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Retour à Birkenau by Ginette Kolinka

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Editions Grasset & Fasquelle, Paris, 2019

Ginette Kolinka, 94, was deported to Birkenau from France in 1944. She never spoke of her experience until over 50 years later when Steven Spielberg's foundation convinced her to be interviewed.

Around the same time she started accompanying French high-school students on trips to Birkenau, where she continues to answer their questions about what it was like to be a prisoner in an extermination camp.

Ms Kolinka gives us her very personal testimony, sharing her memories centered around the essentially human: food, shelter, clothing, family, love, respect.

I recommend you read it. I've asked the editor if there is an English translation planned and will let you know.

Here are some of her words (my translations):


...le camp, c'est la faim. Je crois même que c'était ma seule obssession.

...the camp is hunger. I would even say it was my only obssession.

After returning from Birkenau in 1945:

Je serai malade pendant trois ans, et la nourriture sera ma seule obssession.

I was sick for 3 years, and food was my only obssession.

The reality:

...quand on me demande comment ça s'est passé là-bas, je réponds: "Si un jour j'ai un enfant et que ça recommence, je l'étrangle de mes propres mains".

...when someone asks me what it was like over there, I answer: "If I have a child someday and it starts again, I would strangle him/her with my own hands."


Moi je n'ai jamais rien dit, pas même à mon mari.

I never talked about it, not even with my husband.

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