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A true story: the seamstresses in Auschwitz who sewed for the wives of Nazi leaders | Culture

On the left, the sisters Bracha and Katka Berkovic shortly before the outbreak of World War I; on the right, seamstresses recreate the same photo in 2013.
On the left, the sisters Bracha and Katka Berkovic shortly before the outbreak of World War I; on the right, seamstresses recreate the same photo in 2013.CORTESÍA DE LUCY ADLINGTON

A haute couture sewing workshop in the heart of Auschwitz, made up of two dozen highly experienced sets of hands, among the best in their hometowns, some having worked for houses including Chanel. A workshop that produced patches and uniforms for SS women, but also dresses, coats, baby clothes, layettes and even trousseaus for the wives of high-ranking Nazis. A workshop whose workers sewed with threads, needles, fabrics and materials looted from deported and murdered Jews. A workshop that employed its slaves–many Czechoslovakians, but also Poles, Ukrainians, French and Germans–for 12 or 14 hours a day, every day, but through which, ironically, they managed to save their lives. The workshop is not a scene from a novel, but a real place that existed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp for five years, about which the British Lucy Adlington speaks at length and profusely in her book, The Dressmakers of Auschwitz, recently published by Planet in Spain.

Adlington, a British novelist, made a name for herself in the publishing world thanks to the publication five years ago of The Red Ribbon. The fictional story spoke of a sewing workshop in Auschwitz, a story she had heard almost a decade ago. When she published the book, she began to receive messages from Israel, the United States and Central Europe. “They wrote to me: ‘My mother was a seamstress in Auschwitz, my aunt. We know the real ones.’ I became obsessed with it, and I saw that it was possible to research it,” she recounts in a video call with EL PAÍS, with the enthusiasm of a dedicated researcher finally bringing years of work to light.

“Everything in the book has sources, the dialogue, the scenes. I haven’t invented anything,” emphasizes Adlington. It was essential for her to stick to the true story, though the book reads as a novel and is written “for people who don’t normally read history.” “It was important to honor the truth,” reflects the author, who also acknowledges that she was often overwhelmed with emotion when writing, feeling “a cold fury” and “a great sense of responsibility.”

The Auschwitz workshop is a feminine and feminist story, of friendship and loyalty. The story recounts the crossed paths of the talented Marta Fuchs; the indomitable Hunya Storch; Irene Reichenberg, who lost her sisters one by one; the French women Marilou Colombain and Alida Delasalle; the young sisters Katka and Bracha Berkovic. They have all passed away, but Adlington met the latter before she died in 2021. She visited her in 2019 at her home in San Francisco, California to chat with her. “It was surreal,” she confesses. “I was there, in the kitchen of this woman who had made me chicken for dinner and an incredible apple pie, and who had spent 1,000 days in Auschwitz,” Adlington says of talking to one of the people she had been researching for years.

The author of the book, Lucy Adlington, with one of the surviving dressmakers of Auschwitz, Bracha Berkovic (Kohut after getting married), at the latter's house in 2019 in San Francisco, California (USA).
The author of the book, Lucy Adlington, with one of the surviving dressmakers of Auschwitz, Bracha Berkovic (Kohut after getting married), at the latter’s house in 2019 in San Francisco, California (USA).CORTESÍA DE LUCY ADLINGTON

The book exudes feminism. On the one hand, Adlington wants to break taboos when it comes to telling stories about that half of humanity. “Everything in history revolves around men: books, statues, memories. We have to look at different sources, archaeology, newspapers. We must decode the lives of previously silenced women. In the past there has been a lot of focus on men’s work, but how did women impact it? It is very powerful. It doesn’t exclude men, but with women’s perspectives, we discover a lot. No one knew about this fashion house, and it tells us a lot,” she argues. Are there many stories left to tell? “Absolutely. We are breaking taboos around certain experiences, sexual violence, the role of pregnancy, motherhood. Every person has a story.”

