Cover Image: Through the Morgue Door

Through the Morgue Door

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Engaging Yet Slightly Underwhelming Account of Survival in Occupied Paris

THROUGH THE MORGUE DOOR offers a compelling narrative of Colette Brull-Ulmann's remarkable experiences during the German occupation of Paris, particularly her efforts to save children from the Holocaust. The book succeeds in immersing readers in the tense atmosphere of the era, shedding light on the resilience and courage of individuals like Brull-Ulmann.

However, despite its gripping subject matter, the execution falls somewhat short of expectations. While Brull-Ulmann's story is undeniably inspiring, the pacing sometimes feels uneven, with her childhood receiving disproportionate attention while major events are glossed over. This imbalance detracts from the overall coherence of the book and leaves some aspects of Brull-Ulmann's journey feeling under-explored.

The writing style, while serviceable, lacks the lyrical quality that might have elevated the narrative to a more profound level. The prose occasionally feels flat and fails to fully capture the emotional depth of Brull-Ulmann's experiences. As a result, readers may find it difficult to fully connect with the protagonist and empathize with her struggles on a visceral level.

Despite these shortcomings, THROUGH THE MORGUE DOOR remains a worthwhile read for those interested in World War II history, particularly the lesser-known stories of resistance and survival in occupied territories. Brull-Ulmann's bravery and compassion shine through despite the book's flaws, serving as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. I'm glad she told her story, and I'm glad I read it.

Thank you #NetGalley and University of Pennsylvania Press for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. #ThroughTheMorgueDoor #PennPress

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"Through the Morgue Door" is a powerful first-hand account of the horrors of WWII. However, it's told documentary-style rather than as a novelization. As a result, there's a lot more "telling" than "showing" in the writing. That doesn't make it bad, but it does create a completely different feel to the narrative.

And because this is one person's account, there are gaps in the story that the author simply couldn't fill in because she didn't know the answers herself. So, in the end, I was left with a lot of questions and a slightly dissatisfied feeling that there was more to the story than we found out in the end.

But it's certainly a story that's worth telling. There is a saying that goes, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." And Colette's retelling of the earlier events of her life shows just how powerful it can be when good men take a stand and do what they can to right the wrongs taking place around them.

Thank you to Colette Brull-Ulmann, University of Pennsylvania Press, and NetGalley for an advance review copy.

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I really really wanted to like this book, but it didn’t pull me in the way I anticipated. It is a good book, I just wasn’t crazy about it.

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EXCERPT: 'I have a job for you. We have to get some children out. Can you do that?'
Get some children out? It was very clear what she meant: smuggle them out.

ABOUT 'THROUGH THE MORGUE DOOR': In 1934, at the age of fourteen, Colette Brull-Ulmann knew that she wanted to become a pediatrician. By the age of twenty-one, she was in her second year of studying medicine. By 1942, Brull-Ulman and her family had become registered Jews under the ever-increasing statutes against them enacted by Petain’s government. Her father had been arrested and interned at the Drancy detention camp and Brull-Ulman had become an intern at the Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital in Paris where Jewish physicians were allowed to practice, and Jewish patients could go for treatment.

Under Claire Heyman, a charismatic social worker who was a leader of the hospital’s secret escape network, Brull-Ulmann began working tirelessly to rescue Jewish children treated at the Rothschild. Her devotion to the protection of children, her bravery, and her imperviousness in the face of the deadly injustices of the Holocaust were always evident―whether smuggling children to safety through the Paris streets in the dead of night or defying officers and doctors who frighteningly held her fate in their hands. Ultimately, Brull-Ulmann was forced to flee the Rothschild in 1943, when she joined her father’s resistance network, gathering and delivering information for De Gaulle’s secret intelligence agency until the Liberation in 1945.

In 1970, Brull-Ulmann finally became a licensed pediatrician. But after the war, like so many others, she sought to bury her memories. It wasn’t until decades later when she finally started to speak publicly―not only about her own work and survival, but about the one child who affected her most deeply. Originally published in French in 2017, Brull-Ulmann’s memoir fearlessly illustrates the horrors of Jewish life under the German Occupation and casts light on the heretofore unknown story of the Rothschild Hospital during this period. But most of all, it chronicles the life of a truly exceptional and courageous woman for whom not acting was never an option.

MY THOUGHTS: This is the story of a courageous woman, a non-practicing Jew, and her life as a medical student and intern in Nazi-occupied France. While extremely interesting, it is also quite superficial. I was wanting more information, more depth, more stories about the people, particularly the children, she helped escape but in fact she only talks about one time when she took two children through the morgue door to freedom.

