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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival'
Caroline Moorhead's remarkable book `The Train in Winter' relates the story of 230 women of the French Resistance who were captured, rounded up from Gestapo detention camps and then sent on a train to Auschwitz in the winter of 1943. The youngest was a young girl of fifteen and the eldest was a woman of sixty eight years; among these women were: writers, teachers,...
Published on 23 Oct 2011 by Susie B

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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult read
This is not an easy read not just due to the subject matter but due to the fact the writer jumps around and so it is not always possible to identify or get to know the individual women also the use of French and no translation makes it difficult to read and get into the book - many a time I wanted to give up on the book but felt I owed it to the women /victims of such a...
Published 21 months ago by Sue


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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival', 23 Oct 2011
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
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Caroline Moorhead's remarkable book `The Train in Winter' relates the story of 230 women of the French Resistance who were captured, rounded up from Gestapo detention camps and then sent on a train to Auschwitz in the winter of 1943. The youngest was a young girl of fifteen and the eldest was a woman of sixty eight years; among these women were: writers, teachers, chemists, sales assistants, housewives and schoolgirls.

The first part of the book begins with the collapse of France in the summer of 1940, when the Germans invaded Paris and where most French citizens were so stunned they just waited to see what would happen, fearing the same inhumane treatment that had been delivered to the Polish people during the German invasion of Poland. The German soldiers were very surprised by the passivity of the French as they handed in their weapons and initially accepted the conditions offered to them. However, there was one group of citizens not prepared to accept defeat and this was the French Communist Party, already trained in opposition and ready to become the main focus of resistance. Most of the women we come to know in this book were Communists but, in general, men and women who joined the Resistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society. The women of the French Resistance carried messages, printed and distributed newspapers, collected and concealed weapons, hid escaping Jews and some worked as `passeurs', helping people to escape across the demarcation line between occupied and unoccupied zones. Their contribution to the work of the Resistance was immensely important but was also incredibly dangerous - they risked not only their own lives but the lives of their families.

Caroline Moorhead's book tells the amazing stories of these women - about who they were, how they became involved with the Resistance, how they were captured and how they were treated by the French police and the Gestapo once they had been caught. These women were brutally treated; they were practically starved and were regularly beaten but their bravery, determination, mental endurance and, not least, their strong sense of camaraderie kept them alive - for a time, anyhow. Of the 230 women only 49 survived to return to France.

This book is primarily about friendship between women; it is about how they cared for and about each other; it is about generosity, intimacy, courage, dignity, determination and human endurance. It is about life and death. It was a harrowing read and I will admit to being in tears several times throughout the reading of this book, but I learnt things I didn't know - for example, I had no knowledge about the `Brigade Speciales', a section of the French police who worked closely with the Nazis, becoming an almost parallel Gestapo, with their own manual in French informing them what forms of torture they could use - however most importantly I learnt about a group of amazing women who would not surrender to the Nazis. This is one of those books that you don't actually enjoy reading, but you feel the better for having read.

5 Stars.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignantly, despairingly wonderful., 28 Nov 2011
By 
Gerry Mac "Gerry" (SALTCOATS, AYRSHIRE United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Perhaps it's me but, looking at other reviews, I find it strange and not-a-little disconcerting that anyone could begin to write of this book; "OK its a bit slow to start but good ending" or "This was a great read" or "Great book to handle in terms of size, font size and the fact it's a hardcover": as if they were somehow reviewing a fictional novel! However, one reviewer seems to 'get it' in saying: "This is one of those books that you don't actually enjoy reading, but you feel the better for having read."

Earlier reviewers have gone into detail re the book's content and narrative drive but essentially, this second world war-time factual account of 'man's desperate inhumanity to man/woman' is effective on several levels. In both quality and quantity, the research is faultless. The depiction, too, of people and events is impeccable if soul-searing. Indeed, when you read of the extremes of brutality and privation that these woman survived it's not impossible to see, when eventually the small minority made it back to their towns and villages, family and friends, how their stories were initially disbelieved. Indeed, one brief quote (from many similarly terrifying incidents) is enough to exemplify this: "One night, Marie-Claude heard terrible cries; next morning she learnt that because the gas chambers had run out of Zyklon B Pellets, the smaller children had been thrown directly on to the flames. 'When we tell people,' she said to the others, 'who will believe us?' "

From this, too, you will realise that if you're in any way of a less-than-robust mental constitution, shall we say, this book, the second 'part' particularly, is not really for you. It's just too much to bear, at times. The so-called 'good ending' (!) referred to earlier by one reviewer, is actually 'Appendix: the women': 17 pages concisely and unemotionally detailing the deaths and manner of such of not only those who perished but of their wives, husbands and children left bereft and orphaned.

