When Lilli Jahn's husband and fellow doctor was seperated from her under pressure from the Nazis, she and her children were left unprotected, and she was arrested and sent to Breitenau labour camp. Lilli was a prolific letter writer and, miraculously, almost all her letters to her children and friends have survived as well as many of their replies to her, which she smuggled out of Breitenau once she knew she was being sent to Auschwitz. The full extent of these letters (more than 700 of them) only came to light on the death of her son, Gerard Jahn, a deputy in the German Parliament, in 1998
In Martin Doerry's narratives and, above all, in the letters we see the deterioration of Germany through the eyes of an ordinary family. We see Lilli's initial optimism begin to crack. We see her trying to run the household and mother her children from a camp far away, and all while relying totally on her twelve year old daughter, Ilse. Perhaps most movingly of all, we see the children's heroic attempts to save their mother, their struggle to continue to believe in her return, and finally Lilli's own courage in the face of an inevitable end.