On one side of the investigation table, an investigator is determined to find out the truth, and on the other side two people are being questioned about one awful accusation: sending hundreds of Jewish mothers with their young children to be imprisoned in a deserted military base, with no food or water and with no way out. Guards have been put outside the locked doors, and they refuse to open them.
One by one the two interrogates speak their answers, open up and confess or hide and lie. None of them are innocent, none of them a criminal. Under the circumstances they were operating under, maybe no one can stay pure.
The voices of three mothers are also heard here, and the voice of one girl who goes through what no child should ever go through.
Many have written on World War II, and Gali Mir-Tibon, in her debut novel, bravely lights one of its darkest corners. A harsh investigation goes on in this novel, an investigation which is not restricted to one room, but step after step, goes deeper into the human soul – into its best and worse, and the struggle between both.
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A heart-rending story that also makes one’s blood boil, but the writer fills it with a radiant love of humanity, compassion for human frailties, and a profound curiosity towards what drastic situations do to people.
Mir-Tibon, who has studied the Jewish leadership in Romania during the Holocaust, has written a courageous novel. She is cautious and refrains from provocation, and precisely because of that her book is meaningful, complex and resonant. It haunted me long after I finished reading for exactly this reason: It has no simple moral, perhaps no moral at all; only human faces that are uncovered when the mask of humanity is removed from them.
The List of the Mothers is an unusual book in Holocaust literature. It is, as its epigraph declares, a wholly truthful fiction.