Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 21 Jan 2015
Full Title: Isaac's Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland
Poland was among the countries that suffered the most during the European War, for that it experienced three invasions (German-Soviet jointly in 1939, Germany less than two years later, and Soviet Union yet another two years later), the brutal occupations that accompanied each of the invasions, and the systematic genocide of the Jews by the Germans. In Isaac's Army, author Mathew Brzezinski told the history of Jews centered around Isaac Zuckerman, Simha Ratheiser, Zivia Lubetkin, and others of the Warsaw Ghetto. Zuckerman, undoubtedly the main character of this book, represented the epitome of selfless courage. Under his leadership, those who gathered under him picked up arms against the occupiers, meanwhile engaging in both political and physical fighting between other Jewish groups, Polish gentiles who preyed on the Jews, and even foreign influences such as the Soviets and the Ukrainians. Brzezinski's narrated the stories expertly, material drawn directly from personal interviews with some of very people whose names appeared in this title. His words kept me hanging on as if the book were a novel, and to me there was a significant amount of new information in these pages.
I reviewed this title in its audio book format. Arthur Morey did an excellent job lending his voice to Brzezinski's words, and I enjoyed his performance as I progressed through the audio book.
It had always been so easy for us to unintentionally glorify war, especially in the acts of defiance that the Polish people, in this case Polish Jews specifically; even Brzezinski admitted so. However, the concluding words of Isaac's Army demonstrated that wars were tragedies, and there was little worth glorifying. Brzezinski's conclusion was worth quoting in length.
It took less courage, in Mark's [Marek Edelman] opinion, to pick up a gun than to stay with one's children and comfort them in the face of certain death.... In fact one of the bravest scenes Edelman witnessed was the sight of a man entering the Umschlagplatz with his son on his shoulders. The boy was frightened and asking where they were going. "Not far", the father reassured him, "soon it would all be over."
This book would rank very high among books of this topic that I had reviewed in the past.
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George Patton, 31 May 1944