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Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

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Overview

Rena's Promise is the extraordinary memoir of a young woman from Poland who survived the Nazi death camps for more than three years. Sent on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz, Rena Kornreich is soon reunited with her sister Danka in the camp. Each day becomes a struggle to fulfill the promise Rena made to her mother when the family was forced to split apart - a promise to take care of her sister. Rena tells her story of life in the camps with relentless sobriety. But it is not without hope, for what emerges...
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Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

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Overview

Rena's Promise is the extraordinary memoir of a young woman from Poland who survived the Nazi death camps for more than three years. Sent on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz, Rena Kornreich is soon reunited with her sister Danka in the camp. Each day becomes a struggle to fulfill the promise Rena made to her mother when the family was forced to split apart - a promise to take care of her sister. Rena tells her story of life in the camps with relentless sobriety. But it is not without hope, for what emerges through the horror is a humanity stripped to its essential connections - the bonds between mothers, daughters, and sisters, men and women prisoners, even prisoners and guards. Through these connections, Rena survives each day with the deep conviction that she and her sister must see the next.

As a young woman, Rena Kornreich endured the Nazi death camps for almost three and a half years. This remarkable story of Rena's survival reveals at its core not a lone heroic struggle, but the power of an unusual relationship between Rena and her younger sister, Danka, who gave her the will to go on under unimaginable circumstances.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imagining that, by volunteering for a work camp, she would somehow be protecting her family from the Nazis, Rena, at age 17, put on her best clothes, left her fianc and the Polish village of Tylicz in the Carpathian Mountains and was sent off to Auschwitz. Presently, her sister Danka arrived, as did cousins, schoolmates and neighbors. As a child, she had promised her mother to look after her baby sister, and that promise obsessed her throughout her incarceration in the camp. It gave her reason to survive, so that one day she could bring Danka safely home. How they escaped starvation, beatings, the crematorium, the medical experiments of the notorious Josef Mengele and survived the end of the war is all recounted here in this spirited survivor's testament, written with freelancer Macadam. After the war, Rena married a Red Cross worker and emigrated to the U.S., following her sister. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Gelissen, who was on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz, describes in this account the constant struggle for survival in the camp. She soon learns there were no guarantees. Rena's motivation came strongly from a promise to her parents to keep her younger sister, Danka, safe. Her account describes the relentless specter of death while at the same time showing how prisoners would risk their lives to smuggle medicine, clothes, and food to other prisoners. Because Rena was an early prisoner in Auschwitz, she describes some of the confusion at the beginning and the realization of what was really happening to the Jewish people. Helpful features of the book include historical notes and a section describing the fate of the people the sisters knew. This memoir captures the horror of Auschwitz in a clear way that helps the reader understand the atrocities perpetrated there. Recommended for Holocaust collections.-Mary Salony, West Virginia Northern Community Coll. Lib., Wheeling
From the Publisher
“Written with simplicity and grace.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
Rena’s Promise went with us on the Zen Peacemakers’ first pilgrimage to Auschwitz, in 1996. On our first night together, one of our monks shared a simple message of love from Rena to us. Her message changed our lives.” —Peter Matthiessen, author of In Paradise.
 
“One of the most accurate accounts, and the only account of the first women’s camp in Auschwitz. This is a book historians will refer to for years to come.” —Irena Strezlecka, director, Auschwitz Museum of Women, Oświęcim, Poland

“This is an extraordinary book, vividly written and generously told. You will not easily forget Rena Kornreich, and her sister Danka. Nor should you. It's seems trite to say that this book—harrowing as it often is—is less a tragedy than a love story, but it's true. By turns soul-wrenching, inspiring and heart-breaking, this is a tale that should live long beyond the wonderful woman who inspired it.” —Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

From Barnes & Noble
Kornreich promised her mother that she would take care of her sister in a Nazi prison camp--a deep conviction that would prove to be the greatest of human connections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807070710
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 271
  • Sales rank: 142,633
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.23 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Dune Macadam (Hampton Bays, New York) is a writer and educator, and the director and president of the Rena’s Promise International Creative Writing Camp. She divides her time between New York and Herefordshire, England.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2007

    Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

    Rena¿s Promise is an excellent story that brings the reader back to the Nazi concentration camps to witness the atrocities prisoners faced. Rena¿s Promise is an inspiring account urging the reader to keep his faith in life. It is not a regular book on the Holocaust it is an inside story on the Nazi camps. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in knowing more about the Holocaust or just simply wants to read an exceptional book like no other. Rena¿s Promise will change the reader¿s views on the Holocaust because its content reveals information about the camps that is not taught in many schools. The book is factual, even though it is very emotional, and agrees with historical records. In a scale of 1 through 10, Rena¿s Promise deserves a 10.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2012

    This book is amazing. I have read many books from Holocaust surv

    This book is amazing. I have read many books from Holocaust survivors, but never one from a FEMALE survivor. This book was powerfully heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. I also enjoyed the "closure" given o the readers t the end where it shares updates and further information about the major players in this story (good and evil). Rena's Promise is a true treasure and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in reading a true survivor's story!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2006

    'I do not have room in my heart to hate. To hate is to let Hitler win.' -- Rena

    For those fans of Rena, who have not heard, she passed away on August 8, 2006. Among those sending condolences, The Museum of Women at Auscwitz, Poland, wrote, 'Our historians still feel this is one of the most historically accurate and important book on Auschwitz ever written.' Over the years your reviews have meant much to her and we continue to monitor the voices of our readers. Sadly, it is up to you now to carry her voice and her story to the world. You can learn more about Rena's Promise, where a study guide is available for teachers and book clubs at our website heatherdune.com

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2002

    The best book I've read so far

    this book was awesome. I may only be 14, but this book just showed amazing courage, outstanding hope, and powerful will.Rena and Danka had the most powerful sisterly love that showed through the whole novel. If either of them would have died, I would have been mad because of the amazing people they are and what futures they had ahead of them. I just wish more of the Holocaust victims were that lucky.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2002

    An Extraordinarily True Written Account of a Concentration Camp Survivor

    This is by far one of the best and detailed description of what life was really like in the camps. I literally could not put this book down when I started reading it. I really felt for Rena and Danka, there was such a true sisterly love here and determination for survival.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2001

    Absolutely moving

    I could not put this story down. Rena and the other prisoners courage was amazing. I was astonished that people (the Nazis) could be so in-human. The story is wonderfully written and very graphic, descpibing every event that happened to Rena.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    Omg

    This book makes u cry ...it grasp ur attetion from the vary begining..it also is great for students in schoo...it gives u a history lesson everyone can get in touch with...love it

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    G Amazing

    This book is the best book i have ever read in my life

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2005

    Amazing

    I can't go into too much detail about the story since it has been about 4 years since I read it. It just popped in my head and was looking online to where I could buy it and read it again! It was truly amazing and I will remember it forever.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2003

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

    im 12 yrs old and really interested in the holocaust. when i read this book it was really inspiring to me. rena shows that she will do anything so her and her sister can survive. it really touched me the way rena thought of little ways to survive! also i could NOT put this book down..i have read it 6 TIMES IN A ROW!!!!!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2001

    A MUST read!

    I agree with Jessica. I could not put this book down from the secod I opened it. If you want a very detailed account of what Aushwitz was really like, this is it. What an amazing story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2001

    An absolutely moving novel!!!!!

    I read this book in 4 days, I could not put it down!!! I was intrigued by Rena and Danka's strength, and courage!!! I can't explain how much I loved to read this novel, even though it was about a horrible event. Rena, Danka, and all the other young women and men were unbelievable, I don't know how they did it. I was in awe, I was depressed, but I was proud of Rena for her strength to survive and her responsibility of her sister.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2013

    Wise Bear Books Reviews Rena's Promise by Rena¿s Promise by Rena

    Wise Bear Books Reviews Rena's Promise by Rena’s Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelissen and Heather Dune Macadam -- 5 Paws!

    Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz, co-authored by Rena Kornreich Gelissen and Heather Dune Macadam, is a life-changing story not just for the women who lived to share the horrors of their experience, but for anyone who reads this personal account of the most heinous genocide of the 20th century.  Many books have been written about the holocaust, Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps, and each story has its own personal perspective of the inhumanities European Jews were forced to endure during World War II.  What make's Rena's story unique is she was one of the first admitted into Auschwitz's gates during the initial gatherings of Jews.   In fact, as number 716 she was on the first transport, yet managed to live to tell her story, albeit much later in life.

    The process of creating Rena's story is an interesting side note as well.  Rena and writer Heather Dune Macadam's collaboration came about as a chance meeting.  A friend-of-a-friend type referral is the basis for their first introduction.  Macadam does a superb job of painting their tentative encounter.  There is an easy conversational style to the author's writing that some might feel crosses literary lines, but we found this approach created an authentic observational technique as if we as readers are sitting in the room personally involved in their discussion.

    There's a profound emotion in this book and not just because of its sensitive subject matter.  There is a depth of connection between the writing partners, the Kornriech sisters, and many of the women who have the shared experience of bearing the burden of their memories.

    Rena's Promise begins with a good background story about Rena and her family's happy life prior to Rena's decision to comply with the Nazi's edict for Jews to surrender themselves to the nearest occupation camp for labor.  Her preemptive move was at first shocking, but makes sense as we come to understand that the Nazis’ atrocities were closely guarded secrets initially.  Rumors circulated, but little to no proof existed till much later in the war.  There's a lot you'll learn about the Holocaust by reading Rena's Promise that isn't taught in school or written in history books.

    There is a redundant quality to the author's storytelling, but this isn't a criticism.  The daily 4:00 a.m. wake up call of “Raus!  Raus!” meaning “Go!  Go!” was the only means of separating the drudgery of one day to the next.  It's an unconventional yet effective section break in the story telling which also helps to keep the story moving for readers.  By the end of the book it feels like a victorious battle cry, especially as momentum in the war shifts and the Jewish prisoners dare to hope for freedom from their captors.

    The defining quality of Rena, her sister Danka, and all these women who survived is courage.  Despite the constant traumas and heartbreak, Rena and Danka will each other to survive; the fact that they endure feels triumphant to us as readers, although it's not likely Rena would describe her and her sister's ultimate liberation from hell in such lofty terms.  You see, the scars of their experiences can never be erased—hence the decision to partner with Macadam in the cathartic telling of her personal first-hand knowledge.

    The joint authors don't hold back.  These are not easy remembrances to relate or to read, and yet they are essential to the collective consciousness of the human race.  Readers have a tremendous opportunity to learn, remember, and share books of such import.

    It's hard to imagine an all-knowing, loving God exists while reading Rena's Promise as we see Rena struggle with her faith, but it's also equally hard to believe that Rena and Danka could have survived such base depravity without some divine intervention.  Applying a label to an unknown deity isn't relevant to a book like Rena's Promise, but there is clearly something transcendent, even magical in the story of these two sisters.

    Rena's Promise is a well-written, thoughtful story that flows well and is a surprisingly fast read considering the intensity of the subject matter.  How Rena managed to maintain any level of gratitude or compassion for her tormentors' physical, mental, and emotional abuse is miraculous.  Probably the greatest teaching of her story is that it embodies a quintessential teaching of forgiveness, which is that it's not so much an act as an attitude.

    This book was reviewed as part of the Wise Bear Digital Book Awards competition. Entry fees associated with the contest are administrative in nature and do not influence our honest, unbiased book reviews.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    It was a quick read, for me, but will stay with me for a long t

    It was a quick read, for me, but will stay with me for a long time!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2012

    Well written story of sisters who arrived on first Auschwitz Transport

    I read a lot of stories of Jewish survival during the holocaust. Some, like this read quick because the are well written and you find it hard to put down.
    EVERY story of holocaust survival - no matter the person's story is important and engrossing. Unfortunately, not all are written as well as this one.
    I found this amazing story of how two sisters survived Auschwitz-Birkenau from the very beginning (and yet were very slow to believe the gas chambers existed) very touching. I sometimes doubt I would love one of my sisters as much as Rena and Danka did. Because certainly one without the other would have meant death for both.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Kira

