Fascinating, unsettling story of three young Jewish partisans-- two women and a man-- who escaped the destruction of the Vilna ghetto and fought the Nazis from their forest hiding place. (Vilna is where my family is from. Had my ancestors not fled earlier anti-Semitic persecution, that's where I would have been during WWII. About 40,000 Jews were forced into the Vilna ghetto; a couple hundred survived.)

The heroism of women and Jews is often ignored or disbelieved, so I particularly appreciated this extensive documentation of jaw-dropping acts of courage performed as a matter of course, over a course of years, by a gentle-looking Jewish scholar and two tiny teenage Jewish girls.

While much of what the partisans did during the war was completely justified, and more falls into the "who am I to judge" category," the book continues past the war, as Abba and his allies plot what I can only describe as a horrific act of terrorism. They come very close to a mass poisoning of the entire population of several German cities. According to the author, and this book seems well researched and documented, the only reason it didn't happen was that the Israeli government found out and squelched it. (They did not prevent some (or possibly lots) of actual Nazis getting poisoned in a separate plot, but those guys were in no way innocent.)

Who am I to judge, given what they went through and witnessed? Who am I to not judge, given their intent?

Abba, the man, and Vitka and Ruzka, the women, were extremely strongly implied to have been a romantic threesome during the war; afterward, Abba and Vitka married, and lived next door to Ruzka and her husband in Israel for the rest of their lives. I can't help being glad that they got their happily-enough ever after ending.

The Avengers: A Jewish War Story
ambyr: icicles fused end to end and wrapped in a spiral around a young tree (nature sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy) (Winter)

From: [personal profile] ambyr

This is very relevant to my interests (specifically, the after-the-war part). Thank you for recommending it.
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (in a just world)

From: [personal profile] skygiants

. . . going on the library reserve list!
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From: [personal profile] kore

Oh wow, that sounds amazing.
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From: [personal profile] taelle

Sounds interesting (I remembered the Bielski partisans, but there were more of them and they were less about avenging). Thanks, I'll try looking for it.
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From: [personal profile] vass

I will have to read this. Just reading this post meant that I had to get Jane Yolen's Briar Rose from the bookshelf for a reread.
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From: [personal profile] oyceter

Putting this on the list, thanks!

From: [identity profile] tavella.livejournal.com

If this was genuinely post-war, then I have no problem judging them. I don't buy the "someone did shitty stuff to me, so I can do shitty stuff to other people" game. Mass murder is mass murder, and they would have been bad, in fact worse than most, of the people involved in oppressing them.

From: [identity profile] fjm.livejournal.com

I want to agree with you. My politics agrees with you. But Jews who tried to go back and reclaim their lives and property were treated like shit. Some were killed. One of the stranger aspects of the immediate post war period was the degree to which Germans were treated as the victims (often with an eye, rightfully, to preventing another war) but Jews and others were treated as someone else's problem. The refugee camps weren't empty until the mid 1950s. For many Jews, the war did not end in 1945.

From: [identity profile] axolotl9.livejournal.com

I need to check our temple library, but I'm fairly sure I've seen this book there. Perhaps I should read it...

From: [identity profile] papersky.livejournal.com

I've always been surprised there weren't more things like that.

From: [identity profile] dungeonwriter.livejournal.com

As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I can't judge them from my privileged spot in life. I was never dehumanized the way they were and if they saw Germans as the enemy, I don't blame them at all. They were at war for their lives.


The war wasn't over in 1945 for the Jews.

From: [identity profile] tanyahp.livejournal.com

Thank you for posting this! It is on my to-read now.

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