Doreen Rappaport’s thoughtful, well-researched book explores the sorrows, triumphs and struggles of Jews who fought back against Nazi persecution. Ranging all over Europe, she begins with Kristallnacht in November 1938, when the horror of the Nazi mindset revealed itself in widespread anti-Semitic violence. Once immigration for entire families proved impossible, parents tried to send their children to safety, and the book shows the elaborate forgery and smuggling schemes required to get by German security. Bolstered by period photographs, including those of many individual resisters, Rappaport’s accounts describe quiet rebellions, such as continued religious observance under grim circumstances, as well as dramatic attempted rescues, escapes and retaliatory attacks. (The Bielski brothers’ heroic effort to evade German forces and create a functional village in the Polish forest is particularly gripping.) Whether Rappaport is discussing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a young Greek woman’s vengeance, or a 12-year-old violinist who ignited a bomb to kill German officers he had just entertained, the anti-Nazi violence comes off as thoroughly justified but never gleeful. Beyond courageous, Rappaport’s subjects knew they could not stop the Nazis, but they did what they could to disrupt their hideous plans.
— Abby McGanney Nolan