely detailed and distinctive, and a wholly consuming read. I gained new insight into the traumas of the Holocaust and couldn't put it down. Franci had the writer in her, not to mention astonishing resilience and resourcefulness -- Susannah Sirkin, Director of Policy, Physicians for Human Rights Full of passion, heartache and love - shedding light on humanity's darkest era and providing testimony to the incredible human capacity for resilience -- Madeleine K. Albright, Former US Secretary of State What are the qualities of a heroine tested and shaped by history, not by myth? She must have unflinching intelligence, wit, will, and honesty in the face of near-unbearable trials. Franci Rabinek Epstein was a worldly, pleasure-loving dress designer when the Nazi's invaded Prague; she endured and prevailed when they sent her to Terezin, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her voice is riveting whether she's outwitting Josef Mengele, grappling with her own despair, discussing Dostoevsky with another prisoner, delousing her hair with kerosene or improvising a Cocteau monologue for a show the women inmates stage with canny defiance. She survived the worst of her times; she speaks to the best of ours -- Margo Jefferson, Pultizer-prize winning author of 'Negroland: A Memoir' Rarely does a Holocaust survivor have such penetrating insight . This is a most remarkable memoir, told without self-pity, but with deep psychological astuteness about herself and the people she encountered. I didn't want it to end -- Eva Fogelman, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author A striking memoir from an unspeakably terrifying era. Married hastily to a young man who was able to help her family survive by his canny trading instincts - until he was caught and disappeared - Franci was herded into the cattle cars for transport to Auschwitz in May 1944. From then on, Franci demonstrates a fierce determination to adapt and prevail amid the harshest conditions * Kirkus * Devestating. A searingly honest memoir * Booklist, starred review * A splendidly-told memoir. I was chilled and moved -- Miranda Seymour First-hand accounts of life in Nazi death camps never lose their terrible power but few are as extraordinary as Franci's War * Mail on Sunday * Achingly moving, gives much needed hope . . . Franci's War deserves the status both as a valuable historical source and as a stand-out memoir of one woman's human experience of arguably the most abominable period of modern times * Daily Express *
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About Franci Epstein

Franci Rabinek Epstein was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1920 and educated at the Ecole Francaise, Lycee de Prague, and the Deutsches Staatsrealgymnasium before dropping out to apprentice in her mother's haute couture Salon. At 18, Franci became the owner of the Salon, though the family were eventually forced to 'aryanize' their Jewish business. A newlywed when she arrived at Terezin, she regarded the Nazi concentration camps as her university. After liberation by the British in April 1945, Franci would finally return to Prague, the only immediate member of her family to have survived. She married Kurt Epstein in 1946 and then, after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, she emigrated to New York City and established a new fashion salon on the Upper West Side. She lectured at universities on her experience during the war before dying of a brain aneurysm in 1989. Her daughter, journalist Helen Epstein, has written the afterword for Franci's War.
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Rating details

4 ratings
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3 25% (1)
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