The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive by Lucy Adlington - 2021- 391 pages
Number One Best Seller in History on Amazon
The Dressmakers of Auschwitz is a very well done valuable addition to Holocaust studies. It focuses on a group of women confined to Auschwitz who used their sewing skills to survive by creating outfits for the wives of important SS officers of the camp.
Twenty five mostly Jewish women worked in a salon catering to the needs of he wives of the men in charge of killing Jews. This enabled them to survive. They worked inside, were able to bath (the wives did not want to be around what were referred to as “filthy Jews” for fear of Lice) and ate significantly better food than women doing hard physical work 12 plus hours a day in often freezing weather where any weakness got you selected for death. The operation, called The Upper Tailoring Studio, was founded by Hedwig Höss, wife of the camp commandant, and was patronized by the wives of other officers and Nazi elite in Berlin.
The material used as well as equipment employed was all stolen from inmates. Adlington brings vividly to life the horrible reality of Auschwitz for the young women inmates. Older women, anybody who arrived with a child, were normally sent to the gas chambers upon arrival. The Kapo of the Studio began as the personal dressmaker to Frau Höss. Soon her friends wanted outfits also so other women were invited to join. Most were friends, family or from the same town as other workers. Being a member of the group saved their lives.
Adlington shows us how having a circle of contacts was paramount to survival in the camp. We see how some women never gave up hope and others said “the only way out of here is up in smoke”. Of course the liberation of the camp by the Russians was a day of incredible excitement. Before the guards all fled, they burned as much of the documentation they kept on their murders.
We learn that being a top officer was a sure path to riches from stealing from the Germans what they stole from their captives. Just being a guard gave you access to things taken from the suitcases brought by arriving inmates. Most guards regularly sent packages home, some coerced women into being their mistress or simply raped at will.
Making use of extensive research and interviews with survivors Adlington exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Germans. They tried to destroy the humanity of the Jews making it ok to kill them but it was the Germans whose humanity was destroyed. No German was forced to participate, they did it willingly and with great pleasure.
Adlington goes into a lot of fascinating detail about how the German fashion industry was impacted by the Nazis. German women were supposed to be good house fraus, breeders for the Reich, the men hyper masculine super heroes dressed in uniforms meant to intimidate.
The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive by Lucy Adlington will fascinate any intelligent person who reads it. Adlington tells a story that needed to be told about courage, dignity and humanity surviving under terrible conditions.
“Lucy Adlington is an author, presenter, and keen collector of vintage & antique costume. She writes both history-inspired fiction and fascinating social history books.
When not on the sofa reading & writing, she likes exploring vintage fairs, flea markets and car boot sales, looking for historical treasures.
She lives on a working farm in the north of England, with a patient farmer and a cat the size of a small armchair.” From the Author’s website
I offer my thanks to Ms Adlington for this magnificent book.