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Rebuilding Lives


Recent years have seen a flood of books on the Holocaust. The reason is that the number of survivors are dwindling, and in a few years there will be no witnesses. With all the anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers waiting in the wings, it is vital that the memories of this horrific time in Jewish history be recorded. And although it is painful to read them, we should never forget the oft-repeated warning: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat
them.”

I was particularly interested in a newly-released book “To Live and Fight Another Day” by Bracha Weisbarth, sub-titled: “The story Of A Jewish Partisan Boy,” because it is set in the forests near the town of Rovne, where my husband was born. It was Poland before the borders changed it to Russia, and today it is Ukraine. Formerly a vibrant Jewish town where
Yiddish was mostly spoken, you would not find a Jew there today. Either they fled in the 30′s while it was still possible, died in concentration camps, or were among a handful who survived as partisans living under unimaginable hardships in forests. The author was born in the Ukraine in 1938. Three years later, the Germans entered and occupied the region where her family lived. This book tells the true story of their struggle to survive as partisans fighting the Nazis in the forest near Rovne – her parents, sister and brother, two uncles, an aunt and a cousin. After
liberation, Bracha’s family lived for three years in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Germany before going to Israel in 1948. She served in the IDF and completed her education at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Today, a proud grandmother of five, she lives in Morristown, New Jersey and works as director of library services at the Waldor Memorial Library.

The hero and narrator of the book is Benny, modeled on her brother Benjamin. He was 11 when the German army occupied the village and all the men were sent to labor camps. At this tender age, he became the man of the family, foraging for food and forcing them to flee to the forest on the eve of the mass murder of Jews in the ghetto, thereby saving their lives.

Of course not everyone survived the war, and his sister Dina was one of the casualties. But those who did survive lived to see Germany surrender and Hitler dead and eventually escaped from the Europe that was soaked with so much Jewish blood.

Being written in the first person in the voice of the young boy gives the story an immediacy that
enables the reader to identify fully with all that is happening. The partisans were a disparate group who had escaped to the forest, and while fighting for their own survival without even the most basic necessities, still managed later to link up with some Russian anti-Nazi fighters and go on forays to harass the enemy – in one incident de-railing a provisions train at enormous danger to themselves.

This is a tale of great courage that evokes smiles as well as tears as it recounts Benny’s exploits, including how he needs to dress as a girl to deliver some leaflets warning collaborators of their fate in the village of Balasivka. His sister has to teach him how to walk, talk and act as a girl, to his great embarrassment. Arriving at the village, he is only saved from the unwanted attentions and molestation by some bullies who are interested in “her” charms by
the local priest.

There is another dramatic story of the rescue of a Jewish child from a convent, where her mother had hidden her for safety and from which the nuns later refuse to release her.

This book helps us to understand and appreciate the heroic, unsung heroes who were not “led like sheep to the slaughter” as the ignorant would have us believe, but who continued to fight against enormous odds and eventually triumphed. When I closed the last page, I wanted to stand up and applaud.

(The book can be ordered at $12.95 from the international distributor, Jeffrey Mazo, at the Chicago telephone number, 1 815 301 3559 or can be ordered from your local bookshop with the ISBN number 965-90462-3-5. It is published in Jerusalem by Mazo Publishers and is 158 pages.)

Dvora Waysman, a freelance writer living in Jerusalem, is the author of nine books, including ”Woman of Jerusalem”; ”The Pomegranate Pendant”; and ”Esther: a Jerusalem Love Story.” She can be reached at ways@netvision.net.il; website:
www.dvorawaysman.com.

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