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

I usually feel that the Holocaust has been over portrayed in pop culture and I shy away from reading anything regarding this time period. I’m not cold, its just that I know the story and get overwhelmed with emotion when watching/reading about the deaths or survivals stories.

I can’t remember what made me pick Matthew Brzezinski’s Isaac’s Army, since it does cover the basic story of the Holocaust, but I’m glad I did. Often, when I think of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, I think of things happening to them: torture, betrayal, extermination, rescue, escape.

Brzezinski’s tale is all about action. How the Jewish men and many women organized themselves within the Warsaw ghetto, made alliances outside the ghetto, and fought the Nazis with everything they had. The story is told from the perspective of Jewish Resistance fighters, from diaries, interviews, and family member accounts, but it encompasses stories of many Poles fighting the Nazi’s with limited international help, weapons, food. Most of the resistance stories we hear are from very young adults at the time of the war. They became adults quickly and learned to band together for their survival. At the start of the Nazi occupation, no one could imagine how the war would turn out, but though determination and ingenuity the resistance fighters fought their occupiers.

There are many personal stories of loss and survival, including the immense guilt felt at being left alive and often having to choose between who survives and who boards the trains. But overall, I am uplifted by hearing the stories of fighting evil for your own survival and the difficult decisions that come with that survival.

Read February 2013

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