Guest speaker Lucy Adlington presents at the”The Dressmakers of Auschwitz” event
Sofia Rositani – Editor-in-Chief
Over a zoom call Lucy Adlington, writer of “The Dressmakers of Auschwitz” spoke from London, England about the book.
Adlington spoke about the contents of the book, how she wrote it, the interviews she conducted and some clothing articles and a map from World War II.
“I’m going to be introducing you to some of the dressmakers. I want to be looking at some of the really quick profound themes that this book brought up for me while I was researching. So that might be looking at perpetrator psychology, the way Nazi perpetrators and bystanders were motivated by greed and by profit. But because this book is about the dressmakers, I also want to talk about survivor psychology and survivor strategies, and so words like resilience do come up very often,” Adlington said.
Adlington has a degree in English Literature and medieval studies from Cambridge University and the University of York. At that time Adlington said that her “tutors” were telling her to write about ancient Greeks and tragic figures such as Antigone but instead she decided to write about the Holocaust.
“I was saying I want to look at these photocards that were thrown onto railway tracks by people being deported to their deaths. I want to look at the fragments of diaries that are buried in the ground of camps,” Adlington said.
She said that this was the idea of salvaging these works. She said that it is like medieval studies because she is looking at these texts physically, she has historical backup and also archeology plays a role in it because these works were found.
Clothes play a huge role in history and culture. During the event Adlington was wearing an American jacket from the 1940’s with “enormous shoulder pads.” She does not know who sold the jacket nor does she know who designed it.
“But clothes always do have stories even if we don’t know what those stories are,” Adlington said.
While writing her book she delved into the history of the Holocaust and the people who were involved in this dress shop in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. She did not just look into the people who were involved she also went deeper and learned the stories of others who were in the concentration camp.
“She (Berta) is well aware of the purpose of working, now as an extermination center, she’s absolutely well aware of the death toll. She’s aware of how close they are to mortality, but she is far more human than her dressmaker clients because she decided to use her power to save lives,” Adlington said.
Adlington said that at least 40 women passed through the salon, not all were of Jewish descent, at one point there were French political prisoners from the French resistance.
Halfway during the event there was a “zoom bomber” who was sharing their screen, showing very disturbing visuals, including a pride flag being burned, there were also explicit noises in the background that became very loud. The issue was resolved by everyone exiting the event and then rejoining with new invites for just faculty and students. There is currently an ongoing investigation with the Southern police and the FBI regarding this.
Throughout her time at the salon as a dressmaker Marta used her connections to join the “Auschwitz Underground.” She would spread information, pass messages, smuggle food and medicine.
Adlington sat with another survivor who did not want to talk about the SS instead she wanted to talk about her loved ones.
“I think that’s another profound element that for all the commander sneered at Jewish prisoners saying, oh they will fight each other for a piece of bread, they have no family loyalty, he (a commander) wrote in his autobiography. Under his very nose in his own house there were networks of Jewish people proving that they were more human, more humane than he would ever be,” Adlington said.
If it were not for the salon where these Jewish women worked, they probably would have succumbed to disease, hunger or even the chambers.
“I think for me the most profound things about linking up with the families was a sense that these aren’t just names on forms and cards, these are real people,” Adlington said.