# Highly Recommended《Bran-New + A Rich And Inspiring Celebration Of The Resilience of The Human Spirit & Will》Matthew Brzezinski - ISAAC'S ARMY : A Story Of Courage And Survival In Nazi-Occupied Poland
This International and The New York Times bestseller in paperback edition is a bran-new book and nicely wrapped with protective book-wrapper. The original new book is sold at usual price RM99.90. Now here Only at RM26. Starting as early as 1939, disparate Jewish underground movements coalesced around the shared goal of liberating Poland from Nazi occupation. For the next six years, separately and in concert, they waged a heroic war of resistance against Hitler’s war machine that culminated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Isaac’s Army, Matthew Brzezinski delivers the first-ever comprehensive narrative account of that struggle, following a group of dedicated young Jews—some barely out of their teens—whose individual acts of defiance helped rewrite the ending of World War II. WWII was a difficult experience for almost everyone affected by it. For Jews and for Poles, it was especially horrible. Isaac’s Army gives a good glimpse of that, but since it focuses on survivors (you can’t interview people who died 70+ years ago), the book manages to be engaging and hopeful rather than depressing. Based on first-person accounts from diaries, interviews, and surviving relatives, Isaac’s Army chronicles the extraordinary triumphs and devastating setbacks that befell the Jewish underground from its earliest acts of defiance in 1939 to the exodus to Palestine in 1946. This is the remarkable true story of the Jewish resistance from the perspective of those who led it: ➽ Isaac Zuckerman, the confident and charismatic twenty-four-year-old founder of the Jewish Fighting Organization; ➽ Simha Ratheiser, Isaac’s fifteen-year-old bodyguard, whose boyish good looks and seeming immunity to danger made him an ideal courier; ➽ and Zivia Lubetkin, the warrior queen of the underground who, upon hearing the first intimations of the Holocaust, declared: “We are going to defend ourselves.” ➽ Joined by allies on the left and right, they survived Gestapo torture chambers, smuggled arms, ran covert printing presses, opened illegal schools, robbed banks, executed collaborators, and fought in the two largest rebellions of the war. Hunted by the Germans and bedeviled by the “Greasers”—roving bands of blackmailers who routinely turned in resistance fighters for profit—the movement was chronically short on firepower but long on ingenuity. Its members hatched plots in dank basements, never more than a door knock away from summary execution, and slogged through fetid sewers to escape the burning Ghetto to the forests surrounding the city. And after the initial uprising was ruthlessly put down by the SS, they gambled everything on a bold plan for a citywide revolt—of both Jews and Gentiles—that could end only in victory or total destruction. The money they raised helped thousands hide when the Ghetto was liquidated. The documents they forged offered lifelines to families desperate to escape the horror of the Holocaust. And when the war was over, they helped found the state of Israel. A story of secret alliances, internal rivalries, and undying commitment to a cause, Isaac’s Army is history at its most heart-wrenching. Driven by an unforgettable cast of characters, it’s a true-life tale with the pulse of a great novel, and a celebration of the indomitable spirit of resistance. Brzezinski follows several people through the war years, including the German invasion of Poland, a couple Soviet invasions of Poland, the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto, and then both the 1943 and 1944 uprisings in Warsaw. It also goes over the chaotic years immediately following the war. The story focuses on men and women who fought in and survived both uprisings. That they lived through both is miraculous, since the Ghetto was pretty much leveled during the 1943 uprising and Nazi strategy for a few months was the complete destruction of Warsaw and all its inhabitants during the 1944 uprising (Himmler wanted Warsaw wiped from the map). You learned a lot more about Poland during WWII and the various Jewish groups and their goals (some wanted to stay in Poland and improve relations with the Gentiles, others were Zionists, some were Communists.) Lots of interesting stories of occupation, hiding, and urban warfare. There is so much brutality in this book that it's just impossible to wrap my brain around it. The SS penal unit and the Russian RONA Brigade alone are enough to give me nightmares for a lifetime. I can't imagine what it was like to live in the midst of this chaos, let alone to actually stand up and fight against it. I have nothing but the utmost respect for these resistance fighters, but I think it is really important to remember that no one is perfect and that includes these heroic individuals. Brzezinski presents them as real human beings with all their flaws and strengths. This is a brilliant book and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone that is even remotely interested in this period of time. The names of these brave men and women are now seared in my memory and I will not be forgetting them. ------------------------------------------------ The Washington Post Book Review: The search for the silver lining in the Holocaust can be unseemly. The Nazis created the most brutally efficient killing machines the world has ever known. And they were particularly adept at inflicting carnage on Poland. What is left to say when 90 percent of Polish Jewry (3 million of the 6 million Jews killed) is annihilated through gassing, mass shootings, beatings, starvation and despair? It is in this context that Matthew Brzezinski reminds us that, through a combination of cunning