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'Born Survivors:' Tales of Strength and Courage During the Holocaust

Update: The paperback edition of "Born Survivors" has recently been published, and Wendy Holden will speak Monday (5/16/16) evening in Madison, along with Wisconsin physician Mark Olsky, one of the people her book profiles.

Seventy years ago, three babies were born into desperate circumstances. Their mothers had been sent to almost certain death at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in German-occupied Austria. Against unlikely odds, they were born and survived the camps along with their mothers.

The camp was liberated 70 years ago by a squad attached to the U.S. Army’s 11th Armoured Division – The Thunderbolts. The squad was led by Sergeant Albert Kosiek.

Credit Harper Collins Publishers
Harper Collins Publishers
"Born Survivors" depicts the tales of three young mothers and their stories of courage during and after the Holocaust.

A book has been published about the three women and their children who were born while they were prisoners. Born Survivors, by Wendy Holden, includes the stories of WisconsiniteMark Olsky, and the late Sergeant Kosiek's son, Larry Kosiek who lives in Lake Geneva.

"I don't think I've ever written a book or done any research where people have been so open and honest and willing to share their stories with me," British author Holden says. "Right from that first encounter with Eva, when I asked her if I could write her mother's story, she reached across, squeezed my arm and told me, 'I've been waiting for you for seventy years.'"

Larry Kosiek had the opportunity to share his father's story and meet Mark Olsky in person - an experience Kosiek found to be "very emotional to meet somebody [his] dad saved."

Holden stresses the importance of telling these lesser-known stories because it offers a basic level of human connection you cannot necessarily learn in a history lesson at school.

"I think that this story will never lose its strength of feeling or its ability to move people, and that is incredibly important in these times when we have contemporary holocausts happening around the world," says Holden.

Kosiek wants to spread a message of peace and understanding. "Everybody says history repeats itself, and if everyone becomes familiar with this story it's my hope that that history never does repeat itself," he says.

Read Sergeant Albert Kosiek's account of the liberation of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp:

Holden's book is now published in twenty-one countries and translated into sixteen languages.  In the time since it first came out, Holden says she's come to realize the extraordinary nature of the story she's told.  "This is truly the most important book I'll ever write," she says.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.