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Franci's War


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The incredible memoir of the young Jewish seamstress who survived three Nazi concentration camps.

About the Author

Franci Rabinek Epstein was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1920 and educated at the Ecole Francaise, Lycee de Prague, and the Deutsches Staatsrealgymnasium before dropping out to apprentice in her mother's haute couture Salon. At 18, Franci became the owner of the Salon, though the family were eventually forced to 'aryanize' their Jewish business. A newlywed when she arrived at Terezin, she regarded the Nazi concentration camps as her university. After liberation by the British in April 1945, Franci would finally return to Prague, the only immediate member of her family to have survived. She married Kurt Epstein in 1946 and then, after the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, she emigrated to New York City and established a new fashion salon on the Upper West Side. She lectured at universities on her experience during the war before dying of a brain aneurysm in 1989. Her daughter, journalist Helen Epstein, has written the afterword for Franci's War.


Franci's story is a testament to the human spirit . . . a mesmerising read
*Jewish Chronicle*

The extraordinary true story of the girl who survived the holocaust against all of the odds . . . In this astonishing memoir, she lays bare the appalling sacrifices she and other women had to make to survive
*Eastern Daily Press*

Achingly moving, gives much-needed hope . . . Deserves the status both as a valuable historical source and as a stand-out memoir
*Daily Express*

First-hand accounts of life in Nazi death camps never lose their terrible power but few are as extraordinary as Franci's War
*Mail on Sunday*

Achingly moving, gives much needed hope . . . Franci's War deserves the status both as a valuable historical source and as a stand-out memoir of one woman's human experience of arguably the most abominable period of modern times
*Daily Express*

First-hand accounts of life in Nazi death camps never lose their terrible power but few are as extraordinary as Franci's War
*Mail on Sunday*

A splendidly-told memoir. I was chilled and moved
*Miranda Seymour*

Devestating. A searingly honest memoir
*Booklist, starred review*

A striking memoir from an unspeakably terrifying era. Married hastily to a young man who was able to help her family survive by his canny trading instincts - until he was caught and disappeared - Franci was herded into the cattle cars for transport to Auschwitz in May 1944. From then on, Franci demonstrates a fierce determination to adapt and prevail amid the harshest conditions

Rarely does a Holocaust survivor have such penetrating insight . This is a most remarkable memoir, told without self-pity, but with deep psychological astuteness about herself and the people she encountered. I didn't want it to end
*Eva Fogelman, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author*

What are the qualities of a heroine tested and shaped by history, not by myth? She must have unflinching intelligence, wit, will, and honesty in the face of near-unbearable trials. Franci Rabinek Epstein was a worldly, pleasure-loving dress designer when the Nazi's invaded Prague; she endured and prevailed when they sent her to Terezin, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her voice is riveting whether she's outwitting Josef Mengele, grappling with her own despair, discussing Dostoevsky with another prisoner, delousing her hair with kerosene or improvising a Cocteau monologue for a show the women inmates stage with canny defiance. She survived the worst of her times; she speaks to the best of ours
*Margo Jefferson, Pultizer-prize winning author of 'Negroland: A Memoir'*

Full of passion, heartache and love - shedding light on humanity's darkest era and providing testimony to the incredible human capacity for resilience
*Madeleine K. Albright, Former US Secretary of State*

An incredible narrative, so finely detailed and distinctive, and a wholly consuming read. I gained new insight into the traumas of the Holocaust and couldn't put it down. Franci had the writer in her, not to mention astonishing resilience and resourcefulness
*Susannah Sirkin, Director of Policy, Physicians for Human Rights*

A riveting account of how a young fashion designer in Prague survived the Holocaust, written with remarkable clarity, candour, and intelligence. Deeply moving and extraordinary
*Helen Fremont, international bestselling author of 'The Escape Artist'*

A brave, timeless, important work
*Professor Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University*

In a compelling voice, Franci illuminates the horror, shock, small graces, and capriciousness of surviving the Holocaust
*Library Journal*

A compelling, true story of surviving the Second World War that reads like a dark, psychological thriller
*The Jewish Chronicle*

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