Auschwitz Syndrome

A Holocaust novel based on a true story (Women and the Holocaust)

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
362 Pages
Reviewed on 10/04/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

If you’re not a fan of historical fiction but really enjoy reading about two people falling in love under difficult, even extraordinary circumstances, then don’t think twice about selecting Auschwitz Syndrome by Ellie Midwood as your next book. This is one of the most amazing stories about two people, Helena and Franz, who actually met when Helena was saved not once, but twice from the gas chambers at Auschwitz by Franz, an SS guard. Given who each of them was, why would Franz save Helena? How could they possibly fall in love and, believe it or not, eventually marry?

This is the novel’s unlikely, but true love story, but it is far from the only memory you will take away with you once you finish Auschwitz Syndrome. Many readers will find it impossible to erase Midwood’s depiction of what prisoners endured at Auschwitz...the brutality of the camp overseers, the incessant hunger and typhoid, the lies and deception, the stench of incinerated bodies, the incredible inhumanity...it’s all hard to stomach. Midwood has thoroughly researched the people, places, and events she presents in this book, much of which is based on eyewitness testimonies by survivors and documented in various books about Auschwitz. I urge you to read her research notes at the end of the book. There you will see how much of what you just finished reading actually happened to the real people in this story.

To help her tell this story, Midwood has set the unfolding of the facts in the Denazification Court, where psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman listens to and observes the actions and demeanors of Franz and his wife, Helena. Each takes turns telling the story from their side. Dr. Hoffman’s task is to determine whether Helena is testifying on Franz’s behalf out of love or fear. Her testimony and Dr. Hoffman’s conclusion is critical to Franz escaping prosecution. What does the court decide and was their decision the correct one? Don’t be surprised if you find yourself holding your breath as you rush to learn the verdict. In the realities it discloses, Auschwitz Syndrome is, at times, more horrifying than any fiction horror story could be. Midwood’s writing style is impeccable, a brilliant blend of description and dialogue, with true-to-life characters who capture your imagination, challenge your perceptions of human nature, and pull your emotions in every direction. Little wonder Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. I cannot praise Auschwitz Syndrome and its author highly enough!

K.C. Finn

Auschwitz Syndrome, a Holocaust novel based on a true story is a work of historical fiction set during the events following the Second World War and was penned by author Ellie Midwood. Written for adults due to its mature themes (though the content is not extensively graphic), this psychological and well-researched novel takes us into the relationships between women who have survived the Holocaust and those around them in a most unusual circumstance. Former SS officer and Auschwitz guard Franz Dahler is to appear before the courts to be tried for his crimes, but in his defense, he presents his wife Helena, who was an Auschwitz inmate under his care. It is up to Doctor Hoffman to decide just what the blank, subservient look in Helena’s eyes really means.

Author Ellie Midwood has perfectly captured the austere and grief-stricken atmosphere of post-war Germany in this tragic and gripping psychological drama. Each character is a carefully drawn portrait, so real they could have stepped right out of history to tell their story, and the narrative viewpoint allows for a closeness that enhances the psychological elements but also retains the mystery of unfolding Helena’s mind as the tale goes on. The juxtaposition between romance and control, saviors and villains, and the very nature of good and evil is skilfully balanced throughout, making for a very engaging tale that will satisfy all historical and psychological fiction fans. Auschwitz Syndrome is a highly recommended historical read from an extremely talented writer.

Sefina Hawke

Auschwitz Syndrome (A Holocaust novel based on a true story: Women and the Holocaust) by Ellie Midwood is a historical event/era novel which would appeal most to a mixed audience of mature young adult and adult historical fiction lovers interested in the time after the Holocaust who do not mind mild language, non-explicit sexual situations, and graphic violence. Former Auschwitz guard Franz Dahler is scheduled for the Denazification Court, but what sets his case apart from the many is that he has requested for a former inmate and now his wife, Helena, to testify to the court in his defense. This case quickly involves American psychiatrist Dr. Hoffman who is faced with Nazi hunter Andrej Novák demanding a full investigation into Dahler’s abuse of Helen, yet the more Dr. Hoffman becomes involved in the case the more confused he becomes. Who is telling the truth and who is lying? Is Franz Dahler a criminal abuser or a savior?

Auschwitz Syndrome by Ellie Midwood is a well written, intense novel that focuses on post-war Germany. As I read this book, I found myself wondering which parts of the story were fact and which were fiction as the author did a specular job of weaving the two together. I liked how the author kept the story true to the time period, yet kept the sexual situation non-graphic. The violence in the book is intense at times, and I did take a few breaks while reading, yet I’m very glad I read this book as it brought the horrors of the Holocaust alive before my eyes in a way that history textbooks have failed to do. I personally feel this book should be read in high school English class during the time that the history class studies the Holocaust.