Women Against Tyranny
by Davi Walders

Clemson University Digital Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-984-25987-8.
Reviewed by Shawn LaTorre
Posted on 10/26/2012

Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context

Ms. Walders' book, which is similar in style to Edgar Lee Masters' fictional Spoon River Anthology, offers wrenching glimpses into the thoughts and actions of several people during the Holocaust. Unlike the poems of Spoon River, where readers hear from everyone in town, Women Against Tyranny recounts only the stories of courageous women. Acting in the face of merciless suffering, these women managed to touch the lives of others during the Nazi occupation. Their names are not familiar ones; they remain to this day largely unrecognized.

Ms. Debra Leigh Scott's foreword provides a critical piece of information to the reader: "These women, and others, were waiting for Davi, whose art would coax them out of the shadows. The stories are told through Davi's poetry."

Because the subtitle, Poems of Resistance During the Holocaust, may lead some to believe the poems were written by the individuals described above each selection, reading through the foreword is important here. The varying voices truly reveal each woman's exceptional story—stories carefully researched by Ms. Walders over a period of fifteen years—yet these free-form poems are all, with the exception of one, purely the creations of the book's remarkable author.

Ms. Walders offers, for example, the story of Baroness Germaine Halphen de Rothschild, a woman who rescued one hundred and thirty children from Germany after the nightmare of Kristallnacht, when Hitler's soldiers strolled through towns breaking storefront glass and rounding up Jews. Being a woman of means, the Baroness brought the children to her home in France and paid for their safe passage out of Europe to America and other places, acting with great fortitude while risking her own life.

One of the most touching stories is that of Emilie Schindler, Oskar's wife. In the Hollywood movie, no mention was even made of her contribution to saving lives! Emilie sold jewels, pleaded with officials to move the forced-labor factory closer to safe territory, fed those released from Auschwitz (at her request) until they regained their strength, personally went out to a cattle car to remove Jews, half frozen, and bring them inside her home (after a German soldier arrived in the middle of the night and told her to take them or he would shoot them all). This tiny woman of enormous tenacity and courage is revealed in the third person in a poem entitled, "Emilie's List." Though nearly all of Walders' women died in the struggle, their efforts to counter evil allowed her to paint a larger picture of hope and energy.

Easy, yet difficult to read, this book is a truly unique addition to Holocaust literature. Readers will be inspired by its unsung heroines, who take action against unthinkable horrors. Davi Walders' personal poems are traumatic, yet hopeful, historical jewels about ladies whose acts and stories must not be lost or forgotten. Some of the poems are written in first person, others third—I think staying true to one or the other might have been more effective, perhaps using only first person narrative. The Epilogue contains typographical errors that should have been corrected before printing. Overall, nonetheless, I find Women Against Tyranny to be an important contribution, suited to both womens' studies and Holocaust studies.

Born and raised in Texas and Oklahoma, Davi Walders is a writer and educator whose poetry and prose have appeared in over two hundred publications. Her work is included in such anthologies as Worlds in Their Words: Contemporary American Women Writers; Literature of Spirituality; Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust; Lonely Planet's Tales from Nowhere; and Traveler's Tales: Prague. Visit her website.

Read an excerpt from this book.

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