I understand that dredging up these memories would be indescribably painful but as she is now speaking publicly about the horrors of the holocaust, I would have expected more specific detail and information. It is important not to play down the truth - it must be seen for the horror it was in the hope (futile though it is) that this never be repeated. What is in this book appears to be a very much watered-down version of events.

Through the Morgue Door had the chance to be a powerful book; unfortunately, although interesting, it has missed the mark.


#ThroughtheMorgueDoor #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Colette Brull-Ulmann was born on April 18, 1920 in Paris, France. She was married to Jacques-André Ulmann. She died on May 22, 2021 in Bry-sur-Marne, Val-de-Marne, France.
A Pediatrician who, as an intern at Rotschild hospital in Paris, helped save Jewish children from the Shoah in a team directed by Claire Heyman. She talked very late in life about her heroic actions. She is said to have rescued over 100 children.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to the University of Pennsylvania Press via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Through The Morgue Door written by Collette Brull-Ulmann and translated by Anne Landau and Margaret Sinclair for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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This is such an impactful story of a brave Jewish survivor, Colette Brull-Ulmann, and all who formed a network at Rothschild Hospital in Paris, France to help children escape during the Holocaust.

Colette fiercely pushed back against evil and acted selflessly to save others despite the danger she faced. I feel truly honored to have read her story, and it's certainly a story that needs to be heard.

May Danielle and her sister Céline always be remembered, and may the rest of us never forget. Dr. Colette Brull-Ulmann, Claire Heyman, Maria Errazuriz, and others who helped, may the memory of each of you be a blessing. As inscribed on a commemorative plaque placed in 2011 at the entrance of the Rothschild Foundation, rue de Picpus, in Paris: "May their courage serve as an example to future generations."

Thank you to Netgalley and University of Pennsylvania Press for allowing me the opportunity to review. All opinions are my own.

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Through the Morgue Door by Colette Brull-Ulmann and Jean-Christophe Portes is a biography about survival under desperate conditions in Nazi-occupied France during WWII, especially Paris. But it is also about heroism fraught with incredible risk in the darkest of days.

Vichy set up its own anti-Jew schemes which delighted the Nazis. Occupied France was unique in that it had French Jews and foreign Jews who eventually had no rights to practice medicine and to be seen by doctors. One lone Parisian hospital was the exception. Since the age of 14, Colette knew she wanted to become a pediatrician. As a young woman she started her education but it was halted with the war. As a Jew, her only option was the Rothschild Hospital where she was an intern. Encouraged by Claire Heyman, the hospital social worker and Resistance leader, she joined the risky Resistance which smuggled children out of the hospital morgue. Claire organized death certificates and other documents necessary to pull it off.

Claire and Colette were true heroines. They selflessly saved many lives with great courage. If caught, death was highly likely. Jean-Christophe Portes had the honour of interviewing Colette in the early 2000s. She became a pediatrician in 1970. The matter-of-fact stories about invisible ink, code names and police surveillance at Rothschild are fascinating and sobering. The entire book is.

I am grateful Holocaust survivors and rescuers have told their powerful and important stories. We need to learn as much as we possibly can. Books like this are critical pieces of the WWII puzzle which reveal wonderful kindness, humility, determination and courage in impossible situations.

My sincere thank you University of Pennsylvania Press and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy of this phenomenal book.

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This is the story of a young Jewish woman living and working in occupied Paris. Dreams of becoming a doctor quickly evaporated. Her only possibility was becoming an intern at the Rothschilds’ hospital, the only place in Paris where Jewish doctors could still work. Also, the only place for Jewish patients to get care. Been near the detention camp was mostly the source of their patients. Nursing half dead and severely tortured prisoners back to health, only to see them been taken back to the internment camp had to be devasting to the workers of the hospital. This made it even harder when it involved young children. It is hard not to become attached. Two siblings that they managed to keep longer than usual, noticed by the camp commander, and taken away. The loss of these two children affected Colette the most. It is amazing that Colette, under the supervision of Claire Heyman who was the leader of the secret escape network, managed to accomplish as much as she did. Not only did these women had to be careful of the Germans but also of co-workers that would have turned them in for fear of their own lives and families.
This is not a fiction novel but a memoir that chronicles the life a courageous woman that could not stand by and let it all happen without her becoming involved in trying to help where she could.

