The Nobel prize-winner’s astonishing oral history of the experience of Russian woman during the second world war finally appears uncensored

When Charlotte Delbo – a French dramatist arrested by the Germans in Paris and sent to Auschwitz in 1943 – came home from the camps, her first thought was to write about the women with her who had survived, and the ones who had not. But when she finished her book, with its mixture of memory and testimony, she put it away in a drawer for 20 years, worried in case it did not convey what it had really been like. She wanted to be certain that the writing was so plain, so transparent, that nothing would come between the readers and their understanding.

Related: Belarus women who served on front lines of world war two – in pictures

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