Livia Bitton-Jackson, born Elli L. Friedmann in Czechoslovakia, was thirteen when she, her mother, and her brother were taken to Auschwitz. They were liberated in 1945 and came to the United States on a refugee boat in 1951. She received a PhD in Hebrew culture and Jewish history from New York University. Dr. Bitton-Jackson has been a professor of history at City University of New York for thirty-seven years. Her previous books include Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust, which received the Christopher Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, and the Jewish Heritage Award. Dr. Bitton-Jackson lives in Israel with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
In 1937 she travelled to Spain as an aid worker, where she ran children’s hospitals, moving from one bombed-out building to the next in the midst of a horrific civil war. Moving to France after Franco’s victory, she continued to work in the wretched refugee camps hastily thrown together by the French authorities for 500,000 escaping Spanish Republicans. Soon, Jews fleeing the Nazis were also imprisoned in the internment camps. Mary initially sought to relieve the suffering of all the inmates but when the deportations to the east began she worked to save hundreds of Jewish children from the death camps, going so far as to smuggle children out of the camp in her own car. Eventually her actions came to the notice of the collaborationist Vichy government and in 1943 she was arrested by the Gestapo and jailed for six months.
The Extraordinary Story of Mary Elmes tells the gripping story of one woman’s heroism during two of the twentieth century’s bloodiest conflicts. It includes a number of interviews with some of those who owe their lives to Mary Elmes, as well as photographs and a wealth of archival material.