The Holocaust was a time in history that will never be forgotten. It was a time of sorrow and pain. The historical fiction novel Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly demonstrates how the Holocaust affected the lives of very different people. The three characters Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick, and Herta Oberheuser all live disparate lives during the Holocaust but each of them gets affected by it. People who lived through the Holocaust had their social, romantic and family lives affected poorly.
The years 1933 to 1945 were some of the most horrific years in world history. There were over 17 million deaths through these years and 6 million of those people were Jews. That time period was called the Holocaust. It was a time when humanity went out of control. During this period there were concentration camps overfilled with adults, teens and children working as hard as they can because if they showed weakness they had a very likely chance of being killed. And others were killed for no reason. Millions of people were shot, put into gas chambers, starved to death, suffered from illness and more. Leaving mountains of lifeless bodies piled up to get burnt to ash and then get disposed of.
Adolf Hitler the leader of it all started off by taking rule of Germany when Germany was in an economic crisis. Germany during this period was called Nazi Germany and the Germans who were on Hitler’s side were called Nazis. Hitler’s rule soon escalated terribly, leading the creation many concentration camps and overcrowding them with thousands and thousands of jews from all around Europe. In the article “The Article That Told The World About The Holocaust” Hillary Kelly states “the first inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were placed in rail cars and deported to Nazi concentration camps… less than six months later, the ghetto held only approximately 50,000 of the original 550,000 Jews.” That means that 90% of the Jews were moved within six months, and that was just at one ghetto. This shows how brutal it was during the Holocaust. People were forced out of their homes leaving almost everything behind for the Nazis to steal and make money over, then forced to work.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly takes place during the holocaust and focuses mainly on three women, Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick and Herta Oberheuser. The novel is written in first person, however the narrator switches each chapter between the three main characters stated before. Caroline, Kasia and Herta have very different lives and this novel tells the story of how these girls come together despite their different lifestyles, Kelly’s novel is based off a true story, it mostly takes place in a concentration camp called Ravensbrück which was a real camp in Germany.
This camp was very cruel, it had done medical experiments on teen girls which lead to a lot of suffering. According to the article “Ravensbrück” The camp was the second largest women’s concentration camp in size, Auschwitz being first. And it was also the only main camp that was meant for mostly women. Around this time women were viewed as less important which is why the novel being about 3 girls and one of the largest women’s concentration camps is very significant. Kelly shows that women did have power during this time and that they were strong, on top of that she showed the effects that the Holocaust had on people.
The novel Lilac Girls begins with the perspective of Caroline Ferriday she is like the hero of the novel. She is based off a real person named Caroline Ferriday. She lives in Manhattan and is a New York socialite, she also works for a charity that helps french orphans. Caroline is a wealthy hard worker that loves her job very much. She is loving and brave and stands up for what she believes in. During the first couple of pages of the novel these characteristics are shown. Caroline states “Loving all things French was simply genetic for me.” (4) This makes her seem sweet and positive like she always looked towards the good side of life, but then her life takes an unexpected turn when Hitler’s army invades Poland.
In 1939 Hitler invaded Poland, and next up he wanted to invade France. As shown before Caroline really loved France, so when she heard this it hurt her a lot. After hearing the unfortunate news she did more research and was disgusted by what she learned. But even throughout these times Caroline still kept all of her good qualities, A man Caroline was very close to Paul went to France to try and help but got imprisoned. “It was terrible news but oddly hopeful, for at least he was alive.” (219). This shows that she still tried to look at the positive sides, she was staying strong even though someone she loved was in danger. And although she tried to stay strong it did not last very long. This was affecting her relationship with Paul and giving her a lot of stress, and sadness, and anger. ‘Im fine,’ I said, stuffing the frustration down deep. ‘I guess it’s just hard on the nerves,’” (221). This shows that Caroline was starting to struggle and lose her bravery.
Its showing the negative effects The Holocaust had on her. It was affecting her romantic and social life and her qualities that made Caroline Ferriday, Caroline Ferriday. She was starting to not always look on the positive side of life. She lost some of her friends and Paul to the Nazis. And she didn’t have as much time to be social as before because she was so focused on helping the others. Although Caroline did have one good effect from it all and that was that she saved a bunch of prisoners in Ravensbrück and brought them to America to get the treatment they needed after the medical experiments they were put through in Germany which according to the article “Ravensbrück” they people who were saved/survived were called lapins which translates to rabbits.
The next girl introduced to the novel is Kasia Kuzmerick. Kasia is like the victim of the story and is not based off a real person like Caroline, Kasia is fictional. She has one sister a mom and a dad. She is a teenage polish girl and her school had gotten closed down due to the war. Her school being shut down affected her education because she no longer had a place to learn, and it also affected her social life since she was not interacting with the people at school everyday like usual. And according to Hillary Kelly’s article “The Article That Told The World About The Holocaust” many schools got shut down during this time.
Kasia was very close with her family she cared about all of them alot. “I knew not to argue with papa.” (29). She said this when her father was distraught.This shows that she has respect for her father and that she cares about him and does not want to argue with him. Kasia and her sister decide to try and help prisoners escape the camp but while they were trying to help they got captured and put into Ravensbrück. This affected her relationship with her family since she was separated from all of them. This also poorly affected her by putting her in a dangerous place and it made her very scared and weaker. But just like Caroline Kasia did have one good affect from the Holocaust and that was that she was saved by Caroline and became friends with Caroline. Also she got the Health care she needed.
The last women introduced is Herta Oberheuser. She is like the villain of the novel.She is based off a real person who is named Herta Oberheuser also. She is a doctor and she signs up to work at Ravensbrück to do medical experiments on the prisoners. Nothing affected her that much while the Holocaust was actually happening, but when the Holocaust had ended she was put in prison for murder since Herta did harmful experiments on teenagers. This affected Hertas career very badly, since she was in jail she could not work as much so she was not learning more about being a doctor.Although she did learn some new medical tricks while working at the camp,
Martha Hall Kelly’s historical fiction novel Lilac Girls tells an inspirational story based on true events that happened in the worlds history. It shows how one big conflict like the Holocaust can affect everyone no matter if the person is the hero, victim, or villain. And as the survivors of Holocaust are decreasing this story should be remembered and spread to others.