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Isaac's Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland Hardcover – October 2, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553807277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553807271
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #636,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Much has been made of supposed Jewish passivity in the face of escalating Nazi terror. This ignores the thousands of Jews who fought the Nazis as members of various broader resistance groups across occupied Europe. But in Poland, the locus of genocide, Jews created their own resistance group. Brzezinski, a gentile of Polish ancestry with a Jewish wife and children, tells the story of these heroic men and women in an unvarnished, often grim, but inspiring chronicle. At the center of the narrative is Isaac Zuckerman, who with his blond hair and powerful physique could have been mistaken for an Aryan poster boy. Only 24 when Hitler invaded Poland, Zuckerman was both a Polish patriot and a dedicated Zionist. As head of the Jewish Fighting Organization, he led a mostly young group of Jews as they smuggled others to safety, gathered arms, plotted attacks, and eventually helped create the nation of Israel. This is not a tale of romantic glory. To survive, these fighters had to be ruthless and sometimes brutal, since torture and execution were guaranteed if they were caught. Still, this is an outstanding tribute to these men and women who chose to resist a monstrous tyranny. --Jay Freeman

Review

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.”—The Washington Post

“Their stories of resistance gathered in meticulous detail give Isaac’s Army texture and context that is especially compelling as the last of the Holocaust generation passes away. . . . As a prodigious reporter and skilled writer, Brzezinski’s account gives greater depth and insight to their saga of ingenuity and luck, as he does throughout for the stories of those whose courageous choice was to resist.”—The Atlantic

“[An] admirable study of the Jewish resistance movement in Warsaw . . . compellingly [conveys] Poland’s wartime agony and the ordeals of those caught between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.”—The Wall Street Journal

“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
 
“In every chapter and on every page, Isaac’s Army vindicates the adage that truth is stranger—and more harrowing—than fiction. Matthew Brzezinski’s often painful, always riveting account of Jewish resistance in German-occupied Poland is unsparing in its details and epic in scope, offering the kind of sweeping narrative that this subject has long deserved.”—Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power
 
“In Isaac’s Army, Brzezinski brings us a sweeping, finely researched history of a band of Jewish heroes battling to drive the Nazis from their city and save their people. The stir to rebellion, the labyrinth of intrigue, the courageous long struggle, and the freedom found in the fight itself—these are but parts of this tremendous tale.”—Neal Bascomb, author of Hunting Eichmann and The Perfect Mile

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 75 customer reviews
The focus of the book is on the Jews of the Warsaw, and their reaction to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.
rmonyak
I wonder if a time ever came when we as a people need men and women like the ones Brzezinski introduces to us if they would come forward.
Charles Montgomery
The book is well written, well researched, and well documented - including interviews by the author with survivors.
moolane

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By rmonyak on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an exceptionally readable book which touches on an important part of Holocaust history that until recently has overlooked or ignored by most books and films on the topic - the Jews that resisted and did whatever they could to fight back against the Nazis. I consider myself well-read on Holocaust topics and yet I found this book highly enlightening and chock full of information, events, and insights that I wasn't fully aware of previously.

Too often, the conventional storyline has been that the Nazis marched into an area and the Jews offered feeble or no resistance as they were marched to the death camps. This book is the latest in a series of memoirs and non-fiction accounts of the groups of Jews who did not surrender to their fate, but instead, through a combination of resourcefulness, courage, and good fortune managed to survive the Holocaust and even participate in armed resistance against the Nazis.