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I was given an advance reading copy (arc) of this book from in exchange for a fair review. Colette Brull-Ulmann lived through terrible times. As a Jewish woman, she not only survived World War II, but set aside her own safety to ensure others survived as well. Her father was a German soldier during World War I. As a veteran, he thought he and his family were safe from the Nazis, but they were not. They fled and eventually ended up in Paris where Colette found work at the Rothschild Hospital--the only hospital allowed to treat Jewish people. At the hospital, which is still there, workers banned together to smuggle children (including newborns) through the morgue door and out to what they hoped was freedom. It is an amazing story of selflessness and suffering; parts of it are hard to read due to the content. There are no records to document how many children were actually saved, but it was the children who were not saved that seemed to trouble Brull-Ulmann the most. Her dream of becoming a pediatrician was eventually fulfilled, but she never forgot what happened at the Rothschild Hospital. She carried those memories with her for the rest of her long life. The book was originally written in French and then translated for English readers, but it seems something may have been lost in the translation so I gave it four stars instead of five. Other than that, I highly recommend this nonfiction book to anyone interested in World War II or real-life heroes.

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This is the memoir of Colette Brull-Ullman who was studying to become a pediatrician when World War 2 broke out and France was invaded. As a Jewish woman, she found her options suddenly limited and accepted a position at the Rothschild Hospital, which was the only hospital in Paris where Jewish doctors could work and the only hospital where Jewish patients could be treated. The Rothschild soon became the prison hospital for Drancy, the Paris detention center where the Jewish population was held before deportation to the concentration camps. Throughout the war, Colette’s fury at the Germans and their collaborators grew, and she took any available opportunity to thwart them. Perhaps her most daring work was helping to smuggle Jewish children to safety at night through the morgue door that was left unguarded.

My Thoughts
First published in French in 2017, when Brull-Ullman was 97 years old, this is a compelling historical memoir.

While it does contain moments of sweetness and beauty, this book is heart-wrenching. Brull-Ullman doesn’t hold back on the details of the horrors that she and the other doctors see. It is evident that the emotional scars of her experiences run deep.

I found Colette to be extremely likable. She was determined as a child and unstoppable as an adult. She presented courage and resistance in the face of evil and hopelessness, and hers is an important story.

I received a free eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Despite the title, this is not about stories that happen in the morgue. This is the story of how the morgue is a perfect hiding place for the operation to save children in Occupied France. This is told from one piece of the puzzle in the operation and it is her story, and it's true. If you want a story about how children were saved from someone who helped, then this is the book for you!

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Colette decided at a young age that she wanted to be a pediatrician. Determined, she entered school and excelled. As a Jew in occupied France, her options to study and practice were severely limited. After becoming an intern at the Rothschild Hospital, the hospital became part of the Drancy detention center. Prisoners were sent to the hospital to rest and recover before being shipped to concentration camps. Children were also sent to the hospital, where an underground resistance network would do everything they could to make the children disappear. Colette became part of that important organization.

The book was well written and engaging, and nothing seemed lost in translation. The translator did an amazing job! I knew nothing about the Rothschild Hospital before reading this book, and was amazed at its role during WWII. I thought Colette and her colleagues were heroes and wish more had been written about them. Overall, 5 out of 5 stars.

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Ww2 is one of my big interests so when I saw this I was immediately interested. And reading the index made me want to read it right now. I've read many books about ww2 but never one like this. She is a jew her self (at least on paper) but still helped others escape and saved many lives while putting herself in danger without a second thought.

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Through the Morgue Door is the story of Colette Brull-Ulmann, a brave Jewish woman who not only survived the Holocaust, but used her position at the Rothschild Hospital to rescue Jewish children in Paris. Colette, details not only her daring escapades smuggling children out of Paris, but also the bigger story of the underground resistance to the Nazi regime. Told in a unique narrative style, Colette tells us her own story, in her own words. A tale of resourcefulness, bravery, and love, this is one that will sit with you long after you have turned the final page. History like this deserves to be read, because without knowledge of past atrocities, we are doomed to repeat them.

Thank you to NetGalley and University of Pennsylvania Press for this ARC. I am leaving this review voluntarily and all views expressed are my own.

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At 14 years old, Colette Brull knew she wanted to be a pediatrician. Her parents were surprise that she wanted to do that. At the age of 21 years old, she was in her second year of medical school. Then in 1942, she and her family became registered Jews. As time passed her father was arrested and taken to the Drancy detention camp. Colette was interning at the Rothschild Hospital. It was the only hospital that Jewish physicians could work at and Jewish people could receive treatment. Claire was a social worker and the leader of the hospital’s secret escape network. The danger of the Holocaust had become apparent and Colette worked with Claire to save as many children that she could. She ended up fleeing the hospital. Why? Eventually she works in her father’s resistance network for De Gaulle’s secret intelligence agency until the Liberation in 1945. She marries and becomes Colette Brull-Ulmann in 1948. In 1970, Colette has become a liscensed pediatrician. Colette didn’t want to remember the war and her memories of it. Finally Colette tells of her life and experiences under the German occupation. It was published in French in 2017. It is now translated. This story of her life under the German occupation in France shows a woman who never gave up and did much to help others. It is a biography not to forget but to remember.

