It's September 1939 and as Hitler invades Poland with his sight set on France, the paths of Caroline, Kasia and Herta are set on a course that will change their lives forever. Socialite Caroline Ferriday lives in New York City and volunteers at the French Consulate, helping French nationals visiting the United States. She also organizes aide for French orphanages. Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish teenager who sees her way of life disappearing with the occupation of Hitler and she works as a courier for the resistance movement in Poland. Meanwhile, German physician, Herta Oberheuser, frustrated at being a "second class" doctor because she is a woman in Hitler's Germany, takes a position she hopes will allow her to rise in the ranks and respect of the Third Reich.
As the war continues the women's lives intersect in unimaginable ways. Herta's new job at Ravensbrück, a re-education camp for women, is not what she anticipated. Rather than educating women in the ways of the Reich, she is caught up in the atrocities of the concentration camp, including experimental surgeries. Surgeries that will leave Kasia, captured as a result of her underground activity, disfigured.
Life at Ravensbrück is a struggle to survive for both Herta and Kasia as they must avoid notice of the guards. As one of the Ravensbrück Rabbits, survivors of the experimental surgeries, Kasia does her best to protect her family and friends, despite crushing hunger, pain, fear and despair. She also risks her life getting word out to Poland, and then to the world, about what is really going on at Ravensbrück.
Meanwhile, back in NYC, Caroline continues to help French nationals get their families out of occupied France and to raise funds to support the rising numbers of orphans there. As the war comes to a close and word about the horror of the concentration camps reaches the west Caroline turns her efforts to bringing the Ravensbrück Rabbits to the U.S. for treatment, and to spread awareness and support for those still suffering in a wartorn Europe.
In this debut novel based on the life and experiences of a World War II survivor and heroine, Lilac Girls will keep you reading late into the night as you experience WWII along with Kasia, Herta and Caroline.