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The Light of Days
Cover of The Light of Days
The Light of Days
The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

Also on the USA Today, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, and Indie bestseller lists.

One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters—a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now.
Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland—some still in their teens—helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these "ghetto girls" paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers, bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, used their Aryan looks to seduce them, and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town's water supply. They also nursed the sick and taught children.

Yet the exploits of these courageous resistance fighters have remained virtually unknown.

As propulsive and thrilling as Hidden Figures, In the Garden of Beasts, Band of Brothers, and A Train in Winter, The Light of Days at last tells the true story of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time. Judy Batalion—the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors—takes us back to 1939 and introduces us to Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who risked death traveling across occupied Poland on foot and by train. Joining Renia are other women who served as couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs, all who put their lives in mortal danger to carry out their missions. Batalion follows these women through the savage destruction of the ghettos, arrest and internment in Gestapo prisons and concentration camps, and for a lucky few—like Renia, who orchestrated her own audacious escape from a brutal Nazi jail—into the late 20th century and beyond.

Powerful and inspiring, featuring twenty black-and-white photographs, The Light of Days is an unforgettable true tale of war, the fight for freedom, exceptional bravery, female friendship, and survival in the face of staggering odds.


THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

Also on the USA Today, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, and Indie bestseller lists.

One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters—a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now.
Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland—some still in their teens—helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these "ghetto girls" paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers, bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, used their Aryan looks to seduce them, and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town's water supply. They also nursed the sick and taught children.

Yet the exploits of these courageous resistance fighters have remained virtually unknown.

As propulsive and thrilling as Hidden Figures, In the Garden of Beasts, Band of Brothers, and A Train in Winter, The Light of Days at last tells the true story of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time. Judy Batalion—the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors—takes us back to 1939 and introduces us to Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who risked death traveling across occupied Poland on foot and by train. Joining Renia are other women who served as couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs, all who put their lives in mortal danger to carry out their missions. Batalion follows these women through the savage destruction of the ghettos, arrest and internment in Gestapo prisons and concentration camps, and for a lucky few—like Renia, who orchestrated her own audacious escape from a brutal Nazi jail—into the late 20th century and beyond.

Powerful and inspiring, featuring twenty black-and-white photographs, The Light of Days is an unforgettable true tale of war, the fight for freedom, exceptional bravery, female friendship, and survival in the face of staggering odds.


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About the Author-
  • Judy Batalion is the author of White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood and the Mess in Between. She has written for the New York Times, Vogue, the Washington Post and many other publications. Prior to her writing career, she was an academic and is fluent in both Yiddish and Hebrew. Born and raised in Montreal, she now lives in New York with her husband and children.


Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2020
    Resounding history of Jewish women who fought the German invaders in World War II. The role of women in resisting the genocidal tyranny of the Third Reich has, like so much women's history, been less well documented than the work of their male counterparts. Batalion, the child of Holocaust survivors, notes that an early role model for her was Hannah Senesh, "one of the few female resisters in World War II not lost to history," who was captured and executed by the Germans, refusing a blindfold and "staring at the bullet straight on." Discovering a Yiddish book called Freuen in di Ghettos (Women in the Ghettos) that had been published immediately after the war introduced the author to many other women fighters who contributed to the Allied war effort, whether by sabotaging German supply trains, smuggling weapons, spying for Russian military intelligence, or killing errant German soldiers. A stellar example is "Renia K.," whose story, in Batalion's hands, is lifted "from the footnotes to the text." Eventually captured by the Gestapo, she was asked, "Don't you feel it's a waste to die so young?" She responded, "As long as there are people like you in the world, I don't want to live." Surprisingly, she survived, although her story and those of many others were reshaped for political purposes. Those women, Batalion convincingly argues, have often been misrepresented for just those reasons. Many were politically active before the war and even militant, espousing "Zionist, socialist, and pioneer values," and some chroniclers have been reluctant to celebrate their work because doing so might unduly judge those who did not resist, "ultimately blaming the victim." In a vigorous narrative that draws on interviews, diaries, and other sources, Batalion delivers an objective view of past events that are too quickly being forgotten--and a story much in need of telling. A welcome addition to the literature of the Shoah and of anti-Nazi resistance. (20 b/w photos)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 23, 2020
    Memoirist Batalion (White Walls) delivers a remarkable portrait of young Jewish women who fought in the Polish resistance during WWII. Drawing from “dozens of women’s memoirs” and “hundreds of testimonies,” Batalion documents an astonishing array of guerilla activities, including rescue missions for Jewish children trapped in Polish ghettos, assassinations of Nazi soldiers, bombings of German train lines, jailbreaks, weapons smuggling, and espionage missions. The story of “Renia K.,” a “savvy, middle-class girl” who served as a courier in the Bę
    dzin Ghetto, forms the backbone of the narrative, but Batalion highlights numerous other freedom fighters, including a network of young women who aided a prisoner revolt at the Auschwitz concentration camp, and provides a detailed account of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. She spares no details recounting the sexual violence and torture these women endured, and notes numerous reasons why their stories aren’t better known, including male chauvinism, survivor’s guilt, and the fact that the resistance movement’s military successes were “relatively miniscule.” Batalion allows her subjects to speak for themselves whenever possible, weaving a vast amount of research material into a cohesive and dramatic narrative. This poignant history pays vivid tribute to “the breadth and scope of female courage.”

