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The Avengers: A Jewish War Story

The Avengers: A Jewish War Story

4.2 9
by Rich Cohen

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Rich Cohen, author of the acclaimed Tough Jews, again narrates a little-known episode of Jewish history, this time altering what we thought we knew about the Holocaust.

Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner, Ruzka Korczak-comrades, lovers, friends. In the Lithuanian ghetto of Vilna, they were the heart of a breathtakingly courageous underground movement, and when the

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The Avengers: A Jewish War Story 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
If you thought the holocaust was all about the Jewish people passively marching to their deaths then you need to read The Avengers by Rich Cohen. It speaks of a different side of the holocaust, the one in which the Jews fight back for their religion, freedom, and lives. This book brought to light for me the Jewish undergrounds that were established within, and outside, of the ghettos. The story of Abba Kovner's organization of plans for revolt, and concealment of Jewish families taught me how working together can create monumental outcomes. The author's accounting of numerous sabotages against the Germans by the organized revolts was an excellent way to put the Germans behind on their transports and supplies which harmed their war efforts. A large portion of the book is devoted to Palestine. I learned that this once was a promised land, Jewish paradise, but it was extremely hard to enter Palestine. Ruzka Korczak's trail to Palestine was made difficult because of capture by Germans, imprisonment at Atlit, and disbelief by others of the atrocities being committed. Though Ruzka seems like a small innocent woman she would give her life to save the Jewish people. I was also unaware of a place called Ponar and the description of this experience by a young girl sent a shudder through my body. "It was very cold and the bodies beneath her were frozen and she could see legs broken so that the bone showed and arms doubled-back and everywhere the faces of the old and young, ice forming around their lips." The courage and strength which thrived within the Jewish people was inspirational. I learned a new side to the holocaust and would hope that I too would fight for my rights under similar circumstances.
sek22 More than 1 year ago
Reading many novels on World War II and the horrific views of the Jews and their journey through extermination, I have never read a book quite like this. The Avengers: A Jewish War Story is the most unique because of how this true story of meaning and courage brings out a much-needed story of revenge. The book shows the journey of three young Jewish partisan fighters, Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak who were described as comrades, lovers, and friends. They were leaders of the Young Guard who fought and escaped their Vilna ghetto in Lithuania to forming their Jewish resistance group, The Avengers in the forests of Rudnicki. The Avengers formed the Jewish Brigade who set on dangerous missions avenging The Nazis and the millions of deaths of the Jewish race. As the end of the war approached, they all set separately on a path of discovery and reason to Palestine, where they would fight for independence as a Jewish state against the Arab world and be together once again. The reader should pick this book over other World War II books because it's a book with a different approach and outlook on World War II outside of the concentration camps. It shows a positive aspect of fighting back and there was a hope and future of the Jewish people. The three avengers relay their actions and their positive mindset that made them such riveting and passionate people. They believed in their people and knew that they weren't going to sit back; they were going to get up and fight for their lives. My likes of this book was it always was entertaining that I never wanted to set it down. I always wanted to find out what else was going to happen because of the main characters. Vitka and Ruzka were so inspiring because they were not only teenagers, but they were women. They were my age when they fought thousands of Germans and carried out dangerous missions. I had no particular dislikes to this book because it was such a gripping and detailed novel that always had me wanting more. Cohen, who heard the story on a visit to see his cousin Ruzka, told and conveyed such a story that allowed him to show the passion and persistence of these three young kids. His interpretation of the story showed the reader a suspenseful tale of their remarkable lives and how they survived based on their actions. Other recommended works would include Tough Jews also by Rich Cohen, Fighting Back by Harold Werner, Fugitives of the Forest by Allan Levine and Defiance by Nechama Tec which was later made into a major motion picture starring Daniel Craig. I will never forget this novel because of how powerful the book chronicles an aspect of a story of courage, danger, and individuals like Abba, Vitka, and Ruzka overcoming and risking their lives to ensure a future for their people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the book was easy to read, (considering the subject), and engaging; lending to provocative conversations
