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The House of Dolls Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The House of Dolls


Daniella, a young Jewish girl, is assigned to the Joy Division in a concentration camp, where she is forced to become a prostitute for Nazi soldiers. The story centers on Daniella, a fourteen year old Jewish girl in Poland during World War II. When the story starts, she is hiding from the Nazis with her family. She hides with her older brother, Harry, and younger brother, Moni. Eventually they are captured and taken to a concentration camp. Harry is made camp medic, but Daniella is assigned to a part of the camp called "the House of Dolls." This section of the camp is a brothel for Nazis, and the Jewish women who are assigned here are forced to become prostitutes for the soldiers. Daniella, along with the other women assigned here, is given a hysterectomy and tattooed "Field Whore." Any of the women here who are considered in any way unsatisfactory by the soldiers they are forced to have sex with (many of whom brutalize them) are given a bad report -- three of these result in being sent to their deaths. Daniella becomes close with another woman in this section of the camp, who is eventually put to death after getting too many bad reports. Daniella is marked by an optimistic spirit and youthful hopefulness throughout the book, constantly hoping to get back to her brothers; however, by this point of the story, the tone shifts dramatically. The story ends with Daniella's death, told in such a straightforward and matter-of-fact manner that it seems almost meaningless.
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The actual source of information that the author used is unknown, and is worth understanding before reading the book -- many believe it is based on the real-life story of a girl who was assigned to the House of Dolls, and others claim that it is based on the author's younger sister's experiences. None of this information has been verified about this story specifically, but there are accounts of Joy Divisions actually existing in camps.
Best part of story, including ending: Saying that you "like" this book is something of a strange thing to say based on the violent and upsetting nature of the subject matter. However, I will say that this story was very impacting, and eye-opening; this particular aspect of the horrors of concentration camps is not often talked about, and in that sense, it gives a perspective not often seen.

Best scene in story: Again, a "favorite" scene in this book is something of a strange thing to say, given the tone and subject matter. I will say one aspect that constantly stayed with me was Daniella thinking about her younger brother, Moni, who she is separated from. He is described as a sweet, innocent boy with "velvet brown eyes," who begs her not to go. Daniella constantly recalls this, and keeps a photo with her for much of the story to call upon this memory. I think this was a particularly good visual moment, because I could visualize this character so well based on the description.

Opinion about the main character: One of the reasons this book is so impacting is because Daniella is a likable character. She is an innocent young teenage girl who doesn't really understand much of what's going on (and certainly not what she is going to be subjected to). This sets up a sense of wanting to protect her or see that innocence sustained -- that, ultimately, makes the story all the more upsetting, particularly since she doesn't make it out alive.

The review of this Book prepared by Caroline Fraissinet a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of The House of Dolls

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book War/Revolt/Disaster on civilians    -   Yes Conflict:    -   Holocaust

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   prostitute Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Jewish

Setting

How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   7 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Poland

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   touching of anatomy    -   actual description of hetero sex    -   rape/molest Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Moshe M. Kohn Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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