Isaac's Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland

Isaac's Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland

4.6 10
by Matthew Brzezinski
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Starting as early as 1939, disparate Jewish underground movements coalesced around the shared goal of liberating Poland from Nazi occupation. For the next six years, separately and in concert, they waged a heroic war of resistance against Hitler’s war machine that culminated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Isaac’s Army, Matthew Brzezinski deliversSee more details below

Overview

Starting as early as 1939, disparate Jewish underground movements coalesced around the shared goal of liberating Poland from Nazi occupation. For the next six years, separately and in concert, they waged a heroic war of resistance against Hitler’s war machine that culminated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Isaac’s Army, Matthew Brzezinski delivers the first-ever comprehensive narrative account of that struggle, following a group of dedicated young Jews—some barely out of their teens—whose individual acts of defiance helped rewrite the ending of World War II.
 
Based on first-person accounts from diaries, interviews, and surviving relatives, Isaac’s Army chronicles the extraordinary triumphs and devastating setbacks that befell the Jewish underground from its earliest acts of defiance in 1939 to the exodus to Palestine in 1946. This is the remarkable true story of the Jewish resistance from the perspective of those who led it: Isaac Zuckerman, the confident and charismatic twenty-four-year-old founder of the Jewish Fighting Organization; Simha Ratheiser, Isaac’s fifteen-year-old bodyguard, whose boyish good looks and seeming immunity to danger made him an ideal courier; and Zivia Lubetkin, the warrior queen of the underground who, upon hearing the first intimations of the Holocaust, declared: “We are going to defend ourselves.” Joined by allies on the left and right, they survived Gestapo torture chambers, smuggled arms, ran covert printing presses, opened illegal schools, robbed banks, executed collaborators, and fought in the two largest rebellions of the war.
 
Hunted by the Germans and bedeviled by the “Greasers”—roving bands of blackmailers who routinely turned in resistance fighters for profit—the movement was chronically short on firepower but long on ingenuity. Its members hatched plots in dank basements, never more than a door knock away from summary execution, and slogged through fetid sewers to escape the burning Ghetto to the forests surrounding the city. And after the initial uprising was ruthlessly put down by the SS, they gambled everything on a bold plan for a citywide revolt—of both Jews and Gentiles—that could end only in victory or total destruction. The money they raised helped thousands hide when the Ghetto was liquidated. The documents they forged offered lifelines to families desperate to escape the horror of the Holocaust. And when the war was over, they helped found the state of Israel.
 
A story of secret alliances, internal rivalries, and undying commitment to a cause, Isaac’s Army is history at its most heart-wrenching. Driven by an unforgettable cast of characters, it’s a true-life tale with the pulse of a great novel, and a celebration of the indomitable spirit of resistance.

Advance praise for Isaac’s Army
 
“Told with care and compassion, Matthew Brzezinski’s Isaac’s Army is a riveting account of the Jewish resistance in wartime Poland. This is an intense story that transcends the horror of the time and finds real inspiration in the bravery of those who fought back—some of whom lived to tell their stories. Highly recommended.”—Alan Furst, author of Mission to Paris

Read More

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Isaac's Army unfolds like a novel, with a thriller's feel for pacing and intrigue, and generous supplies of gasping suspense. The characters are vividly rendered within a surreal environment that makes The Hunger Games look like survivor Little League.
—Thane Rosenbaum
Publishers Weekly
The Warsaw Ghetto uprising of April–May 1943 was the largest Jewish revolt during WWII. As Brzezinski (Red Moon Rising) relates in this revisionist history of the uprising, the Jewish Fighting Organization, comprising young Polish Jews of disparate political affiliations, played a dominant role. Isaac Zuckerman, a charismatic prewar Zionist youth leader, was the organization’s cofounder and driving force. When the uprising erupted, Zuckerman was on the “Aryan” side of Warsaw procuring weapons, and organized the escape of the surviving fighters through the sewers. Zivia Lubetkin—shy but methodical—ran a network of couriers to maintain links among various ghettos. Significantly, the organization’s 23-year-old leader, Mordechai Anielewicz, now widely viewed as the uprising’s hero, is disparaged by Brzezinski as a dangerous hothead who returned to Warsaw at the last minute to steal center stage in the organization and who, according to other fighters, took the easy way out with his suicide in a bunker together with 80 comrades in arms. Drawing on Zuckerman’s memoir and interviews with some survivors, this is overall a taut and worthy retelling of the uprising with welcome backgrounds on its significant members, including the less known Jewish Military Union of right-wing Zionists. Brzezinski’s treatment of Anielewicz will be controversial Agent: Scott Waxman, Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"This is an intense story that transcends the horror of the time and finds real inspiration in the bravery of those who fought back—some of whom lived to tell their stories." —Alan Furst, author of Mission to Paris
Library Journal
While Poland's Jewish community was being exterminated by the German and Soviet occupiers, a network of Jews resisted. Isaac Zuckerman, who survived to settle in Israel after the war, left a detailed memoir of the experience. Brzezinski (Red Moon Rising) found other survivors and interviewed them to produce a detailed record of much of the daily life of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and other parts of Poland that had become Germany's eastern Reich. He discusses the policy changes, social situation, and strategic environment that resistance workers had to deal with, and humanizes the extremely difficult situations these young men and women faced, including the "trade-craft" involved in operating in a rigidly controlled and murderous state. VERDICT Although the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto has been covered before, the author successfully integrates personal and societal elements into a compelling narrative that greatly supplements existing works.—EBB
Kirkus Reviews
The history of Polish Jews who fought Nazi brutality, retold in the stories of some truly remarkable young men and women. Journalist Brzezinski (Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age, 2007, etc.) presents a meticulous, harrowing account of resistance, humanized with personal tales of individual combatants. As he writes, from the day the Germans set foot in the Polish capital, the brutality mounted. The Jewish quarter was walled off, and the inhumanely crowded ghetto was established. Naked bodies were soon found throughout the quarter, which was infected with typhus as well as blackmailers and profiteers. But there were partisans, too. As deportation to death camps increased, there was frantic organizing and smuggling. Travel to the "Aryan" side was forbidden yet accomplished through disguised tunnels. Finally, in the spring of 1943, after 400,000 Jews were dead, the uprising exploded. In the lead-up to the Uprising, the resistance had established lines of communication and financing for a few guns, and leaders stepped up to organize the logistics and tactics. Escape, through fetid sewers or inhospitable forests, was rare. Aided by anti-Semites, the Wehrmacht and the particularly brutal SS were powerful and efficient. However, as recalled by survivors, there was support by some righteous gentiles. In his valuable text, Brzezinski impartially describes the political interplay of factions of resistance fighters, even when the city of Warsaw was utterly destroyed on orders from Berlin. The struggle continued as survivors fought their way to Israel. "In Poland," writes the author, "Jews now had only a past. The future had been erased." A well-told, direct story of endurance and courage in the face of death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale, as moving and powerful as any novel.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679645306
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
320,163
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"This is an intense story that transcends the horror of the time and finds real inspiration in the bravery of those who fought back—-some of whom lived to tell their stories." —-Alan Furst, author of Mission to Paris

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >