This is the story of a gifted Jewish doctor, the mother of five, who, after separation from her Aryan husband, is arrested on an absurd charge and sent to a corrective labour camp in 1942. Lilli was a prolific letter writer and miraculously almost all her letters to her children and friends, together with a huge number of their letters to her (smuggled out of the camp at Breitenau before she was sent to Auschwitz), survived World War II and only came to light on the death of her son in 1998. In the letters and in Martin Doerry's commentary, we see the deterioration of a whole country through the eyes of an ordinary family driven asunder by pressure from the Nazi regime. We see Lilli's initial optimism and love for her husband begin to crack. We see her trying to support and run the family from Breitenau camp, but relying totally on her 12 year-old daughter, Ilse, and we see the difficulties for the children of living with Ernst's mistress, now his wife, after a bombing raid destroys the family home. Prehaps most of all we see Ilse's heroic attempts to meet her mother, even though it means going into the labour camp itself, and Lilli's courage in the face of her inevitable end.
Martin Doerry was born in 1955. He studied German literature and History in Tubingen and Zurich, and completed his PhD in Modern History. He has worked at Der Spiegel since 1987 and was appointed Deputy Editor In Chief in 1998.