The focus of the book is on the Jews of the Warsaw, and their reaction to the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. The book is masterfully written such that the reader gains a clear and intimate understanding of why the Jews of Warsaw did not organize resistance right away. The book chronicles the incremental nature of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw which caused so many Jews to assume that the phase they were in would end soon or that the occupation would never progress to an outright plan for their annihilation, in spite of the rumors they were hearing of what was happening to Jews in other parts of Poland and further East. The heroes of "Isaac's Army," a disparate group of individuals who resort to different means for survival, and in some instances armed struggle, constitute a cross-section of the survivors of the Jewish community in Poland.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stuart M. Wilder on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many books on the atrocities that occurred in Warsaw during World War II. This book, by a non-Jew, nicely ties together accounts and stories about not only the sufferings and courage of Jews in the Ghetto, but also the heroism, sacrifice, and perfidy or their Polish neighbors. The stories of the Jewish resistance fighters are riveting, but I have read very little about the righteous gentiles who helped hide them and arm them-- that to me was the new view offered by this book. Matthew Brzezinski also tells the story in a way that left me wondering form nearly the beginning whether I would have had the courage to leave my family and fight, or if I was Polish, to help Jews knowing discovery of such aid would mean death for me and maybe my family. The book ends with an interesting comment on that which I will leave for anyone fortunate enough to read it. It is an engaging read, and I can't recommend it enough.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By gunter hiller on May 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am an 85-year old survivor. My story is almost the same as Anne Frank's. (She lived a block from us in Amsterdam.)
When we were ordered deported in July, 1942, we went into hiding. Six months later, we were arrested and thrown
into prison awaiting the next transport. After three days we were separated. I was fourteen and never saw my parents
again. They were murdered in Sobibor and Lublin.
I managed to escape three times and went from one hiding place to another. I was liberated in Limburg, in the
Southern province of Holland. My last hiding place was on a farm which was requisitioned as a temporary headquarters
of a Wehrmacht entity. The Germans were in retreat. I stayed in plain sight, pretending to be the son of a German mother
and a Dutch father. I was there when the officers celebrated the surrender of the Warsaw uprising. A few days later the
Wehrmacht departed. A few more days later, around October 14, I was liberated by scouting tanks of the Second
Armor Division, "Hell on Wheels".
When I read this book, I wept.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Metallurgist TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book presents a narrative history of the Jewish struggles to survive in occupied Poland (mostly in Warsaw) in a well written, gripping and insightfully manner. This book demonstrates that the narrative format can convey more of what actually happened than a more academic format, and by focusing on the plight of individuals as opposed to the whole, have more impact. The book focuses primarily on the struggles of six individuals, among them Isaac Zukerman whose story forms the basis for the title. However, Isaac's story is only one of several told in the book, all told in an interwoven manner. A "cast of characters", which I found to be very helpful and even necessary at times, is provided to help keep these stories straight. The book it is not, nor does it purport to be, the complete or definitive story of the struggles of the Jews occupied Poland, or even in Warsaw, but the power of the narrative more than makes up for this.

What is in the book -
While book is primarily devoted to the struggles of the Jews of Warsaw to survive, it also discusses the more general plight of the citizens of Warsaw and how after the Warsaw uprising they were subject to the same deportations and summary executions as the Jews had suffered and continued to suffer. The book begins with the German attack on Poland, followed shortly by the attack of Soviet Russia. The life and death choices of fleeing, but to where, or staying in Warsaw are told in heart-rending detail. This is followed by the grim struggle to survive in the Warsaw Ghetto, where smuggling in food was the only way to survive.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Matthew Brzezinski began working as a journalist in the early 1990s in Warsaw, writing for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, and The Guardian (UK). He was a Wall Street Journal staff reporter in Moscow and Kiev in the late 1990s. Relocating to the US, he became a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, covering counterterrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. His work has also appeared in many other publications including The Washington Post Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Mother Jones.

Brzezinski's fourth book, Isaac's Army (Random House, 2012) is set in World War II. Isaac's Army tells the story of a group of young Polish Jews and the Polish Jewish underground, from its earliest acts of defiance in 1939 to the survivors' exodus to Palestine in 1946. The book draws on interviews with surviving Resistance members and unpublished memoirs, as well as Polish-language sources and established academic works on the subject of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Brzezinski is the author of three previous nonfiction books. His first book, Casino Moscow (Free Press, 2001) is a first-person account of the "Wild East" atmosphere prevailing in Russia in the 1990s. His second book, Fortress America (Bantam, 2004) addresses the new technology, laws, tactics, and persistent vulnerabilities of the post-9/11 era. His third book, Red Moon Rising (Simon and Schuster, 2007) is a work of narrative nonfiction that tells the story of the race to space culminating in the Sputnik launch by the USSR on October 4, 1957, drawing on previously classified Soviet documents. Red Moon Rising won the 2009 Sir Arthur Clarke award.

Of Polish heritage, Brzezinski was born in Canada. He is the nephew of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and the cousin of television anchor Mika Brzezinski. He lives in Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.

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