Battalion review, JUDY. Light of the Days: The untold story of women resistance fighters in Hitler’s ghettos. WILLIAM MORROW & CO, 2022. 558 p. Price: $ 28.99
In Judy Batalion’s Light of Days, readers are introduced to previously unrecognized female Holocaust heroes whose stories have otherwise been buried and lost. The stories of these women tell of their astonishing bravery in the fight against the Gestapo by seducing and murdering Nazi officers and keeping Jewish hiding places. These resistance fighters were in constant danger, fearing that they would be discovered at any moment, a discovery that could lead to their capture, torture or death. The “classically sexist” Nazi culture allowed them to use their skirts, teddy bears, and other traditionally feminine items to hide ballots, notes, and weapons, and this ability to use the weaknesses of the Nazis ultimately saved thousands of people. Jewish lives.
Renia Kukielka, an 18-year-old Jewish woman from J? Drzejow, is one of the most prominent women in Batalion’s book. She was forced to rely only on her Aryan appearance to deceive people into believing that she was Catholic or that she had a non-Jewish origin. Renia, devoid of any fake ID or ID that could add weight to her deception, constantly feared for her life and couldn’t trust anyone. While seeking refuge in Warsaw, Renia arrives at an address that a Catholic girl has given her the password to enter, but she almost fails in her attempt to enter the house during her conversation with the landlady. “Her voice was calm, childish, but she was sweating. . . Could this landlady somehow see through the layers of her skirt, the secrets sewn into her fabrics? Renia’s anxiety about the landlady’s discovery of the money and the fake ID in her clothes goes beyond her personal safety; she would also fail in her mission to obtain information about the battles in Warsaw to warn her fellow Jews.
In addition to the physical and emotional distress she suffered at the hands of Hitler’s Nazis, Renia also had to erase her identity and outwardly deny both her values and her trauma. “They had fake IDs, fake stories, fake goals, fake hair and fake names. Equally important, they had fake smiles. You couldn’t walk around with sad eyes – an instant gift. The runners were trained to laugh, laugh loudly, laugh a lot. A courier can never be truly comfortable or relaxed no matter where they are. In order to blend in with other Polish citizens, women had to disguise their gestures, behavior and, perhaps more difficultly, they had to disguise their sadness and mimic their neighbor Polish’s obvious disgust for Jews. Women compare hiding their true identity and their emotions to a never-ending performance: “We couldn’t cry for real, be in pain for real, or connect with our feelings for real. We were actors in a play without an intermission, even for a moment, a stage performance without a stage.
Batalion’s inclusion of women’s personal accounts is often difficult to read due to the heart-wrenching reality of Hitler’s ghettos and the incredible torture Jews endured. Renia’s classmate Bela Hazan described a typical afternoon in Pawiak prison: “Nazis beat Jewish children to death, then clubbed an older man who begged them to stop. After shooting him, his son said, “Kill me too, I have no reason to live. However, at times, the battalion seems to overcompensate for these harsh realities by using language that seems inappropriate, and even inappropriate at times, to describe the Jewish experience. A woman named Frumka was particularly known for saving Jewish lives and aiding the escape of prisoners. Batalion describes her accomplishments, writing: “Whenever she achieved a goal, she was dizzy; his passion touched them all. This description seems more appropriate for a student carrying out a particularly interesting research project, not for women who risk their lives and are forced to commit horrific atrocities, such as cutting the finger bone of a Jewish refugee for him. save further pain and infections.
Further, Battalion writes: “The poise and poise required for this kind of work was superhuman.” The term “superhuman” suggests that a person possesses gifts and talents beyond those of a typical person. However, using this comic book term in the context of these women is ill-suited as their courage stems from their ordinary humanity and vulnerability, which the term “superhuman” eradicates. Concrete and realistic language would be much more effective. While Batalion’s prose is beautiful, even poetic in some chapters, there are instances where it seems like an entirely different author is writing parts of the book.
These largely unrecognized stories of female resistance fighters are inspiring tales of people who have often been offered a way out of ghettos and the direct “line of fire” because of their appearance, language skills or ability. other physical traits, but who chose to fight. for their communities and the preservation of Jewish traditions above self-interest and, often, survival. One woman who tragically did not survive was Bela Hazan’s sister Lonka Kozibrodska, who died in a Polish prison after being tortured by the Gestapo and refusing to give information about other resistance fighters. While men undoubtedly played a huge role in the fight against Jewish resistance, as a fighter named Vitka wrote, sometimes: “Women were stronger than men. Women were guided by a moral code. Not only were they as capable fighters as the men, but they also didn’t give in, took risks, and rarely found excuses to withdraw.
Batalion’s Light of Days is an excellent and moving book for fans of historical non-fiction, or for any reader interested in an honest and compelling account of influential women during the Holocaust. While these events took place almost a century ago, the idea that anyone is capable of bringing about real and lasting change in a time when many have lost hope is universal and timeless.
This article was written by: Kelli Martin