Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust

Image of Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
Release Date: 
September 11, 2012
Candlewick Press
Reviewed by: 

“This book is an essential read for anyone interested in one of the most appalling events in history.”

Not all Jews walked obediently into Hitler’s gas chambers during the Holocaust.

There are many stories of Jews who took up arms and fought the might of Nazi Germany. Despite being vastly outnumbered, out gunned, and out trained these Jews refused to succumb to Hitler’s genocide. They fought in city streets, villages, forests, ghettos, and inside Nazi labor and death camps.

Many Jews who escaped from the camps joined local partisans to continue this desperate fight. Jewish civilians understood they had no chance to defeat Hitler’s mighty Third Reich. Yet with remarkable bravery, they refused to surrender.

Beyond Courage author Doreen Rappaport reveals powerful stories of defiance through 21 scrupulously researched accounts of Jewish courage in 11 nations.

The reader can sense the terror that continuously plagued Jews. We learn the names, faces, and places of Jewish heroism. Readers sense the valor that drove Jews to accept the ultimate sacrifice, to die fighting rather than accept starvation, forced labor, and death in a Nazi camp. Some of these events in Beyond Courage are told in book form for the first time.

Many captured Jews believed they would remain alive as a source of labor. Soon tales of terror and mass murder arrived from Jews who had escaped Nazi death camps. By 1942, fresh stories flourished about thousands of Jewish families rounded up in Eastern Europe murdered and buried in huge pits.

Jews under Nazi control gradually accepted their days were numbered. No one heard from Jews deported to the East. Most Jews realized they had two choices: They could meekly wait, hoping for a swift Allied victory; or they could fight back with whatever means possible.

Some of these brave Jews were children, who could maneuver through small spaces in walls, barriers, and fences. They brought food and weapons into Jewish ghettos. Since they were destined for murder anyway, many Jews decided to fight back.

This is their story.

Beyond Courage describes the long, dark path Jews walked from their homes in villages, towns, and cities into decrepit ghettos, then to transit and labor camps, and finally to death camps.

Along the way, many Jews fought back with any form of resistance they could command. In one instance, author Rappaport reveals a large group of Jewish families who escaped from Nazi control and survived deep in a Polish forest, creating their own village, with huts, streets, services, and businesses. All 1,230 disheveled, starving Jews managed to survive without crops, farm animals, medicine, or shelter, creating their own “shtetl” beyond the reach of Nazi troops.

Ms. Rappaport examines the Nazi destruction of ghettos in Vilna and Warsaw where thousands of Jews fought against armored German divisions with pistols, Molotov cocktails, and homemade bombs.

The Nazi transit and labor camps of Holland, Belgium, and France reveal stories of Jews ambushing Nazi troops, fleeing into the forest, joining partisans, and returning to fight again. Other captured Jews dug dangerous tunnels, helping thousands of fellow Jews to escape from concentration camps.

We learn how Jews risked their lives to observe Jewish holidays and rituals within camps. There were many clandestine births and weddings. Imprisoned Jews created schools and orchestras. Not all resistance was armed.

Ms. Rappaport details the courage of Jews in places such as Sobibor, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Auschwitz who stole gunpowder and bombed crematoria. Others escaped from certain death, stealing weapons and ambushing Nazi troops or destroying railroad tracks and slowing down Nazi death factories.

This book also details the courage of gentiles who assisted Jews, provided food and shelter, protected them, and smuggled Jewish children to safety.

Despite the fact most Europeans did little to aid Jews—or turned in their Jewish neighbors to Nazi and Gestapo leaders—there were many instances of righteous gentiles who risked their own lives.

Throughout this excellent book, Doreen Rappaport uses detailed accounts from survivors, family members, interviews, and witnesses as well as letters, secret newspapers, and poems that survived the camps and ghettos.

Enhancing the veracity of these accounts are dozens of written records, pictures, maps, poems, and diagrams—some of which had been deeply buried in metal boxes by Jews whose resistance failed.

This book is an essential read for anyone interested in one of the most appalling events in history. It is also suitable for educating young people.