Who inspired the character Elena Prikaznova?
In the BBC programme, Lawrence Rees reported upon the love story of Franz Wunsch and Helena Citronova. The characters of Franz and Elena in the book are inspired by these two, though it should be pointed out that the character representation is fictional and no opinions expressed are actual opinions of these two characters. In the documentary, Helena admitted to falling in love with her captor and did testify for his acts of mercy in his post war trial in Vienna travelling from Israel to do so.
What song did Helena sing?
Helena sings to be able to stay in Kanada. The song is from the 30s film Moscow - Shanghai, originally performed by Pola Negri who later become the lover of Rudolf Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. Click here to hear the song.
How would you describe her affair with Franz?
Like most things with Franz and Elena, it is complicated. Nothing polarizes opnion quite like their story. She has lost her whole family to the camp so she is justifiably disgusted by his advances. She loses her love for Mihael and her own self-respect to him, for in the camp she is seen as a collaborator. Elena suffers badly, though she is also resourceful. She never throws herself on the wires and is able to manipulate others such as Ruth and Franz to her advantage. We will never know the full story, but how much of her behaviour is genuine? In the end, she does let herself fall for Franz, particularly after she sees him risk all to save her sister. However, she is also hard headed enough not to pursue the affair after the war.