AUP graduation ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

George and Irina Schaeffer Center

The Nine: The True Story of Female Resistance Fighters - Gwen Strauss

David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104) | 6, rue du Colonel Combes, 75007
Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 18:30 to 20:00

The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention and the President’s Office of The American University of Paris invites you to join us for an evening with Gwen Strauss on her forthcoming narrative non-fiction The Nine: The True Story of Female Resistance Fighters.

The Nine follows the true story of Strauss’s great aunt Helene Podliasky, a twenty-four-year-old engineer who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German concentration camp and made the ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII.

The team of international women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends.

For the most part ‘The Nine,’ like so many women in the Resistance, kept quiet about their actions during the war. They weren’t recognized as heroes. They didn’t tell their stories. Ever since Helene first told Strauss about the escape one day over lunch, she became obsessed with uncovering the details of the story. She has researched archives in four countries, interviewed relatives and friends of all nine women, traveled to Germany multiple times, met with survivor groups and read first-hand testimony from female French resistance fighters, in order to piece together the story of these incredible women.

The Nine is also her own exploration of certain themes and questions including: the complex relationship of collective and individual memory; Holocaust and memory museums and the moral complexity of visiting sites of suffering; the power and control of the archive and searching for forgotten lives in the margins; the use of women as scapegoats throughout history and more specifically before, during, and after WWII in France; the solidarity of women and their ability to survive better in desperate situations; the breaking of family taboos and the healing of transgenerational trauma; how to be brave in our current times; and the vital importance of giving voice to our stories.

The Nine is under contract for publication with St. Martin’s Press in 2021. And is currently in negotiations for a television series.

About the Speaker

Gwen Strauss is based in Southern France where she is the Director of the Dora Maar House, an artist residency program. Her most recent book The Hiding Game, a Middle Grade Reader about artists hiding in Marseille in 1940, won a 2017 Parent’s Choice Award. Her poetry book Trail of Stones, with illustrations by Anthony Browne, is widely anthologized and was recently turned into a theatrical performance. The Night Shimmy, a children's book with the same illustrator was translated into six languages. Ruth and the Green Book received wide recognition including the ALA 2011 Most Notable Middle Grade Reader, Honor book for the Jane Adam's Peace Prize, and was named “one of ten books all Georgians should read” by the Georgia Advisory Book Council. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary magazine and outlets including: Catapult, The New Republic, New England Review, Kenyon Review, London Sunday Times and Antioch Review.

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