The Nine Hundred: an account of the hell Slovakian girls faced inside Auschwitz

Book review: Heather Dune Macadam describes the fate of unmarried Jewish women who signed up for ‘government service’

A Jewish woman wearing a badge with a capital Z (zidovsk for  Jewish) under the Nazi regime in Slovakia in 1939. Photograph:  Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A Jewish woman wearing a badge with a capital Z (zidovsk for Jewish) under the Nazi regime in Slovakia in 1939. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The announcement that was to seal the fate of hundreds of Jewish girls across Slovakia was made in a blizzard in 1942. Town criers braved the brutal weather to declare in public squares that unmarried Jewish women aged between 16 and 36 were to sign up to three months of “government service”.

Slovakia by that point in the second World War was a Nazi satellite state that had only become independent in 1939 under German protection. Anti-semitism in the young country had been ratcheting up for years. By 1942 Jews were living under stringent codes that forbade them from attending high school, gathering in groups, travelling without permission and even owning pets.

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