by Elise Coop­er

Born Sur­vivors: Three Young Moth­ers and Their Extra­or­di­nary Sto­ry of Courage, Defi­ance, and Hope tells the account of Priska, Rachel, and Anka, three preg­nant women who man­aged to sur­vive Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp intern­ment through the Holo­caust and save their chil­dren. Jew­ish Book Coun­cil had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss the book with the author and the daugh­ter of one of its subjects.

Elise Coop­er: You were born in a con­cen­tra­tion camp. Do you think your mother’s per­son­al­i­ty helped you and her survive? 

Hana Berg­er Moran: My mom had to sur­vive slave labor, star­va­tion, giv­ing birth in a prisoner’s bar­racks, and the bru­tal death trans­fer. Yet, through it all, this twen­ty-nine year old Jew­ish woman not only sur­vived these hor­rid times but also flour­ished. She taught me pos­i­tiv­i­ty, opti­mism, and deter­mi­na­tion with her favorite say­ing, I will get it done.” 

EC: A Dachau sur­vivor said, If you think the Nazis were inhu­man, you’re wrong. They were humans like you and me. And that is what is so ter­ri­ble.” Do you agree?

HBM: My moth­er said of Josef Men­gele that he was just a man, but what an evil man. I don’t think a four-legged ani­mal would behave as cru­el­ly as the Ger­mans. What we went through is a war on the Jews. Even today, I can’t be on a train plat­form and view the cat­tle cars. I get hys­ter­i­cal. It must be a vis­cer­al, some­thing my mom some­how trans­ferred to me as a new­born or while in the womb. I spent the first sev­en­teen days of my life in a con­cen­tra­tion camp. 

Wendy Hold­en: As I write in the book, Men­gele exam­ined the women’s teeth like they were cat­tle. He was unimag­in­ably cru­el. As far as we know these babies were the only ones that sur­vived, because the oth­er preg­nant women were either direct­ly killed or used for exper­i­ments. In one instance a woman had slipped between his fin­gers and when she was dis­cov­ered preg­nant she was sent back. He was so incensed that he wait­ed for her baby to be born, and then had her tied to her bed, lying next to the baby so that she could watch it starve to death. Each per­son in the Holo­caust had their lives and dreams stolen by the Nazis. 

EC: Do you think luck played a major part in these women and their babies surviving? 

WH: Yes, con­sid­er­ing they were sent to a slave labor camp where they worked 12 hours a day, sev­en days a week, using heavy riv­et­ing machines, and did not mis­car­ry. In addi­tion, luck played a role in that their preg­nan­cies were not detect­ed; they sur­vived chron­ic mal­nu­tri­tion, and one of the worst win­ters ever in flim­sy clothing. 

EC: Can you explain why the three sur­viv­ing chil­dren still go to the anniver­sary of the lib­er­a­tion of the Mau­thausen con­cen­tra­tion camp?

WH: They do not look on it as a hor­ri­ble place. They see it as a place where they were freed and lib­er­at­ed. They don’t see it as the gates of hell but a place where they began again. In fact, sev­er­al of them cel­ebrate their real birth­days of April 12, 20, and 29 but they also con­sid­er the day of lib­er­a­tion, May 5th, as their rebirth, the day they were born again. 

EC: What do you want read­ers to get out of the book?

WH: I want them to look at their lives and feel blessed that they are not liv­ing in great fear. I want peo­ple to feel com­pas­sion for these women and for those who did not make it, and to remem­ber the Holo­caust. Through­out the sto­ry there was cru­el­ty but also hope pro­vid­ed by the small acts of kind­ness by strangers.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­alse­cu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q&A’sfor many dif­fer­ent out­lets, includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the­p­lea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.