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In My Hands

About the Book

In My Hands

When the Nazi army invades Poland in 1939, Irene Gut is a seventeen-year-old student nurse. She is studious, young, and pretty, a good Catholic girl and close to her loving parents and three younger sisters--her life thus far is as remote as possible from the horrors of war. Yet, despite her youth, she is also fiercely loyal to her beautiful Poland and committed in her soul to helping others. So it is without hesitation that she volunteers to join the Polish army in its fight against the Germans. When the Polish army surrenders, Irene is exiled with other soldiers to the Lithuanian forest (now part of Russia) and roams from town to town bartering for supplies. On one such bartering mission she is raped, beaten, and left for dead by Russian soldiers. But Irene survives. She endures internment in a Russian hospital and exile in Kiev and is able to return to German-occupied Poland to be reunited briefly with her family. This period of happiness is short-lived: she is assigned to work for Major Eduard Rügemer of the German army, who is responsible for an ammunitions factory compound. Irene serves meals to Nazi soldiers and supervises the Jewish workers in the laundry. She begins to take actions to help the Jews suffering in the ghetto just beyond the compound's walls. And, ultimately, her relatively comfortable position and favored relationship with the major give her the opportunity to save the Jews who work in the laundry--her friends--from extermination by the Nazis. At every turn Irene is faced with another impossible challenge, another degradation, more evil. Each time, instead of breaking, she becomes braver and more resolute in her determination to fight for her friends, for her country, for what is right. Irene's breathtaking story is a testament to the possibility of good in mankind, and her strength of spirit lingers in the reader's mind long after the final page of her memoir. Jennifer Armstrong's beautiful rendering of Irene's story does justice to its subject: it is poetic yet cruelly frank--just as Irene's humanity looms large in the face of the most unspeakable evils of the twentieth century.

In My Hands
Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong

  • Publication Date: April 17, 2001
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0385720327
  • ISBN-13: 9780385720328