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Justyna's Narrative Hardcover – October 31, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nonfiction about the Holocaust should be judged on two levels: Does it add to our understanding of this horrific event? And is it a compelling piece of writing? This account of young Jewish underground freedom fighters in Krakow is an equivocal success on both levels, one marred only by its sometimes excessively lofty language and its lapses of continuity. Considering that it was composed on smuggled scraps of paper in a Polish prison by a woman who knew she would not survive the war, we are fortunate to have it at all. Originally published in Poland in 1946, this is the first English translation of the work. In order to protect her fellows, Gusta adopts pseudonyms for herself ("Justyna") and her husband, and she also writes about their exploits in the third person. Justyna relates how the underground formed, held secret meetings, organized false identity papers and worried about whether even a successful uprising could have more than symbolic value. They had managed to get hold of five firearms, including a Browning with which they planned to ambush six men, collect another six weapons and arm six more comrades. This was not to be, as Justyna regretfully writes of the failed guerrilla action. A few of their group survived Nazi atrocities, but the author and her husband were killed at some point after they escaped from the Polish prison. Although somewhat weakened by choppiness and grandiose prose, this is still a remarkable record of spirit and resistance.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

Draenger's incredible memoir was first published in Polish in 1946. The text was compiled from scraps of paper written by Draenger, a 25-year-old Polish Jew, from February to April 1943, while she was an inmate in the Montelupich Prison in Krakow. Draenger's narrative of the resistance movement offers readers an understanding of the spirit that motivated members of the Akiba Youth Movement; the author and her husband were among the group's leaders. Draenger describes the smuggling of arms from Warsaw, the ambushing of German soldiers, and the fate that befell resistance fighters in the forest. She and her husband escaped from the prison on April 29, 1943, but they were killed by the Germans within a year. This English edition includes additional transcriptions of original scraps that were found in the archive of the Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz in Israel. The new material, never before published, gives fuller expression to Draenger's romantic idealism. George Cohen

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press (October 31, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155849037X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558490376
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,406,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on July 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is not a particularly engaging work when it comes to the average reader. Its value is primarily for the specialist. It includes a timeline, introductory chapters, and well as fragments of a diary written in a Nazi prison.

In common with many Jewish authors, Justyna describes the Jews of Krakow as unduly trusting of the Germans. As the Jews were being shipped on railroads to the death camps, they continued to believe, as late as at least mid-1942, that they were being sent to labor camps. (p. 40).

A small group of Jews fled the Krakow Ghetto, obtained a few firearms, and attacked a few cafes and other German hangouts in Krakow. (p. 6, 26-27). Perhaps seven German officers were killed. The book does not mention how many Polish civilians were shot by the Germans in reprisal for this Jewish act. [Polish guerillas (AK, or A. K.) carefully planned their attacks for maximum military benefits for the cost of Poles killed in the ensuing German reprisals. For this reason, the Polish Underground generally avoided killing run-of-the-mill Germans, and limited its targeting to especially-prominent or especially-sadistic Germans. Communist guerillas (GL and AL) attacked Germans indiscriminately, having no concern for the Polish civilians that would be killed in German reprisals for their actions.]

The Polish Underground was leery of supporting Jewish fighters because of their support of Communism. Although this matter is not explicitly discussed in the book, it does come through. Justyna (Golda Davidson Draenger) was a close friend of Gola Mira, an avowed Communist. (pp. 9-12, 24). The Akiva movement to which the Jewish fighters belonged, while not itself Communist, included the Hashomer Hatzair, which is identified as Marxist-Zionist. (p. 33).
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