The Nazis knew my name by Magda Hellinger & May Lee

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Magda Hellinger was a Slovakian kindergarten teacher when, in 1942, she was deported into the hands of the Nazis and forced into the horror of existence in Auschwitz. Her natural leadership skills and language abilities were recognised by the Germans, and she was regularly co-opted into the role of prisoner leader – a role that enabled her to be ‘known’ by the Nazis, but also put her in a position that could sometimes help others, but always at the risk of her own life. Her life was never easy, and her survival was a miracle, but the story of the years lost in Auschwitz and the many lives lost is so awful that it should not be forgotten. This is the story of one Jewish life; her influence, and her story, is powerful and compelling.  

This is a biography written using the accounts of Magda herself, but it is her daughter’s research following her death and David Brewster’s writing skills that have drawn the threads together giving an insight into the awfulness of the Holocaust experience for those who suffered its horrors. Resilience does not always explain why some survived and others didn’t, but Magda’s story reveals that sometimes it was the power of a single voice or relationship that could make a difference.

Themes: World War II, Jewish holocaust, Survival, Auschwitz, Concentration camps, Biography.

Carolyn Hull