    Leans forward and wraps her hands aroind lacys boo<_>bs and kisses her nipples hungrily.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    A story of strenght and survival

    Rena and her sister, Danka, were Jews from Poland during World War II. They lived in a small town where religion did not separate people. Soon however, their lives began to change as the war approached. Jews were no longer allowed to cross the border into Slovokia or trade with Gentiles (non Jews). They were forced to work for German soldiers for little or no pay. Next, their religious books were burned and valuables taken from them. Rena was sent to live with her uncle in Slovakia however she soon returned to her family where they were forced to move far away from the border. As things began to worsen Rena and Danka were sent to Slovakia where they were separated. Their parents sent them away because Jews in Slovakia were treated better than they were in Poland. When the Germans demanded all Jews turn themselves in Rena did so. She was taken by the first train to Auschwitz. Here, she was stripped of her clothes and possessions and had all her hair shaved off. Rena was now knows as 1716. Soon, her sister Danka arrived. When Rena was a child she had promised her mother that she would always take care of Danka, a promise she intended to keep. The “camp workers” were placed into work groups monitored by SS officers and German prisoners. The SS officers had permission to kill anyone for no reason at all. Many people in these camps died of starvation or illness. They were given nothing but wood shoes and thin clothing to wear working outdoors, all year. The blocks (housing units) were infested with lice and disease. The sisters were moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where conditions were worse. They were forced to work year round no matter what the weather was like. To keep the camp from becoming overcrowded they held “selections” where many people were sent to the gas chambers. While in the camps Rena and Danka came across many of their friends and family. After surviving three years and forty one days in the camp (for Rena) and the Death March, Rena and Danka were freed.
    One of the main messages in this book was not to take little things for granted. For example the women were excited when they each received a blanket and had running water. Another message was not to give up your faith or simply give up because something is unfair and hard. There is always a way to find hope in a situation. I thoroughly liked the detail in this book along with the plain truth. Nothing was exaggerated, everything was very matter-of-fact. I disliked however the repetition of daily life within the book. Someone should read this book if they are interested in a young women’s point of view during the Holocaust. I would suggest this book because it gives insight into one of the most horrifying times in history. Another book I would recommend would be The Diary of Anne Frank. Overall I would highly rank and recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2007

    Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

    Well Rena¿s Promise is not for you Rena¿s Promise by Rena Kornreich Gelisson and Heather Dune Macadam I have come to the conclusion that this is a story for those people looking for a invigorating story of survival. The authors give an account of life in the Concentration camps. This book was written from a first person¿s point of view. The story is of a young girl and her sister as they try to survive through the concentration camps. This book focuses on life as a Polish citizen in Auschwitz during World War two and Hitler¿s anti-Semitism in Germany. This is done by using a primary source which was Rena who was one of the survivors of Auschwitz. Overall I would give this book a three an a half out of five simply because of the somber tone. However it is still an excellent piece of literature.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2014

    Holocaust Reality

    This book is a personal insight into living in Auschwitz Concentration camps from the eyes of a 20-23 yr old. It is emotionally difficult to read, as well any book of this genre should be, but well written and easily finished in a day or two of long stretches......and it grips the reader tightly so that long sessions of reading are not even noticed. The fear, the horror, the numbness, the lapses in faith, utter despair, underlying hope, irony of laughter in such an incomprehensible situation are all made totally comprehensible. The author is heroically courageous to bring these memories back to the surface and write about them so vividly and candidly. The will to live, strength of character, and the caring and generosity she displayed under a horrific and terrifying part of her life is astounding. If you thirst to understand how there were survivors of the camps, how they stayed alive, the range of emotion they were forced to endure, this is a book you would not want to miss.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2014

    Highly Recommend

    Completely understandable & realistic Rena was one tough gal, I don't think most people realize what the Jewish people went through. I loved & hated this book, but everyone should read it, especially generations that are not familiar with the Hitler/Nazi actions, but only the Pearl Harbor/Japan story. Hitler's Holocaust cannot happen again!

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