For me, this project really started over 20 years ago, on a cold night in the isolated hills of Northwest Alabama. I was sitting around my Grandmama's fireplace, visiting with relatives and discussing a recent trip to Paris. My great-uncle John gently tugged at his Liberty overalls, shuffled his dusty farmer boots, and finally said in the quiet pragmatic tone of the people of this region that he too had been to Paris. He had been there with Patton.
The room grew quiet and still. He rarely mentioned the war. All drew nearer to him, expecting to finally hear about Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Hedgerows, and the Battle of the Bulge. Instead, he spoke about a women’s concentration camp his division had liberated. After relating the horrors of what he had seen and the courage and solidarity of the starving and sick women in the barracks, he told us that he was afraid that their story would be lost, that one day, people might even say that it never happened. “And you,” he said, turning to me, “will tell them what your great-uncle saw, with his own two eyes.” And I promised I would. So when my friend, Martha Kelly, told me the incredible story of the Rabbits of Ravensbrück, the subject of her work of historical fiction, Lilac Girls, I began to research the women in the barracks that my uncle had told me about that cold night so long ago.
My great-uncle John didn’t ask me to tell his story, but the story of something he believed was much worse than the battles he had fought, something even more horrific than war itself. He asked that I speak up and tell the story of the women in the barracks. As it turns out, many of the women my great uncle John liberated very likely started their journey at Ravensbrück. I discovered that on many levels, this is their story. And it is our story, our struggle - and our strength - as well.