Defiance

Oxford University Press
8
Free sample

The prevailing image of European Jews during the Holocaust is one of helpless victims, but in fact many Jews struggled against the terrors of the Third Reich. In Defiance, Nechama Tec offers a riveting history of one such group, a forest community in western Belorussia that would number more than 1,200 Jews by 1944--the largest armed rescue operation of Jews by Jews in World War II. Tec reveals that this extraordinary community included both men and women, some with weapons, but mostly unarmed, ranging from infants to the elderly. She reconstructs for the first time the amazing details of how these partisans and their families--hungry, exposed to the harsh winter weather--managed not only to survive, but to offer protection to all Jewish fugitives who could find their way to them. Arguing that this success would have been unthinkable without the vision of one man, Tec offers penetrating insight into the group's commander, Tuvia Bielski. Tec brings to light the untold story of Bielski's struggle as a partisan who lost his parents, wife, and two brothers to the Nazis, yet never wavered in his conviction that it was more important to save one Jew than to kill twenty Germans. She shows how, under Bielski's guidance, the partisans smuggled Jews out of heavily guarded ghettos, scouted the roads for fugitives, and led retaliatory raids against Belorussian peasants who collaborated with the Nazis. Herself a Holocaust survivor, Nechama Tec here draws on wide-ranging research and never before published interviews with surviving partisans--including Tuvia Bielski himself--to reconstruct here the poignant and unforgettable story of those who chose to fight.
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About the author

Nechama Tec is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. She is the author of six books, including In the Lion's Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen, the winner of the 1990 Christopher Award, When Light Pierced the Darkness, and Dry Tears, a memoir of her experiences during the years of the Nazi occupation of Poland.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Dec 26, 2008
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780199703944
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Holocaust
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Few lives shed more light on the complex relationship between Jews and Christians during and after the Holocaust--or provide a more moving portrait of courage--than Oswald Rufeisen's. A Jew passing as a Christian in occupied Poland, Rufeisen worked as translator for the German police--the very people who rounded up and murdered the Jews--and repeatedly risked his life to save hundreds from the Nazis. In this gripping biography, Nechama Tec, a widely acclaimed writer on the Holocaust, recounts Rufeisen's remarkable story. A youth of seventeen when World War II began, Rufeisen joined the exodus of Poles who fled the approaching German army. Tec vividly describes how Rufeisen used his ability to speak fluent German to pass as half German and half Polish in Mir, where he came to serve as translator and personal secretary to the German in charge of the gendarmerie. As he carried out his duties--reading death sentences to prisoners, swearing in new police officers before a portrait of Hitler--he earned the trust and affection of the German commander, yet lived in constant fear of discovery. He used his position to pass secret information to Jews and Christians about impending "aktions" and to sabatoge Nazi plans. Most notably, he thwarted the annihilation of the Mir ghetto by arming hundreds of doomed Jews and organizing their escape, and saved an entire Belorussian village from destruction. Denounced, Rufeisen escaped and found shelter in a convent, where he converted to Catholicism. Though a pacifist, he spent the rest of the war fighting in a Russian partisan unit. After the war, Father Daniel (as he is now known) became a priest and a Carmelite monk. Identifying himself as a Christian Jew and an ardent Zionist, he moved to Israel, where he challenged the Law of Return in a case that reached the High Court and attracted international attention. Today he continues to devote himself to bridging the gap between Christians and Jews. In the Lion's Den offers a stirring portrait of a Jewish rescuer during the Holocaust and its aftermath, illuminating the intricate connections between good and evil, cruelty and compassion, and Judaism and Christianity.
Nechama Tec's Defiance, an account of a Jewish partisan unit that fought the Nazis in the Polish forests during World War II, was turned into a major feature film. Yet despite the attention this film brought to the topic of Jewish resistance, Tec, who speaks widely about the Holocaust and the experience of Jews in wartime Poland, still ran into the same question again and again: Why didn't Jews fight back? To Tec, this question suggested that Jews were somehow complicit in their own extermination. Despite works by Tec and others, the stereotype of Jewish passivity in the Holocaust persists. In Resistance, Tec draws on first-hand accounts, interviews, and other sources to reveal the full range of tactics employed to resist the Nazi regime in Poland. She compares Jewish and non-Jewish groups, showing that they faced vastly different conditions. The Jewish resistance had its own particular aims, especially the recovery of dignity and the salvation of lives. Tec explores the conditions necessary for resistance, including favorable topography, a supply of arms, and effective leadership, and dedicates the majority of the book to the stories of those who stood up and fought back in any way that they could. Emphasizing the centrality of cooperation to the Jewish and Polish resistance movements of World War II, Tec argues that resistance is more than not submitting--that it requires taking action, and demands cooperation with others. Whereas resilience is individual in orientation, Tec writes, resistance assumes others. Within this context, Tec explores life in the ghettoes, the organizations that arose within them, and the famous uprising in Warsaw that began on January 18, 1943. She tells of those who escaped to hide and fight as partisans in the forests, and considers the crucial role played by women who acted as couriers, carrying messages and supplies between the ghetto and the outside world. Tec also discusses resistance in concentration camps, vividly recounting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp uprising on October 7, 1944. The refusal of the rebel leaders to give information under unspeakable torture, Tec displays, was just one more of the many forms resistance took. Resistance is a rich book that forever shatters the myth of Jewish passivity in the face of annihilation.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. 

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Praise for The Diary of a Young Girl

“A truly remarkable book.”—The New York Times

“One of the most moving personal documents to come out of World War II.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“There may be no better way to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II than to reread The Diary of a Young Girl, a testament to an indestructible nobility of spirit in the face of pure evil.”—Chicago Tribune

“The single most compelling personal account of the Holocaust . . . remains astonishing and excruciating.”—The New York Times Book Review

“How brilliantly Anne Frank captures the self-conscious alienation and naïve self-absorption of adolescence.”—Newsday
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