The dressmakers of Auschwitz The true story of the women who sewed to survive

Lucy Adlington, 1970-

Book - 2021

Drawing on a vast array of sources, including interviews with the last surviving seamstress, this powerful book tells the story of the brave women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, exposing the greed, cruelty and hypocrisy of the Third Reich.

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940.5318/Adlington
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor New Shelf 940.5318/Adlington (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 11, 2022
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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 2021.
Edition
First US edition
Language
English
Physical Description
381 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 325-374) and index.
ISBN
9780063030923
0063030926
9780063030930
0063030934
Main Author
Lucy Adlington, 1970- (author)
  • Introduction
  • One of the few who survived
  • The one and only power
  • What next, how to continue?
  • The yellow star
  • The customary reception
  • You want to stay alive
  • I want to live here till I die
  • Out of ten thousand women
  • Solidarity and support
  • The air smells like burning paper
  • They want us to be normal?
Review by Booklist Reviews

After all that has been told about the Holocaust, it is both appalling and remarkable that there are newly told stories that can still shock with their cruelty. Author Adlington interviews Bracha Berkovic, the last surviving member of a group of women held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp who were able to parlay their talents into a tiny bit of safety. Led by Marta Fuchs, the woman who started as a servant in Commandant Rudolf Höss' household, these 25 women, most of whom had appropriate experience, produced high-fashion clothing for the wives and children of the camp's SS hierarchy. Materials came from the possessions taken from the inmates of the camp, and were refashioned to suit the whims of their captors. Despite the horror of the conditions, the women never lost their ability to care for each other, in many instances hiding illnesses and inabilities that might have returned some to the regular population. The author is a historian with a specialty in fashion, and uses illustrations from magazines of the era to great effectiveness. Appropriate for all libraries. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

British novelist and clothes historian Adlington relates the story of 25 women and girls at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp who were chosen by the camp commandant's wife to form the Upper Tailoring Studio, where they designed and sewed fashions for the wives of SS guards and officers as well as the high-class women of Berlin. Spared the gas chambers by this cruel exploitation, they formed fast friendship and found ways to resist. With a 150,000-copy paperback and 25,000-copy hardcover first printing. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Fashion historian Adlington brings new research to many decades of Holocaust studies with this history of the women inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau who were made to tailor clothes and sew high fashion for Nazi Party elites. Some two dozen women were spared from the death camp's gas chambers because they could sew, Adlington writes. She interviews one of the survivors; details how the talented seamstresses came by their skills; and explains how sewing ultimately saved their lives in the concentration camp and after the war. The book gives a solid overall impression of life in Auschwitz-Birkenau (including how hierarchies were formed and how prisoners coped), and relays insights about high-ranking Nazi officers and their families, especially their wives who also benefitted from and profited off the work of the imprisoned seamstresses. Adlington posits the importance of clothing among both guards and inmates, in a rich historical narrative that relies on extensive primary sources and includes archival photographs of some of its subjects. VERDICT This book's staggering accounts of inhumanity can be difficult to read, but the incredible stories of Holocaust survivors and the lives they built during and after the war are worth it.—Amanda Ray, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Adlington (The Red Ribbon) presents the moving story of an obscure, but especially cruel, story from the Holocaust—the experiences of women who tried to survive the rigors and murderous violence of a Nazi death camp by making use of their talent for making fancy clothes. Hedwig Höss, whose husband Rudolf was in charge of Auschwitz, shared the Nazi elite's desire to wear attractive garments. That led her to create a clothing workshop in the camp, comprised of Jewish and non-Jewish Communist seamstresses, who created beautiful fashions "for the very people who despised them as subversives and subhuman." The clothing workers' experiences are vividly recreated through the author's extensive research, including interviews with Bracha Kohut, the last surviving dressmaker. Kohut, along with her colleagues, had been torn from their normal lives by the Nazis, separated from their loved ones, and forced to witness sadistic acts of cruelty. They persevered in spite of those torments, struggling to employ their needles, thread, and fabric to stay alive one day at a time, while fearing execution if a design did not sufficiently please their "clients." Even those who feel that they've read enough survivor accounts will find themselves surprised and affected. (Sept.) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Drawing on a vast array of sources, including interviews with the last surviving seamstress, this powerful book tells the story of the brave women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, exposing the greed, cruelty and hypocrisy of the Third Reich.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

At the height of the Holocaust, young inmates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp-- mainly Jewish women and girls-- were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions in a dedicated salon for elite Nazi women. Called the Upper Tailoring Studio, it was established by the camp commandant's wife and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Adlington follows the fates of these women. While exposing the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich, she shows how the women of the Studio played their part in camp resistance, providing a fresh look at a little-known chapter of history. -- adapted from jacket.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Drawing on a vast array of sources, including interviews with the last surviving seamstress, this powerful book tells the story of the brave women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, exposing the greed, cruelty and hypocrisy of the Third Reich. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A powerful chronicle of the women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious WWII death camps. At the height of the Holocaust twenty-five young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp—mainly Jewish women and girls—were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers. This fashion workshop—called the Upper Tailoring Studio—was established by Hedwig Höss, the camp commandant’s wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Here, the dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz, and for ladies from Nazi Berlin’s upper crust. Drawing on diverse sources—including interviews with the last surviving seamstress—The Dressmakers of Auschwitz follows the fates of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship not only helped them endure persecution, but also to play their part in camp resistance. Weaving the dressmakers’ remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation, historian Lucy Adlington exposes the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich and offers a fresh look at a little-known chapter of World War II and the Holocaust.