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It brings the Warsaw Uprising to life
on February 11, 2015
Mila 18 is an epic novel by Leon Uris. Leon painstakingly researched the Warsaw Ghetto and the Uprising and the facts are historically correct. However, he used his imagination as a fiction writer to create the characters and their conversations and movements. Some of the characters are real and were actually in the Ghetto and did what he says they did. Rosenblum, for instance, did write a journal about what was going on in the Ghetto and he did bury writings, diaries, histories, etc. in milk cans and other canisters at various spots in Warsaw. Some were actually retrieved; but some are still lost. This is not a book to be read in one sitting or even two. It is a book to be savored and thought about as you are reading. Although not necessary, knowing something of the history of the Warsaw ghetto, the Uprising, and the Nazis, it does help to understand the actions of the characters better.
In addition to being a story about the ghetto and the uprising, an attempt to understand how different people react to the same circumstances. He shows how and tells why some Jews became collaborators and “betrayed” their own, sometimes even their own families. As it begins before WWII, you see how those who considered themselves not to be Jews were drawn into helping the Nazis. It explains how the Jewish ruling group in the Ghetto came about and how each member dealt with what he had to do.
His book also shows how women were controlled by their husbands and fathers prior to WWII and how that changed as the war continues. Some were forced by circumstances to break out of the mold and become independent young women. Rachael, for example, defied her father by living with Wolf. He refused to allow the marriage by himself and made sure the other Jews knew he did not condone marriage thus leaving them to live together in “sin”. What is interesting is that Rachael does have the consent of her mother to do this. Deborah was in an arranged marriage and found herself basically a slave to her husband. She met Christopher de Monti before the war and had an affair with him. When given a chance to leave the Ghetto with Christopher, she refused and stayed with her children in the Ghetto. Christopher, an Italian by passport, refused to leave since he couldn’t leave Deborah even though he doesn’t see her anymore. Leon Uris delves into changes in social standards as he writes.
The book is very good and very well written. It is another book that brings history to life.