As Judy Batalian notes at the end of his carefully researched narrative the Light of Days, there were many reasons why the stories of young Jewish women bravely resisting the Nazis in Europe during World War II were ignored or silenced after the war. Some of these reasons were attractive, but most were not so notorious. But until now, the effect has been that parts of this great story have been scattered through past personal memories and archived testimonies of survivors.

The Light of Day is a great achievement that gives a global coherence to this largely not-known history. Batalian focuses on the lives and actions of a dozen and a half young women and young people who joined the struggle in the Polish ghettos of Warsaw and Bedzin. In the first place, the fiery Renia Kukielka, who became a runner for one of the militant Jewish youth groups at the center of the resistance. Batalion mixes the personalities and actions of other young women—messengers and warriors-into the arc of the story of Kukielka. The story reached its crescendo in the spring and summer of 1943, during and shortly after the dramatic but ultimately unsuccessful uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Batalion uses a kind of “you’re there” approach, which may seem awkward at times, but has a dramatic meaning in the end.

The Light of Day also provides a captivating insight into the life of the community in this peril time. It is amazing to read about the number and diversity of Jewish youth groups that commanded the loyalty of young people. It is also surreal to learn that the mail continued to circulate among Jewish communities even as The Nazi killing machine roared on the tracks.

Batalian interviewed the families of many survivors, and these passages of the book invite us to ask ourselves what it would be like to action and survive for half a decade, experiencing the loss of friends and family, only to return to a “normal” life after all the trauma. Kukielka seemed to hold at least an important part of herself through it all. Her mature life, Batalion reports, was ” happy, passionate, full of beauty.”

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