The Girl in the Striped Dress – Ellie Midwood

Pages: 364
Date Published: 09/08/2021
Date Read: 23/07/2021

Germany, 1947.

A strange case scheduled for the Denazification Court lands on the desk of an American psychiatrist currently serving in Germany, Dr. Hoffman. A former Auschwitz guard, Franz Dahler, is set to appear in court, and he has requested to bring the most unexpected witness to testify in his defense – one of his former inmates and current wife, Helena.

As soon as one of the newly emerging Nazi hunters and former Auschwitz inmate, Andrej Novák, recognises the officer’s name, he demands a full investigation of Dahler’s crimes, claiming that the former SS man was not only abusing Helena in the camp but is also using her as a ploy to escape prosecution.

Silent, subdued, and seemingly dependent on her husband’s every word, Helena appears to be a classic victim of abuse, and possibly more of an aid to the prosecution instead of the defense. As she begins giving her testimony, Dr. Hoffman finds himself more and more confused at the picture that gradually emerges before his eyes; a perpetrator is claimed to be the saviour and the accuser, the criminal.

The better Dr. Hoffman gets to know each participant, the more he begins to question himself; whether he’s facing a most unimaginable love story, or a new and still-nameless psychological disorder affecting the very manner in which Helena sees the events of the past.

Partially based on a true story, this deeply psychological, haunting novel will take you back in time to the heart of Auschwitz and post-war Germany, and will keep you guessing the true motive of each side.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ellie Midwood for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

How many Holocaust/Auschwitz books can one person read, and still be horrified that this truly happened just 80 years ago, to human beings, by human beings.

This book takes a new angle on the horrors, focussing on one Nazi’s post-war criminal trial, and how a prisoner became his wife. There’s no celebrating what he did during the way, but this book touches upon his humanity. We forget that whilst they did unspeakable things, most were simply humans simply following orders. I think Midwood does a great job at telling the truth, whether that truth by good or bad. It is not over the top or gruesome simply for entertainment, it is truthful and informative and powerful.

It must have been hard for the judges, jury and those involved in the post-war trials to remain objective. If I knew how many had died in such gruesome ways at the hands of the defendant, I’m not sure I could be as impartial.

I suppose there’s a risk of repetitiveness when it comes to books about the war, and especially about the Holocaust, especially as we have been taught so much about it over the years. I mean, how different can one prisoner’s experiences be from another? But approximately 1.1million people died in Auschwitz, and 1.1million of those stories deserve to be told, written down, and read, so we can honour them. It is the only way we can stop it happening again – to remember them.

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