The sewing room became a refuge for women, who arrived from doing harder work and never forgot that they were in a concentration camp under enemy scrutiny. There, they sewed garments so valued that their waiting list reached six months. It was all a contradiction: the Nazis refused even to let the Jews touch them, considered them minor beings and accused them of laziness, but they took advantage of their talents in exchange for a watery turnip soup and a chewy crust of bread with a piece of sausage. The seamstresses sewed for their executioners. They went days without seeing sunlight, housed in the same barracks where they worked, but at least they had a place to sleep with fewer lice and bedbugs—typhus plagues were fatal—than the others. “They were slaves, but they were the most privileged prisoners. That minority had the opportunity to be human,” she says.

Adlington also talks about the Hosses, the family that ruled the camp. Rudolf and Hedwig, with their garden full of roses, shared a wall with Auschwitz. She quotes a phrase from Katka Berkovic: “We were not human. We were dogs. They were our owners.” But they weren’t dogs. “They were a normal family, and they made some decisions. And they were the wrong ones,” she reflects on the conditions in which they enslaved the prisoners after taking everything they had. According to the author, in pre-Nazi Germany, 80% of the department stores belonged to Jewish businessmen, as was the case with half of the wholesale textile companies. Everything was “Arianized,” that is, expropriated to pass into non-Jewish hands.

She also mentions surviving brands that, at the time, were associated with Nazism: she speaks of Hugo Boss, C&A, the Triumph corset house, which, she cites, “resorted to Jewish slave labor, including children.” “Today, they are not guilty of their crimes,” says Adlington. “But they are morally obliged to recognize their brands’ responsibility. Many have not done so, but they have to be transparent. We have advanced, and it is relevant to the conversation.” In fact, without drawing comparisons to the atrocities of Auschwitz, Adlington focuses her eyes on textile today and tomorrow: “We know that there are people who work in forced, unhealthy, probably unsafe conditions, in long shifts. It is important to be alert. We are not perfect, but we do need to make conscious decisions. Because that should never have happened. And we can’t undo it.”

Most of those two-dozen seamstresses managed to leave the torture of Auschwitz. They remade their lives. And they stayed in touch. Many married other survivors. Some created their own sewing businesses, such as Ilona Hochfelder, who after making skirts for an SS officer managed to open the most prestigious bridal workshop in Leeds. Most of them had a hard time telling their children about their lives. It was not until the arrival of their grandchildren, more inquisitive and less frightened, that the oral tradition began. When Bracha finally spoke about those 1,000 days, she said, “I was in Auschwitz for 1,000 years. Every day I could have died 1,000 times.”

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Culture

Top 10 Urban Property Hotspots

Bradford And Blackpool Lead The Pack

Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, exclusive data from OnTheMarket reveals.

A combination of affordable house prices and growing number of buyers being priced out of nearby Leeds is helping lift Bradford’s property market, OnTheMarket said.

Speaking to This is Money, Robert McCarthy, manager of Hunters estate agency in Bradford, said buyers were attracted to the area because properties are ‘dirt cheap.’

Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals
Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals

He said: ‘Bradford is seeing a high increase in first time buyers and investors, with properties ranging from around £70,000 for a two bedroomed terrace, £110,000-£130,000 for a three to four bedroom terrace and £120,000 to £240,000 for a three bedroom semi-detached or detached property.

‘This gives a buyer much more for their money, while keeping the mortgage payments lower.’

He added: ‘This week we had a three bedroom semi-detached property go on the market needing some work at £100,000.

‘We we had over 90 requests to view, with some buyers offering before a viewing at well over the asking price.

‘I personally bought a three bedroom semi-detached renovation project in the area with a large garden for £51,000 a few years ago.

‘Now fully renovated, if I was selling to put it on the market it would be around £180,000 to £190,000.’

Mr McCarthy told This is Money that it was possible to buy a one or two bedroom flat in the centre of Bradford for between £20,000 to £60,000.

Urban property hotspots

Blackpool, Rochdale and Plymouth came in second, third and fourth place respectively in OnTheMarket’s latest rankings, with Rochdale climbing from 23rd to third place.