  • Booklist

    June 1, 2020
    Stories of Jewish women who resisted the Nazi regime have been woefully neglected in modern history. Their truths were overshadowed by male counterparts, censored, criticised, and occasionally regarded as outright false. Batalion (White Walls, 2016) sheds light on courageous women who came face-to-face with evil and refused to back down. She focuses on a group of female resistance fighters in Polish ghettos, where even camaraderie could be considered a punishable act of defiance. They smuggled guns inside loaves of bread, disguised themselves as Poles, established soup kitchens for ghetto orphans, arranged hiding places for fellow Jews, and fought fervently in ghetto uprisings. Many were caught and subjected to extreme brutality in concentration camps, where they continued to resist before being executed. Those who survived were haunted by guilt and subjected to public scrutiny. Batalion spent years researching, pouring over memoirs and testimonies, and even meeting with the women's children. The result is a harrowing record of the resiliency of the human spirit and the power of female friendship. An important work, sure to become part of the WWII canon.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2020

    The granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors, Batalion acquaints us with the Jewish women resistance fighters of Poland, who risked brutal imprisonment and death as they bore arms, smuggled weapons, helped build underground bunkers, and seduced and shot German soldiers. With a 200,000-copy first printing; optioned by Steven Spielberg.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Jerusalem Post  "Hard to put down...The Light of Days is not a story but a multi-layered epic, one that rewrites the Holocaust. Drama abounds and the characters are deeply engaging. Required reading."
  • New York Times Book Review "Pulses with pride and rage."
  • Maira Kalman, author of And the Pursuit of Happiness "Be not afraid. Judy Batalion brings to life the story of young women who had mindboggling valor. Super heroes. They fought the Nazis. With nerves of steel. You don't have to fight the Nazis (we hope). But you do have to be courageous and honorable. (Well, most of the time). And you will be. There are inspirational books that change your life. And this is one of them."
  • Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink "This is a powerful and necessary book. I'm so grateful to Judy Batalion for bringing us these women in all their fierce intelligence and courage. It's astonishing that their stories haven't been widely heard until now—but Batalion's rare combination of skills has brought them to vibrant life. This is history we've needed to hear."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Thrilling, devastating... tells of an underground network of young Jewish women in Poland who resisted the Nazis by engaging in smuggling, sabotage, and even armed defense. Their courageous deeds, largely forgotten until now, are astounding."
  • Publishers Weekly "A remarkable portrait of young Jewish women who fought in the Polish resistance during WWII. . . pays vivid tribute to 'the breadth and scope of female courage.'"
  • Boston Globe "Written with passion...Batalion's research is prodigious, and her dedication to her story obvious and moving."
  • Wall Street Journal "Well-researched and riveting."
  • Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, New York Times bestselling author of Dr. Mutter’s Marvels "Bold, brave and revelatory, meticulously researched and engagingly written, Batalion transports readers into the harrowing World War II era, where a generation of young, Jewish women banded together to fight an almost unimaginable evil."
  • Kirkus (Starred Review)  "Resounding history of Jewish women who fought the German invaders in World War II. In a vigorous narrative that draws on interviews, diaries, and other sources, Batalion delivers an objective view of past events that are too quickly being forgotten—and a story much in need of telling."
  • Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun (with Marwan Hisham) "Judy Batalion has told the largely forgotten stories of the girl couriers, smugglers and fighters who formed the nerve center of Jewish resistance in occupied Poland. A breathtaking, dazzling work of historical resurrection"
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The Light of Days
The Light of Days
The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos
Judy Batalion
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