Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Matthews

‘Listen to me, I tell you.  I tell you this: she was a good neighbour, a good worker and a good woman.’

The novel opens in New Jersey, USA, on 7 February 2000.  Something, involving Stella’s friend Anna, has happened.  It looks like she is going to kill someone: who, and why?

The next part of the story takes us back to 9 January 1940, to Zwinbrych in Poland.

Over a period of sixty years, this story will unfold.  The story of two sisters from a Polish village in World War II, separated when soldiers came to recruit women for the brothel at the Auschwitz concentration camp.  One sister, Ania, was taken while Danuta fled.  Danuta was shot and left for dead.  When she recovered, she joined the Polish underground to try to find her sister. Ania was one of several women forced into sexual slavery, in a brothel which was set up to ‘reward’ the non-Jewish prisoners.  A clever and evil motivational tool which destroyed lives.  Those who survived were often shunned and treated as outcasts.

Ania and Danuta set out to survive, hoping one day to be reunited.

I did not know, until I read this novel and then did some research of my own that there was a brothel for the prisoners at Auschwitz.  While the brothel was real, Ania and Danuta are fictional.  The story is heartbreaking and yet another reminder of the cruelty and tragedy of war.

This is a thought-provoking novel: both important and difficult to read.

Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith