The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz – Lucy Adlington

I attended a (virtual) talk by Lucy Adlington – it was organised by Selvedge magazine. After that, I was keen to read this book. I found a copy in Busselton (in the local Dymocks). It did take me a while to get to it.

Here’s the blurb …

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.

This is an extraordinary story that needs to be told and remembered. Not easy reading, I am not sure how anyone survived it and went on to live productive lives. And their treatment directly after the war was also heart-breaking.

It is well-written and researched, and with the death of the last survivor in 2021, we need books like this to remind us of the past.

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