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The Light of Days

The Light of Days, April 2021
by Judy Batalion

William Morrow
576 pages
ISBN: 0062874217
EAN: 9780062874214
Kindle: B07Y8D58BR
Hardcover / e-Book
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"An awesome account of WWII Jewish women’s bravery, resilience and their perilous undertakings and sa"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Light of Days
Judy Batalion

Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted April 2, 2021

Historical | Non-Fiction History

With bravado and panache, several young Jewish women smile and giggle like Polish teenagers while openly walking in front of Nazi soldiers. Hidden under their skirts or in their shoes and clothes, they smuggled forged ID papers, currency, important communications, and weapons. If caught, they faced torture, harsh imprisonment and painful or instant death.  These young women and girls served as Jewish resistance couriers were true heroines and their only weapons were their sheer nerve and bravery!

After the German Blitzkrieg invasion of Poland in 1939 and subsequent takeover, the Nazis quickly set up over 400 ghettos to collect Polish Jews so they would be easier to round up and then ship to concentration camps where they would be murdered or used as slaves.  Communications with the outside world or even walking in their own city or between city ghettos were strictly forbidden and Jews were often killed on the spot or worse if caught.

During that horrific time, many stories of bravery have been told, and even more are untold.  Many of these untold stories, now vividly described in THE LIGHT OF DAYS highlight the stories of the many Jewish women and girls who set up soup kitchens, organized education for the children, and conned or killed Nazis at every chance. While only dead Jews were allowed to leave the Ghetto, these brave women who had blonde hair or Aryan looks and the “right” Polish accent from their public school education took their chances to “pass” and slip in and out of Jewish ghettos while risking their lives to support others. As noted by Warsaw chronicler Emmannel Ringelblum, these Jewish women without a second’s hesitation, accepted and carried out their dangerous and deadly assignments.

 The stories, events and WWII exploits covered in THE LIGHT OF DAYS are all based on historical research or interviews conducted by Judy Batalion, a researcher, writer as well as having many other skills and roles.  Even the story Batalion tells of how she found out about these brave women and girls is fascinating. While doing research in the London library in England, this American author pulls out a small musty book, “Freuen in di Ghettos” (Women of the Ghettos) that provides the inspiration for her journey of over a dozen years of research. She researched long lost materials and conducted many interviews with survivors or family members that eventually led to the writing of this remarkable story of Jewish female resistance fighters and couriers (“Kasharit” in Hebrew).

Batalion’s writing style with her touches of dark and light humour makes gripping reading. She also effectively covers supporting factors and barriers against the Jewish resistance: some from ordinary Poles, some from other Polish resistance groups, and even from other Jewish leaders in the Ghettos. There were times when I felt my heart was held in a tight suspenseful grip, especially when reading of their exploits and the harrowing conditions these women experienced in the ghettos or while travelling on their perilous journeys.   Personally, despite how absorbed I was in the stories being told, I also just had to put the book down and then go back later to continue reading.  The cruelty the Jewish people experienced in the ghettos is just so heartbreaking and overwhelming, even despite my own fairly extensive knowledge of those WWII times.  Stories in THE LIGHT OF DAYS really highlighted how a straight execution could be a blessing, compared to other fates.

THE LIGHT OF DAYS definitely reveals a new perspective to the knowledge of WWII and its impact in Poland as she reveals many untold tales of resilience and quick thinking of these exceptional female Kasharit and the Jewish resistance in Poland.   If you are interested in historical truth, I heartily endorse THE LIGHT OF DAYS as a key book you need to read and to recommend to others!  

Learn more about The Light of Days

SUMMARY

One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters—a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now.

Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland—some still in their teens—helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers, bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, used their Aryan looks to seduce them, and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town’s water supply. They also nursed the sick and taught children.

Yet the exploits of these courageous resistance fighters have remained virtually unknown.

As propulsive and thrilling as Hidden Figures, In the Garden of Beasts, Band of Brothers, and A Train in Winter, The Light of Days at last tells the true story of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time. Judy Batalion—the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors—takes us back to 1939 and introduces us to Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who risked death traveling across occupied Poland on foot and by train. Joining Renia are other women who served as couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs, all who put their lives in mortal danger to carry out their missions. Batalion follows these women through the savage destruction of the ghettos, arrest and internment in Gestapo prisons and concentration camps, and for a lucky few—like Renia, who orchestrated her own audacious escape from a brutal Nazi jail—into the late 20th century and beyond.

Powerful and inspiring, featuring twenty black-and-white photographs, The Light of Days is an unforgettable true tale of war, the fight for freedom, exceptional bravery, female friendship, and survival in the face of staggering odds.  


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