Read this book at your discretion...but read it!

PS I intend no real disrespect to those reviewers I mention, above, sorry...I'm just a little incredulous.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speechless, 12 Dec 2011
An excellent book, should be read by all. By the end of the book, with the roll call of all those died, murdered or perished, I was utterly speechless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true story probably never previously told so completely, 1 Aug 2014
By 
Andy_atGC (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz (Paperback)
Of the hundreds, possibly thousands, of trainloads of people transported from across most of mainland Europe to Auschwitz and similar camps where most were put to death, this is the story of just one and it took place in January 1943, a time when Germany was mostly winning its battles and a few months before the tide was to begin to turn. It was also the year in which Italy left the Axis and began to support Allied efforts, in which the Germans surrendered at Leningrad and they started to lose the submarine war.

The trainload of this true tale was a unique event as its load was 230 women, mostly French but including a few from other countries, brought from various prisons and detention centres across France and whom were all opposed to the German occupation of their country. They were not just opposed but active opposers - Resistance workers, Maquis, couriers, radio operators, arms distributors or anyone who provided them with aid or assistance of any kind could have been included. Young or old, professional or less well educated, mothers or widowed; all were represented. Although a brief life history is sometimes provided, some of the women's names and details were not fully known and there is little more than a surname, possibly a nom de guerre.

The life expectancy of most within Auschwitz was low and relatively few were sufficiently lucky and able to speak post-War about their experiences. Some of its occupants were used as forced labour in nearby factories, working long hours on a starvation diet. Disease and physical abuse were rife and survival was not guaranteed as part of the camp was dedicated to the killing and cremation of its occupants. However, of the 230 only 49 survived (just over one-in-five) to return to France.

The book is randomly illustrated and photographs of some of the women are included. There are several other relevant illustrations. There is an appendix listing in total all the names of the women concerned, including the seven then surviving in 2008 when the book was being written, the other 42 survivors and the remainder who died while in the camp are separately and collectively grouped accordingly.

This book is the story of all those women and how their common situation and building friendships and comradeship helped them endure and survive. Some of the women gave evidence at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials which may have helped in the convictions of several of those responsible.

It is a rare and unusual story of a single wartime event and of the courage that its subjects demonstrated.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a train in winter - a moving brilliant book, 25 Nov 2011
By 
N. J. Hurle "squoppy" (france) - See all my reviews
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for me this is one of the great books, the story of these women is unbelievable, and a total inspiration.
Also the background to Vichy France and the lives of the french at the start of the war is fascinating.
Caroline Moorhead is to be congratulated on a wonderful piece of research which as turned out as an incredibly moving testatement to the strength of what friendship can do and survive.
An amazing moving book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another story about the Holocaust, 26 Oct 2012
This review is from: A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz (Paperback)
This book has been well researched by a very competent and experienced writer. Caroline Moorehead has delved deeply into the lives of a number of members of the French Resistance and has written a well constructed and depressing history of five years of their lives during World War II. My only criticism of this very good book is that of a pronounced left wing bias that suggests to the reader that it was only the communists and a few Jews who fought in the Resistance. As other readers will know this is far from the truth and people of all classes took part. In fact others had more to lose but came out of the shadows and fought and suffered bravely, for example, Nancy Fiocca and Robert Benoit to name just two. This doesn't' lessen the qualities of this book but someone visiting the subject for the first time may get a rather distorted picture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A train in winter, story of resistance, friendship and survival, 6 Dec 2012
By 
Mrs. S. R. Harris "rosina" (west sussex, england) - See all my reviews
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I have read many books about the SOE's part in the second world war, but knew little about the French resistance and their part, and found it quite shocking as to the savage punishments meted out by the Germans in cahouts with the French, who should hang their heads in shame as to the way they treated their own citizens. Havent finished the book completely, but it has made me think about the French in occupied France and the so called free part in the south, where Petain was in charge, all doing the nazi's work for them I am not sure if anyone was prosecuted for crimes against humanity by the French who were puppets, but they should have been, perhaps it was swept under the carpet I would be interested to know.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, 5 Jan 2012
This is a remarkable book and a truly amazing story. I couldnt put it down and was moved to tears by some of the experiences of these incredible ladies. Buy this book - you wont be disappointed. Everyone should know what the women did in the name of freedom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars following alead, 8 Nov 2012
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my attention was drawn to a review of this book in The Guardian Review as it might of contained information about a mutual Friend. It did not but I still found it worth reading as it is detailing the role of women in the French Resistance, not so often reported but I did not find the characters very engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You MUST read this book, 13 Dec 2013
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This review is from: A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz (Paperback)
I will remember this book and the women in it for the rest of my life. It's not a book you can say you enjoyed but it haunted my dreams and was impossible to put down.
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