Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II

Front Cover
Columbia University Press, 1992 - History - 253 pages
"Why didn't the Jews resist being rounded up and sent to concentration camps? Why did they go like lambs to the slaughter?" were the questions Harold Werner's sons asked about the Holocaust while they were growing up. Written to dispel the myth of Jewish passivity, Fighting Back is more than the tale of survival: it is the extraordinary memoir of a survivor who outlasted Hitler's Holocaust, not in a concentration camp but in the woods of eastern Poland as a fighter in a successful Jewish resistance group during the Second World War. In this book Harold Werner recounts his experiences as a member of a large Jewish partisan unit that aggressively conducted military missions against the German army in occupied Poland. The unit of young Jews--both men and women--received air drops from the Russians, wiped out local German garrisons, blew up German trains, and even shot down German planes. In addition to engaging in military sabotage, these partisans rescued Jews from ghetto imprisonment and slave labor detail, and provided a safe haven in the Parczew Forest for other Jews who escaped the Nazi extermination camps. By the time the Russians liberated eastern Poland, the unit consisted of about four hundred fighters and four hundred noncombatant Jews under their protection. Few accounts of Jewish survival during the Holocaust describe such a rare combination of victorious military activities and humanitarian efforts in successful large-scale Jewish resistance against the Nazis. Not only is Fighting Back a way of understanding Jewish struggles against terrifying odds, it provides rare vignettes of life in Jewish shtetls, or small towns, before the Holocaust wiped them out. In describing hischildhood years, Werner provides a flavor of that extinct society--as rich in tradition, religion, and learning as it was poor in material possessions. Harold Werner's compelling work is a moving portrayal of the difficulties faced by Eastern European Jews trying to fight the Nazi campaign of annihilation during the Second World War. It also provides valuable insights into the current dispute over the degree of Polish complicity in that campaign. Included is a foreword by Martin Gilbert, author of The Holocaust: The History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War.

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About the author (1992)

Martin Gilbert was born in London, England on October 25, 1936. He was sent to Canada during World War II, but returned on a liner bringing American troops to Britain in preparation for D-day. After national service in the intelligence corps, he was educated at Magdalen College at Oxford. He graduated from Oxford in 1960 and wrote his first book entitled The Appeasers. In 1961, after a year of research and writing, he was asked to join a team of researchers working for Winston Churchill. At the age of 25, he was formally inducted into the team, doing all of his own research. Gilbert became known as Churchill's official biographer, but he also wrote books on the Holocaust, the first and second world wars, and Jewish history. During his lifetime, he wrote over 80 books including Winston Churchill, Auschwitz and the Allies, The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy, The Jews of Hope: The Plight of Soviet Jewry Today, Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time, Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith, and In Search of Churchill. He died after a long illness on February 3, 2015 at the age of 78.

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