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.
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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