Three Sisters
October 27, 2021

Book Review

Three Sisters

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


On the eve of a critical and risky surgery (in which he will not survive), Menachem Meller meets with his three daughters in the garden of their modest house in Vranov, Slovakia. He requests a promise to be shared between the three.

Cibi is seven, Magda five, and the youngest is Livi, barely three years old. All agree that they will always take care of each other – no matter what. What follows is a heart-wrenching, immersive tale into the lives of the Meller sisters. Based upon their true heart-breaking stories of survival in the face of unimaginable hardships, cruelty, and terror meted out by the Nazi hoards. An enduring story of courage, resilience, and unending love.

In March of 1942, Magda develops a minor infection, manifested by a low grade fever. And yet, Dr. Kisely insists she be hospitalized to avoid being rounded up by the Hlinka Guard. The local Guard was formed at the insistence of Hitler, with a function to appropriate the valuables of the Jews and round up their children for forced “labor camps,” The knock at the door by the guard results in Livi, only age fifteen, being ordered for conscription the next day.

At that time, Cibi, now nineteen, is away outside the city limits at Hachshara, a training program to teach young people the skills necessary to forge a new life in Israel – The Promised Land. Cibi comes home that night to visit and learns of Livi’s fate. Her reaction: “I made a promise to look after my sisters… I’m going with her. She’s the baby of the family and cannot go alone. No harm will come to her, as long as there is a breath in my body.” They are herded like animals onto a cattle car that stinks of manure, and when they arrive in Poland, at Auschwitz, they reluctantly disgorge onto a platform lined with Nazi soldiers, some with rifles, and others with loosely held leashes of snarling, barking, and biting dogs. Then they are marched into a fenced compound with the entry sign of “Arbeit Mach Frei” – a mocking sign proclaiming: “Work Sets You Free.”

They soon learn the folly of such a statement, as they are brutalized by not only the Nazis but even more so by the Kapos: the prisoner guards. They not only have to survive both physical and emotional abuse by their captors, but also the extremes of weather in inappropriate clothing. Intermittent bouts of typhus plague the camp, and are usually met with the victim undergoing a “selection” – never to be seen again.  

The key to survival is to remain invisible. To react indifferently and never register shock, fear, or anger. Any show of weakness, defiance, or sickness is either met with a bullet to the head or being “selected,” a euphemism for a trip to the gas chamber, followed by disposal in the crematorium.

Magda avoids this waking nightmare for nearly two years by intermittently hiding, either in a neighbor’s attic or a nearby forest. Her capture is inevitable, and she joins her sisters in the third year of their living hell.

Heather Morris proves to be a masterful storyteller as she narrates this story of survival and courage, aided by endurable hope, love, resilience, and a promise that must be kept.

Thanks to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for providing an Uncorrected Proof of this gem in exchange for an honest review. This moving story complements Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey as a testament to the endurance of the human spirit.

Three Sisters available at:


Historical Suspense Features