Historical Fiction, Romance, Holocaust
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Cilka’s Journey, by Heather Morris, is the sequel to ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz‘, which is based on true stories from World War II in Nazi Germany.
The novel follows the journey of Cilka Klein, who is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp when she is just 16 years old. When she arrives, Commandant Schwarzhuber notices her beautiful long hair and separates her from the other prisoners.
Cilka suffers ongoing sexual abuse from two S.S. Officers and is given horrific tasks, which she must do to survive. But these tasks and her perceived position of power create feelings of anger from the other prisoners.
When Auschwitz-Birkenau is finally liberated when Cilka is 18, she is condemned for her role at the Concentration Camp. Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sentenced to 15 years hard labour in a Siberian Prison Camp – Vorkuta.
Imprisoned once again, and guilty only of surviving, Cilka faces challenges both new, and yet also horrendously familiar. She finds herself taken under the wing of the female doctor at the camp, and begins training as a nurse, determined to help others survive.
Cilka’s story is one strength, determination and survival, even in the harshest of circumstances.
Just like ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’, ‘Cilka’s Journey’ saddened me deeply. Her story is one of many million suffering souls, forced to experience the unbearable.
The novel carried over nicely from the first installment, with flashbacks of Cilka’s time in Auschwitz-Birkenau to provide context and perspective. The Author, Heather Morris, did her research (and well) – providing a harrowing experience of what life must have been like for thousands of people post-war.
My only criticism of this book is the same one I had for ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz‘, which was that the novel sometimes seemed rushed – especially toward the end. It seemed as though the ending was squashed in as an afterthought, becoming a tad predictable.
That being said, ‘Cilka’s Journey’ was still an exceptionally moving, heartbreaking and gut-wrenching account of the atrocities of both during and after World War II.
Whether you have read the first novel or not, ‘Cilka’s Journey’ is worth the read.