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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher of this book, University of Pennsylvania Press, for the opportunity to read an advance copy of the book, Through the Morgue Door, by Colette Brull-Ulmann. I loved this book in the sense that I treasure hearing the stories of people's experiences, their survival, their hopes, their struggles. We need to preserve these voices and raise awareness about the realities of life, war, loss, and antisemitism. I want to thank Colette (posthumously) for her service and dedication. She was brave, compassionate, and an amazing human being who saved lives. The book itself, either because of the translation or due to the nature of how it was written, that is, as a memoir, is not a literary feat, but it was engaging and compelling. At times, the story is a bit disjointed and the language overused. It is important to keep in mind that this sort of storytelling is not crafted necessarily to have in-depth character development or complex story arcs. It is an almost raw re-telling of a series of events and life as it is remembered. For this I am truly thankful to the author. I felt like I was sitting with this survivor and listening to her recount her experiences and talk about the realities of her life. Colette and some of her colleagues played critical yet unsung roles during the war and occupation in France, and I'm so glad their stories are being told. #ThroughtheMorgueDoor #NetGalley

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France, feminist, WW2, Jews, bravery, rescued-children, rescue, medical-doctor, memoir, human-rights, humanity, French-underground, German-occupation, nonfiction, holocaust, injustice, grief, grieving, historical-figures, historical-places-events, historical-setting, history-and-culture*****

Faithfully translated by Anne Landau and Margaret Sinclair from the original French written by Colette Brull-Ulmann (1920-2021) in 2017 with Jean-Christophe Portes the French journalist/writer. At that time and place those targeted for slaughter and worse were mostly Jews and the children were hidden by a non-practicing Jewish woman doctor and the French Underground. This is her story of man's inhumanity to man and those who worked hard with much danger to themselves to change the outcomes as told in her own words.
I requested and received an EARC from University of Pennsylvania Press via NetGalley. Thank you


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I enjoyed learning about this lesser known piece of history that I didn’t learn about in the history books.

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This book tells the story of Colette Brull-Ulmann, who worked as a (Jewish) intern at a hospital in Paris that treated Jewish prisoners. It was fascinating from start to finish. The author discusses how the occupation by the Germans gradually progressed, and how families coped. It was sobering to see how quickly things could go wrong, and how much tragedy happened to so many. I'm very glad I got to read this book - I think I read it all in one sitting.

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A totally different look at WWII and the Jews. Colette Brull-Ulmann was a French Jew and this is her story of working in the Rothschild Hospital. She grew up wanting to care for children. At the start of the Nazi terror, she had started school to become a doctor. Soon, because she was a Jew, she was not allowed to go to school with the rest of the people. Thus, she ended up at Rothschild Hospital. Here she would do amazing things to save children, but also lost some. From Rothschild she would go on to join the Resistance. Finally, years later she would reach her dream of being a Pediatrician.

As I watch the news and Israel is at war, just because of them being Jews, I wonder if we will ever learn how to get along with other people. We are all the same as children of God, yet we can't seem to get along with each other. Books like these are important where maybe what happened during WWII won't happen, again. It's a story only being now told as Brull-Ulmann was the last survivor and she finally decided to tell what happened at the hospital. I feel that we need to read about history to learn from it, where hopefully the same mistakes won't happen again.

Tentative Publication Date: February 13, 2024

Thank you to Netgalley and the University of Pennsylvania Press for the E-ARC. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

🙂 Happy Reading 🙂


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As a storyteller, I weave tales of heroism and courage. But sometimes, a true story comes along that leaves me in awe. Collete Brull-Ulmann's tale is just that. In a world where fear and hatred ruled, she was a ray of light, illuminating the darkness. She didn't just hide from the shadows, she confronted them head-on, risking everything to save the lives of innocent children. Her bravery wasn't just about facing danger, but about standing up for what was right, even when it seemed the world was against her. Collete's story is a reminder that heroes don't wear capes or have superpowers, they are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. And it's our job to keep their stories alive, so that their courage inspires us for generations to come.

In a world where darkness reigned, a ray of light burst forth from an unexpected place - the morgue. Collete, a rebellious spirit, defied the shackles of oppression and orchestrated a daring escape, turning a door of death into a portal of liberation. Like a conductor leading a symphony of hope, she marshaled a diverse ensemble of medical professionals, social workers, and even law enforcement to join her in a clandestine opera of rescue and resilience. Through the Morgue Door, a tale of courage and creative resistance unfolds, challenging us to reimagine the boundaries of human possibility and the power of collective bravery in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for providing me with an advance copy ♥️

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