University of Oklahoma Press
In this intimate ethnography, anthropologist Barbara Rylko-Bauer interweaves personal family narrative with history to present a daughter’s account of her Polish Catholic mother’s World War II experiences as a prisoner-doctor in Jewish slave labor camps in Nazi Germany. Her mother, Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko, was training to be a pediatrician in Poland when the war began. Arrested at the start of 1944, she endured three concentration camps, a 42-day death march, and the challenges of “surviving survival”—rebuilding a new life, first as a refugee doctor in Germany and later as an immigrant in the United States. The book is structured around quotes from interviews that Rylko-Bauer conducted with her aging mother, but also incorporates the daughter’s own journey of rediscovery of her family past. Predominant themes woven into the story include the role of medicine in the camps; Polish Christian experiences of World War II, presented against the backdrop of the Jewish Holocaust; the political economy of Nazi slave labor; the struggles of postwar displaced persons; and the paradoxes of the U.S. immigrant experience.