instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

The Nine

A map of the escape route by the gresat artist Michael Gelatly

The Nine follows the true story of my great aunt Helene Podliasky, who led a band of nine female resistance fighters as they escaped a German forced labor camp and made a ten-day journey across the front lines of WWII.

The nine women were all under thirty when they joined the resistance. They smuggled arms through Europe, harbored parachuting agents, coordinated communications between regional sectors, trekked escape routes to Spain and hid Jewish children in scattered apartments. They were arrested by French police, interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo. They were subjected to a series of French prisons and deported to Germany. The group formed along the way, meeting at different points, in prison, in transit, and at Ravensbrück. By the time they were enslaved at the labor camp in Leipzig, they were a close-knit group of friends. During the final days of the war, forced onto a death march, the nine chose their moment and made a daring escape.

For the most part 'The Nine,' like so many women in the Resistance, kept quiet about their actions during the war. They weren't recognized as heroes. They didn't tell their stories. But one day over lunch, my aunt told me her story. I asked to interview her officially and to record her. Then I became obsessed with uncovering further details. She didn't remember the full names of the other women. It was detective work to find out who they were. I researched archives in four countries, interviewed relatives and friends of all nine women, traveled to Germany multiple times, met with survivor groups and read first-hand testimony from female French resistance fighters, in order to piece together the story of these incredible women.

"I love this book. The Nine is that rare WWII nonfiction thriller that delivers beauty, grace, horror, and suspense while grounding us in the intricacies of the French Resistance and the complex lives of its heroes. The young Helene and her compatriots will charm and alarm you with their integrity, poise, and courage. It's an important work that also happens to be a hell of a read!"

From Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead, a Marine's Chronical of the Gulf War, and Hotels, Hospitals and Jails, a Memoir.


"It's high time we got our Band of Sisters, and there could be no better author to tell their story than the riveting and rigorous Gwen Strauss. Equal parts exhilarating, devastating, and inspiring, this narrative investigation into the history of her own family is truly our untold history as well.  I feel my own resolve to resist fascism strengthen with the breathless turn of each page."

From Lauren Sandler, author of This is All I Got