As cities like Manchester become increasingly expensive, Rochdale has ballooned in popularity with buyers.

Andrew Cardwell, manging director of Cardwells Estate Agents, said he wasn’t surprised about Rochdale’s colossal climb in the rankings.

Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining
Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining

He said: ‘Earlier this year Rochdale was recognised as one of the most affordable places to buy a property, with an average house price of around £206,000.

‘As well as offering excellent value for money, it’s within easy reach of Manchester city centre and has beautiful countryside.’

Plymouth jumped from 22nd to fourth place in the rankings. It is the only southern location to make it to the top five, OnTheMarket said.

Plymouth is home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in western Europe and the city is brimming with shops and restaurants.

Jacob Tebb, president of OnTheMarket, told This is Money: ‘Property buying decisions continue to be heavily influenced by affordability, according to our latest hotspots index, which reveals that some of the most active or “hottest” areas also offer buyers the best value.”

He added: ‘Overall, the north/south divide is holding firm, with some of the most vibrant and cheapest locations in the north seeing the most heat in terms of housing market activity and only one southern location making it into the top ten.’

Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Sunderland, Wakefield and Derby also made it to the top ten, while Middlesborough, Burnley and Coventry were just outside the top 10.

Wakefield rose from thirtieth to ninth place, while Birmingham climbed from forty-third to twenty-third place.

Where is the market cooling? Urban property hotspots

OnTheMarket added: ‘Moving in the other direction, demand in Wigan cooled significantly, dropping from second to fifteenth place in our rankings, while Liverpool has fallen from eleventh place in the first quarter to thirtieth.

‘Worthing, one of the few southern locations to be considered a hotspot, fell from twentieth to fifty-third place. The “coolest” hotspot on our list is Brighton.’

The average price of a house in Brighton and Hove was £422,000 in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. Its coastal location and proximity to London makes it popular but expensive with buyers.

Activity in Gloucester, Norwich and Warrington is also cooling, OnTheMarket said.

How is the London property market faring?

OnTheMarket crunched separate data for the London property market. The data suggested there has been ‘less fluctuation nationally and very little movement’, On The Market said.

Within the London-focused rankings, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Sutton, Redbridge and Newham comprised the top five, followed by Bexley, Hillingdon and Enfield. Hounslow and Croydon also made it to the top 10.

However, Hounslow dropped out of the top five London hotspots in the quarter, while Lambeth, Southwark and Merton all fell four places.

In the last few years, higher mortgage rates have put a dampener on the property market. However, the Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates this summer and some banks and building societies have already started trimming rates on their mortgage deals.

Barclays recently upped the ante in the mortgage price war currently playing out between banks and building societies.

The mortgage lender cut rates by up to 0.33 percentage points across a wide range of deals for both homebuyers and those remortgaging, resulting in several new best-buys.

Halifax also announced it was cutting mortgage rates by up to 0.13 percentage points on selected deals.

What’s on sale now?

1. Three-bed semi-detached house, Bradford, £190,000

This three-bedroom semi-detached house at Hopefield Way, Bierley in Bradford, is on sale via Hunters estate agency for £190,000.

It has a light and airy living room and a spacious kitchen-diner. The property has gardens at the front and rear and comes with one driveway parking space.

Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford

2. Two-bed flat, Plymouth, £220,000

Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds

This two-bedroom ground floor flat on sale via Julian Marks is set in a substantial end of terrace late Victorian-era property and is listed for £220,000.

The newly fitted kitchen is modern and stylish, and elsewhere charming period features have been retained.

The property has been owned by the same people since 1994 and comes with use of a small private garden, as well as a communal garden.

3. Four-bed house, Rochdale, £325,000

Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition

This four-bedroom detached property located in Milnrow, Rochdale, is on sale via Hunters for £325,000.

The house is in mint condition throughout with light and airy rooms. A family could move straight into this home without needing to lift a finger. There’s off-road parking, a single garage and gardens to the front and rear.

It’s an ideal property for a growing family.


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Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by ‘Savills’ reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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