Snow Flowers: Hungarian Jewish Women In an Airplane Factory, Markkleeberg, Germany
By Zahava Szasz Stessel
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009
Zahava Szasz Stessel's Snow Flowers combines her poignant personal memories with exacting research on the Markkleeberg labor camp, where young Hungarian women slaved for the Nazis. This remarkable eyewitness account about the experiences of the author and her younger sister is a unique contribution to Holocaust history. We need to learn more about all of the relatively unknown small work camps, and this is a meticulously detailed account of one of them, where Hungarian Jewish women were slave laborers.
I was asked to evaluate this book for publication two years ago, and only learned when I was deep into the manuscript that I was not an impartial reader. It was then that I burst into tears, realizing that Zahava Stessel's younger sister Erzsike has been known to me since my childhood. Renamed Hava in Israel, Erzsike is described late in the book as a nurse at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, married to Baruch Ginsburg. The description was confirmed to me when I saw a photo of Hava and Baruch in 1953, looking like younger versions of the couple that I know. My father Joseph Saidel befriended Baruch in the 1950s and they stayed good friends until my father's Alzheimer's disease and then death in 1997. My father visited Baruch and Hava in Haifa on all of his trips to Israel. I have visited them a number of times, and recalled that she said her sister wrote on the Holocaust. However, I did not meet Zahava until later, and I never knew any details of Hava's story.
This book is well researched, with extensive notes, befitting Dr. Stessel's skills and training as a librarian. She did excellent bibliographic and field research, and also found surviving camp sisters who shared their stories with her. The question of the thousands of work camps instituted by the Nazis still needs to be explored. In many cases it is now impossible to document small work camps. This is one case where the author has enough personal and research information to do so. Her descriptions of this work camp add a new dimension to what we know about small camps.
This is as much an eyewitness historical account as a memoir, and is an important contribution to understanding some of the unknown details of women's experiences during the Holocaust. A great deal of research went into this accomplishment. I especially liked the fact that the author included a substantial section on the struggle of survivors to deal with life afterward.
Reviewed by Rochelle G. Saidel
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