and luck, some Jews managed to stay out of the concentration camps entirely. The book focuses on Warsaw, where the highest concentration of European Jews — 500,000 — once lived, as the heartland of Jewish life. The book is a poignant reminder that Warsaw between the world wars was not unlike New York City today — pulsing with theaters, cafes, cabarets, publishing houses, department stores and specialty shops. But not even a flourishing cultural life and a secular, assimilated existence offered protection from the Nazi storm. A cosmopolitan Jew and a religious shtetl-dweller were equally at risk. If you were Polish and Jewish, by 1945 you were almost certainly dead. Brzezinski, however, has unearthed stories of survival among all those deaths. And “stories” is the right word, since the book jacket contends that “Isaac’s Army” is the first “narrative account” of resistance inside the Warsaw Ghetto, no doubt to distinguish it from Emmanuel Ringelblum’s iconic journal, “Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto,” which survived its author and upon which Brzezinski apparently relied. “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 Warsaw Ghetto and its harrowing conditions for Jews are seen from three viewpoints: that of the Osnos family, who dramatically flee Poland and encounter various immigration nightmares; that of the Mortkowicz family, who are forced to hide their young daughter inside a Catholic convent while they literally hole up with Gentile families outside the Ghetto; and that of an assortment of orphans, led by Isaac Zuckerman, who organize the forces of Jewish resistance inside the Ghetto, fight alongside the Poles in their own uprising against the Nazis and, finally, in post-war, Soviet-controlled Poland, help relocate Jews to Palestine . The third narrative, the one about the young ghetto fighters and Zuckerman’s improbable army, is the centerpiece of the book; it’s a tale of teenage rebellion. These agile compatriots master a number of underground activities: assassinating collaborators, shaking down merchants, surviving Gestapo tortures, disguising their identities, smuggling weapons, foraging for food, living in cramped hiding places, and generally inuring themselves to daily loss as Warsaw empties itself of Jewish life. In one particularly ominous moment, Isaac’s band of brothers and sisters waded through a mile of Warsaw’s booby-trapped sewer system. “Every few hundred feet,” Brzezinski writes, “the body of someone who had drowned floated in the filth. Suddenly, at around 6 a.m., an explosion rocked the canal. A trip wire had been snagged, and the Germans . . . were throwing hand grenades down manholes, blocking the passage. . . . Going forward meant death. . . . They would have to go through the waterfalls and whirlpools, against the raging currents.” Brzezinski shows an obvious admiration for his subjects, and “Isaac’s Army” often reads like a Greatest Generation tribute to heroic Holocaust survivors. Indeed, the subtitle could easily have been “The Indestructibles.” Any reader craving a dose of Jewish testosterone should add “Isaac’s Army” to a list that includes Rich Cohen’s “The Avengers” and “Tough Jews.” But Brzezinski is not blind to the larger emotional and moral dilemmas faced by these ghetto fighters — they had to deal harshly with fellow Jews who abetted the Nazis or who were profiteers who got in the way; also, they had to make decisions that saved a greater number at others’ expense — while their Gentile peers were fretting over prom dresses or packing up for college. A cattle car to Treblinka awaited anyone who made one wrong move, took a hesitant misstep, betrayed a suspicious glance, or simply was not on the receiving end of good fortune. Despite all the derring-do, street smarts and gutter instincts, survival in the Ghetto often hinged on ordinary luck. And that’s where this book runs the risk of trampling over sacred ground. The Holocaust, of course, is largely a story of mass deaths. The events memorialized in “Isaac’s Army” were freakish aberrations. Only an abnormality can produce a happy ending in a Holocaust tale. The triumph of the human spirit is trumpeted on every page, but the larger, darker truth of the Holocaust can end up being trivialized amid the desperate wish to affirm life. It is no coincidence that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, failed though it was, has been repeatedly dramatized on TV and in movies. Fortunately, Brzezinski is sensitive to these aesthetic traps. “Isaac’s Army” marches through the minefield of the Holocaust mindful of what it truly meant to be liquidated from those ghettos. Nothing gets sugarcoated; no one who deserves blame receives a pass. And these teenagers who once functioned as terminators are not overly romanticized. Indeed, they are appropriately pitied. Not only were they robbed of their families and a normal young adulthood, but the life lessons they mastered in the conflict had little value outside the upspeakable world of the Nazis. A few of the resistance fighters are still alive, elderly and in failing health. We learn what became of them, and what they were never able to overcome: nightmares and unrelenting memory. But they were also emboldened by the knowledge that nothing the world might throw their way could ever terrify them again. ----------------------------------------------- Advance praise for Isaac’s Army “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 ABOUT THE AUTHOR MATTHEW BRZEZINSKI is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and former foreign correspondent at The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of Casino Moscow: A Tale of Greed and Adventure on Capitalism’s Wildest Frontier. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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