The light of days The untold story of women resistance fighters in Hitler's ghettos

Judy Batalion

Book - 2020

"One of the most important untold stories of World War II. The light of days is a soaring landmark history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who helped weaponize Poland's Jewish youth groups to resist the Nazis. Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland--some still in their teens--became the nerves of a wide-ranging resistance network that fought the Nazis"--Jacket flap.

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Personal narratives
New York, NY : William Morrow [2020]
Main Author
Judy Batalion (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xii, 558 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 463-536) and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Stories of Jewish women who resisted the Nazi regime have been woefully neglected in modern history. Their truths were overshadowed by male counterparts, censored, criticised, and occasionally regarded as outright false. Batalion (White Walls, 2016) sheds light on courageous women who came face-to-face with evil and refused to back down. She focuses on a group of female resistance fighters in Polish ghettos, where even camaraderie could be considered a punishable act of defiance. They smuggled guns inside loaves of bread, disguised themselves as Poles, established soup kitchens for ghetto orphans, arranged hiding places for fellow Jews, and fought fervently in ghetto uprisings. Many were caught and subjected to extreme brutality in concentration camps, where they continued to resist before being executed. Those who survived were haunted by guilt and subjected to public scrutiny. Batalion spent years researching, pouring over memoirs and testimonies, and even meeting with the women's children. The result is a harrowing record of the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of female friendship. An important work, sure to become part of the WWII canon.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Memoirist Batalion (White Walls) delivers a remarkable portrait of young Jewish women who fought in the Polish resistance during WWII. Drawing from "dozens of women's memoirs" and "hundreds of testimonies," Batalion documents an astonishing array of guerilla activities, including rescue missions for Jewish children trapped in Polish ghettos, assassinations of Nazi soldiers, bombings of German train lines, jailbreaks, weapons smuggling, and espionage missions. The story of "Renia K.," a "savvy, middle-class girl" who served as a courier in the Bę dzin Ghetto, forms the backbone of the narrative, but Batalion highlights numerous other freedom fighters, including a network of young women who aided a prisoner revolt at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and provides a detailed account of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. She spares no details recounting the sexual violence and torture these women endured, and notes numerous reasons why their stories aren't better known, including male chauvinism, survivor's guilt, and the fact that the resistance movement's military successes were "relatively miniscule." Batalion allows her subjects to speak for themselves whenever possible, weaving a vast amount of research material into a cohesive and dramatic narrative. This poignant history pays vivid tribute to "the breadth and scope of female courage." (June)

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Review by Library Journal Review

The granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, Batalion tells the little-known story of women Jewish Resistance fighters in Poland, who risked (and often suffered) brutal imprisonment and death as they bore arms, smuggled weapons, helped built underground bunkers, and seduced and shot German soldiers. At the center of Batalion's story is Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who effected a remarkable escape from a Gestapo prison. Originally scheduled for June 2020; with a 200,000-copy first printing and optioned by Steven Spielberg.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Resounding history of Jewish women who fought the German invaders in World War II. The role of women in resisting the genocidal tyranny of the Third Reich has, like so much women's history, been less well documented than the work of their male counterparts. Batalion, the child of Holocaust survivors, notes that an early role model for her was Hannah Senesh, "one of the few female resisters in World War II not lost to history," who was captured and executed by the Germans, refusing a blindfold and "staring at the bullet straight on." Discovering a Yiddish book called Freuen in di Ghettos (Women in the Ghettos) that had been published immediately after the war introduced the author to many other women fighters who contributed to the Allied war effort, whether by sabotaging German supply trains, smuggling weapons, spying for Russian military intelligence, or killing errant German soldiers. A stellar example is "Renia K.," whose story, in Batalion's hands, is lifted "from the footnotes to the text." Eventually captured by the Gestapo, she was asked, "Don't you feel it's a waste to die so young?" She responded, "As long as there are people like you in the world, I don't want to live." Surprisingly, she survived, although her story and those of many others were reshaped for political purposes. Those women, Batalion convincingly argues, have often been misrepresented for just those reasons. Many were politically active before the war and even militant, espousing "Zionist, socialist, and pioneer values," and some chroniclers have been reluctant to celebrate their work because doing so might unduly judge those who did not resist, "ultimately blaming the victim." In a vigorous narrative that draws on interviews, diaries, and other sources, Batalion delivers an objective view of past events that are too quickly being forgotten--and a story much in need of telling. A welcome addition to the literature of the Shoah and of anti-Nazi resistance. (20 b/w photos) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.