Title: The Nine Hundred
Author: Heather Dune Macadam
Published: January 28th 2020
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Non Fiction, Historical, World War II
Rating: 4 stars
The untold story of the 999 young, unmarried Jewish women who were tricked into boarding a train in Poprad, Slovakia on March 25, 1942 that became the first official transport to Auschwitz.
‘Books such as this are essential: they remind modern readers of events that should never be forgotten’ – Caroline Moorehead
On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women boarded a train in Poprad, Slovakia. Filled with a sense of adventure and national pride, they left their parents’ homes wearing their best clothes and confidently waving good-bye. Believing they were going to work in a factory for a few months, they were eager to report for government service. Instead, the young women-many of them teenagers-were sent to Auschwitz. Their government paid 500 Reichsmarks (about 160) apiece for the Nazis to take them as slave labour. Of those 999 innocent deportees, only a few would survive.
The facts of the first official Jewish transport to Auschwitz are little known, yet profoundly relevant today. These were not resistance fighters or prisoners of war. There were no men among them. Sent to almost certain death, the young women were powerless and insignificant not only because they were Jewish-but also because they were female. Now, acclaimed author Heather Dune Macadam reveals their poignant stories, drawing on extensive interviews with survivors, and consulting with historians, witnesses, and relatives of those first deportees to create an important addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history.
The story uncovered by Heather Dune Macadam in The Nine Hundred charts an unbelievable, but sadly true account of the first female transport of young Jewish women to Auschwitz. A story of horror, pure survival, heroism and courage, The Nine Hundred is a text carefully rooted in copious research, as well as moving testimonies.
The date of March 25th 1942 is an important one, etched on the minds of survivors and loved ones left behind when a convoy of almost 1000 young Jewish women were placed on a train bound for a government shoe factory. In reality, these unmarried young Jewish women in their prime were headed for the extermination epicentre of World War II, Auschwitz. Sadly, these young women were unaware of their horrific destination. Many were proud to be called up for government service and they were happy to say goodbye to their families in favour for doing their bit for the war. Earmarked as slave labour for an evil plan to create and populate a death camp, only a small group of this remarkable set of women would end up walking free from Auschwitz. The author of The Nine Hundred, Heather Dune Macadam, had a big task ahead of her in committing to this book. We discover that both evidence and facts are missing from the history books on this important first transport. Therefore, it is difficult to unveil a complete story from this evidence available. However, what The Nine Hundred reveals is an extraordinary account of a group of women who were persecuted for their gender, age, location, religion and culture. Their stories are incredibly moving, plucked from a host of historical advice, first hand interviews, eye witness accounts and stories of relatives left behind. The Nine Hundred earns a place on the shelves of literature available to those seeking to learn more about the Holocaust experience.
The Nine Hundred is a 2020 publication from Hachette Australia. There is also an accompanying feature documentary film based on the experiences relayed in this book. I am keen to get my hands on this when it becomes available. The author of The Nine Hundred, Heather Dune Macadam, has an impressive resume that puts her in a good standing to pen a text based on the first female transport to Auschwitz. Heather Dune Macadam’s debut novel Rena’s Promise outlines a very personal account of the first female transport experience. The author is clearly very passionate about her subject matter and she has worked hard to fight against Holocaust denial. With her active involvement in various foundations, advisory boards, along with her work as both a director and producer on the documentary film on the 999, I think that Heather Dune Macadam is more than qualified to conduct a comprehensive historical account of the first female transport experience to Auschwitz.
The Nine Hundred is an essential and pertinent guide to the first female transport to Auschwitz. Told over three parts, with a homecoming, afterword, one final word, list of photographs, illustrations, archives, source notes, bibliography, acknowledgments and an index, this is a very detailed text. The Nine Hundred is preceded by a moving forward by Caroline Moorehead, an author’s note and a list of principal figures on the first transport.
Heather Dune Macadam had an insurmountable task ahead of her when she first committed to providing a historical account of this pinnacle first female transport. She acknowledges this in her author notes. I felt the burden, the pressure and the urgency to get these stories out to the general public. It seems inherent that we continue to bring these stories to the floor. In texts such as The Nine Hundred, there is the double hope that the Holocaust will never be forgotten and never repeated again. In The Nine Hundred, we hear the stories of many on this transport and I am sure there were more that have been lost in time. The information at hand is presented in a factual, compelling, personal and sensitive manner.
I was shocked, surprised and dismayed yet again to learn of the harrowing and cruel practices of the government and Nazi party. The move to recruit a large portion of young Jewish women from Slovakia for a government shoe factory, when they were actually being sent to the hell zone of Auschwitz was incredibly underhanded. Even the act of making the women send postcards home as a rouse to conceal the real experience they were facing was utterly appalling. This is just a dip in the ocean as to the horrible situations faced by these women who were robbed of everything. To think that any of them managed to overcome their ordeal and survive begs belief, but they did, which gives us hope.
Heather Dune Macadam is very conscious of her need to explore the backgrounds of the women on this first transport. She gives the reader a solid understanding of their roots and their feelings in selflessly giving up their lives for national service. Heather Dune Macadam provides a blow by blow account of the process of the travel and transportation arrangements, along with the women’s arrival to Auschwitz. The Auschwitz chapter is revealed in finite detail, with information taken directly from the author’s vast collection of primary and secondary sources. Both vivid and informative, the reader will be moved to tears by these tragic experiences. Finally, a glimpse into the aftermath of Auschwitz is exposed. We learn of the death marches and the rush to exterminate as the allies made their presence known. We also learn of the liberation process and the early days of recovery for the survivors. A focus on justice and resettlement forms the final backbone of the novel, along with a look at the legacy these figures left on history.
The Nine Hundred is pertinent, paramount and indispensable. It exposes a dark wing in our past, a history that should not be rewritten, but continued to be aired.
The Nine Hundred by Heather Dune Macadam is published by Hachette Australia on January 28th 2020. $34.99.
To learn more about the author of The Nine Hundred, Heather Dune Macadam, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.