On January 24, 1943, 230 women were placed in four cattle trucks on a train in Compiegne, in Northeastern France, and the doors bolted shut for the journey to Auschwitz. They were members of the French Resistance, ranging in age from teenagers to the elderly, women who before the war had been doctors, farmers' wives, secretaries, biochemists, schoolgirls. With immense courage they had taken up arms against a brutal occupying force; now their friendship would give them strength as they experienced unimaginable horrors. Only 49 of the Convoi des 31000 would return from the camps in the east; within 10 years, a third of these survivors would be dead, too, broken by what they had lived through. In this vitally important book, Caroline Moorehead tells the whole story of the 230 women on the train, for the first time. Based on interviews with the few remaining survivors, together with extensive research in French and Polish archives, A Train in Winter is an essential historical document told with the clarity and impact of a great novel. Caroline Moorehead follows the women from the beginning, starting with the disorganized, youthful, and high-spirited activists who came together with the Occupation and chronicling their links with the underground intellectual newspapers and Communist cells that formed soon afterward. Postering and graffiti grew into sabotage and armed attacks, and the Nazis responded with vicious acts of mass reprisal - which in turn led to the Resistance coalescing and developing. Moorehead chronicles the women's roles in victories and defeats, their narrow escapes and their capture at the hands of French police eager to assist their Nazi overseers to deport Jews, resisters, Communists, and others. Their story moves inevitably through to its horrifying last chapters in Auschwitz: murder, starvation, disease, and the desperate struggle to survive. But, as Moorehead notes, even in the most inhuman of places, the women of the Convoi could find moments of human grace in their companionship: "So close did each of the women feel to the others, that to die oneself would be no worse than to see one of the others die." Uncovering a story that has hitherto never been told, Caroline Moorehead exhibits the skills that have made her an acclaimed biographer and historian. In this book she places the listener utterly in the world of wartime France, casting light on what it was like to experience horrific terrors and face impossible moral dilemmas. Through the sensitive interviews on which the book is based, she tells personal and individual stories of courage, solace, and companionship. In this way, A Train in Winter ultimately becomes a valuable memorial to a unique group of heroines and a testimony to the particular power of women's friendship even in the worst places on Earth.
©2017 Caroline Moorehead (P)2017 Penguin Random House Canada
NATIONAL BEST SELLER
The extraordinary story of four courageous women who helped form the Italian Resistance against the Nazis and the Fascists during the Second World War.
In the late summer of 1943, when Italy changed sides in WWII and the Germans, now their enemies, occupied the north of the country, an Italian Resistance was born. Ada, Frida, Silvia, and Bianca were four young Piedmontese women who joined the Resistance, living secretively in the mountains surrounding Turin. They were not alone. Between 1943 and 1945, as the Allies battled their way north, thousands of men and women throughout occupied Italy rose up and fought to liberate their country from the German invaders and their Fascist collaborators. What made the partisan war all the more extraordinary was the number of women in its ranks.
The bloody civil war that ensued across the country pitted neighbour against neighbour, and brought out the best and worst in Italian society. The courage shown by the partisans was exemplary, and eventually bound them together as a coherent fighting force. And the women's contribution was invaluable - they fought, carried messages and weapons, provided safe houses, laid mines and took prisoners. Ada's house deep in the mountains became a meeting place and refuge for many of them. The death rattle of Mussolini's two decades of Fascist rule - with its corruption, greed and anti-Semitism - was unrelentingly violent and brutal, but for the partisan women it was also a time of camaraderie and equality, pride and optimism. They would prove, to themselves and to the world, what resolve, tenacity, and above all, exceptional courage could achieve.
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©2020 Caroline Moorehead (P)2020 Random House Canada
From the author of the runaway best seller A Train in Winter comes the extraordinary story of a French village that helped save thousands, including many Jewish children, who were pursued by the Gestapo during World War II.
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardèche. Surrounded by pastures and thick forests of oak and pine, the plateau Vivarais lies in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France, cut off for long stretches of the winter by snow.
During the Second World War, the inhabitants of the area saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, downed Allied airmen, and above all Jews. Many of these were children and babies whose parents had been deported to the death camps in Poland. After the war Le Chambon became the only village to be listed in its entirety in Yad Vashem's Dictionary of the Just.
Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying parishes came to save so many people has never been fully told. Acclaimed biographer and historian Caroline Moorehead brings to life a story of outstanding courage and determination and of what could be done when even a small group of people came together to oppose German rule. It is an extraordinary tale of silence and complicity. In a country infamous throughout the four years of occupation for the number of denunciations to the Gestapo of Jews, resisters and escaping prisoners of war, not one single inhabitant of Le Chambon ever broke silence. The story of Le Chambon is one of a village bound together by a code of honour born of centuries of religious oppression. And, though it took a conspiracy of silence by the entire population, it happened because of a small number of heroic individuals, many of them women, for whom saving those hunted by the Nazis became more important than their own lives.
Short-listed 2014 - Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
©2014 Caroline Moorehead (P)2017 Random House Canada
From the best-selling author of A Train in Winter, the story of the Rosselli family, whose courage standing up to Mussolini's fascism helped define the path of Italy in the years between the World Wars. "I had a house: they destroyed it. I had a newspaper: they closed it. I had a university chair: I was forced to abandon it. I had - as I still do - dreams, dignity, ideals: to defend them I was sent to prison. I had teachers: they murdered them." (Carlo Rosselli on Italy's fascist regime) Italy's Rosselli family were members of the cosmopolitan, cultural elite in Florence at the start of the 20th century. Led by their fierce matriarch, Amelia Rosselli, they were also vocal antifascists. As Mussolini rose to power in Italy following WWI, the Rossellis took leading roles in the rebellion against him, a stance that few in their class would risk. And when Mussolini established a police state whose tactics grew more brutal, the Rossellis and their antifascist friends transformed from debaters and critics into activists. As punishment for their participation in revolutionary activities, the Rossellis' homestead was ransacked, one after another of their number was imprisoned, others in the family fled the country to escape a similar fate, and two were eventually assassinated on the orders of Mussolini's government. After the outbreak of WWII, Amelia fled with the remaining members of the Rosselli family to New York City. Their visas were arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt herself. Through the stories of these brave people and their friends, renowned historian Caroline Moorehead delivers an immersive picture of Italy in the first half of the 20th century. She reveals the rise and fall of Mussolini and his black-shirted Squadristi; the ambivalence of many prominent Italian families to Mussolini and their seduction by his promises; and the bold, fractured antifascist movement, so many of whose members died at Mussolini's hands. Continuing The Resistance Quartet she began with A Train in Winter and continued with Village of Secrets, Moorehead once again shows us the faces of those who helped the world hold on to its humanity at a time when it seemed all might be lost.
©2017 Caroline Moorehead (P)2017 Penguin Random House Canada