Trudy eyed the new female prisoners as they arrived at this special hell for women, located alongside Lake Schwedt, 50 miles north of Berlin. Ravensbruck was a mini city of low gray barracks surrounded by concrete walls on which guard towers rose at intervals.
She carried a plaited whip in one hand as she watched the women being processed into the camp. This particular group were all Jewish women, identified by the yellow triangles they would wear on their striped prisoner garb, but sometimes unlike the other prisoners, they wore a second triangle for the other categories or for "Race Defilement". She could already tell who would be shot, worked to death or subjected to torturous medical experiments.
Trudy was still not used to this new life of hers, and like the prisoners, she wished she could be anywhere but there. She had been appointed Aufseherin, overseer, but she was inexperienced and she knew that she was not mentally capable of handling the role. And then there was the stench. She still choked at the pungent, revolting stench that filled the air in the camp. Fresh air became a luxury as did other simple things—food, clothes, soap, water, and even sleep. She closed her eyes briefly and remembered her father’s words, “that this would be an honorable job for her country and for the longevity of the Third Reich.”
Trudy placed her hand on her whip and even after two months in this place, she struggled to use it. The other female Aufseherinnen used their whips with such ease, as if the prisoners were not human, but animals.
Then, one day Trudy was truly tested. Ravensbruck was also a place where female students were trained to be sadistic guards. The head training overseer, a woman who wore heavy boots and carried a plaited whip and pistol, showed the women the finer points of malicious pleasure. She called Trudy before a group of five prisoners and demanded that Trudy pick an inmate and beat her.
Trudy stared at the prisoners. She noticed their weak, feeble bodies that hung limply under striped prisoner uniforms. Their hollow, pale faces pointed toward the cold, concrete floor.
Trudy only shook her head at the guard. “Wählen!” The guard yelled at Trudy.
“Nein,” Trudy said, eyeing the brutal head guard. “Ich kann nicht.”
The head overseer grabbed her whip and as Trudy watched, she struck the prisoners. Trudy flinched and turned her head, unable to bear the harsh treatment in front of her. As the Jewish prisoners lay on the ground, bloody, beaten and bruised, her thoughts flashed back to Eva. Her sublime image came to mind. Trudy wondered where Eva was. Was she safe? Since Trudy arrived at Ravensbruck, she studied each prisoner’s face—to make sure that none of the prisoners were them. She did not know what she would do if Eva, Inge or Helene had arrived at such a place.
As Jews, life becomes increasingly difficult for identical twin sisters Eva and Inge under the oppressive and anti-Semitic laws of Nazi Germany. After witnessing the horrors of Kristallnacht, they flee their beloved homeland, finally finding a new home for themselves in the beautiful country of South Africa; however, just as things begin to feel safe, their new home becomes caught up in its own battles of bigotry and hate under the National Party’s demand for apartheid. Will Eva and Inge ever be allowed to live in peace? Across Great Divides is a tale of one family’s struggle to survive in a world tainted with hate, and the power of love that held them all together.
About the Author:
Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It's their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides. She is also the author of a middle-grade book, Once Upon a Time in Venice, and Monique is working on her third novel, which also takes place during the World War II era.