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader. However, only two works have sufficiently kept my attention to read in one sitting: 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' (required reading in English 101 many years ago) and 'The Avengers.' Without diminishing Rich Cohen's fabulous storytelling ability, it is the story itself that renders the book a 'must read.' It's the story of Abba, Ruzka, and Vitka, three common folks, whose magnificent struggle give us the ultimate hope for humanity, the hope when compassion and courage merge and give birth to social justice. This is a story that should not be kept within the carefully drawn community of Jewish intellectuals and Holocaust historians. It must be made into a feature film so people from all walks of life may experience both the horrors and triumphs of humanity's darkest moment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book that shows any one who reads it how a group of people survived one of the most terrible experiences of the 20th century. This history demonstrates not only the courage and strength of the partisans but the softer and more compassionate side of WW2.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Avengers Rich Cohen¿s book, ¿The Avengers¿, is the true tale of three leaders of the underground resistance fighters in the Vilna ghetto: Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak. It is a tale of three people with passion and courage, with intelligence and foresight. It is a tale not of people being led into camps, but of people fighting in hideouts, sewers, forest bunkers. Mr. Cohen grew up hearing this story from Ruzka, his cousin, and later from Abba and Vitka and others during visits to Israel from the age of 10 on. While there is an extensive bibliography, the story is primarily told not as one would write a research thesis, but as one might hear an oral history. It reads like a novel with details and ¿color¿ of the moment. The following paragraph occurs when German troops are rounding up Jews for relocation in 1943 and are blowing up buildings to root out the underground: ¿Through the window, Ruzka saw the German with the case (bomb) and mustache walk into her building. She ordered the unit to retreat. They raced down the stairs and jumped through a window into the courtyard. Ruzka twisted her ankle. Getting to her feet, she remembered the bag of ammunition in the bunker. She pulled herself through the window and started back upstairs. He ankle ached. She could not find the bag. The German with the mustache ran out of the building. The soldiers sprinted down the street. Ruzka found the bag and ran downstairs. As she hit the landing, she heard a click and dove through the window. While she was still in the air, she felt the explosion and its violence wear through her and then Vitka was dragging her into 15 Straszun.¿ Mr. Cohen carefully explores the relationship between the underground and other Jews especially the Jewish leadership. Second to the bravery and political wisdom of the resistance fighters, it is the most interesting part of the book. Jacob Gens, the Jew appointed ghetto police chief by the Germans, capitulates to the Germans repeatedly and at every turn, handing over whatever Jews were asked for. An eyewitness to the mass shooting in the forest returns and Gens calls her crazy. He and the vast majority of the ghetto Jews refuse to believe that the great number of people who were ¿relocated¿ had been killed. Abba Kovner understood the truth from the early days of the ghetto but few were converted to this understanding. Gens even sent Jewish thugs to fight the underground. Yet Mr. Cohen declines to make the ultimate moral judgement of this chief of police who felt he was doing his best to save as much of the ghetto as possible and even allowed his own arrest without escape for this purpose. The tale continues by painting the life of the partisans in the forest: their organization, their means of survival, and their successes. It continues through postwar Europe and the early days of the State of Israel. Through this engaging book we gain a good understanding of the Vilna resistance fighters, an important but less well-known aspect of the ¿Jewish War¿.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have now read 'The Avengers, a Jewish War Story' by Rich Cohen several times and believe that it is the single most stirring and meaningful book I have ever read on the Holocaust and the subsequent European jewish movement to Israel. The book, written by a journalist tells the story of 3 basically ordinary jewish persons caught up in the Vilna, Lithuania jewish ghetto who refuse to go to their deaths as sheep to slaughter. What is extraordinary here is the details of how these persons lead the struggle to save jewish lives and had the information and subsequent vision to see that every jew would be killed unless drastic action is taken. Their actions went beyond any personal prior experience and in the face of massive death and overwhelming odds against survival. The book also explains how they were able to pass through the ensuing insanity to build new lives in Israel. I don't think that I have the personal eloquence to explain the psycology in effect here. One must read the book for themselves to try to understand. Other writers, such as Primo Levi have picked up on some of the themes. I am a little bothered by how Mr. Cohen can understand the detailed thoughts of each of the 3 main characters, Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner, and Ruzka Korzcak; although it is clear that he met with these persons numerous times and had a special opportunity to gather information, as one of these persons (Ruzka Korzcak) was an actual relative of his. However, through checking of some of the details through other sources, I have become aware that Mr. Cohen has simplified some of the information and also sanitized the stories a little. It seems to me his technique is legitimate in creating a story as powerful as this one and to help explain how these persons were able to go on for literally 4-6 years of struggle. Yet, I still think more details would be helpful. For example, I would like to know how many actual deaths were caused by the poisoning of prisoners' bread at Nurenberg after the war by members of the Avengers. What is truly miraculous is that each of these persons survived to live a full life in Israel (and a few others at various other places in the world) after WWII, to have families and to create a legacy for the future so others can understand and learn from this unprecedented time in world history. In short, I would suggest that every jew needs to read this book to help understand part of their history. The book is also highly appropriate reading for any huministically minded non-jew as well.