Review of The Light of Days by Judy Batalion

Author Judy Batalion grew up in Canada and was educated in northeastern United States, but it wasn’t until she was living and working in London that she felt a pervasive rejection of her Jewish-ness. Her ethnicity and religion seemed offensive to those around her.

This set Batalion on a research quest to discover strong Jewish female role models. She stumbled across a book in Yiddish about Jewish women resistance workers in Poland during World War II. Some of the women actually fought alongside their male counterparts with guns, knives, and any other weapon they could obtain or make. They helped to organize and carry out the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Some of these brave women naturally ascended to strategic and leadership positions in these underground cells, but the majority worked as curriers. This was possible especially if their looks did not betray their ethnicity. The women were better suited for this role than men, who were often challenged to prove they weren’t Jewish by revealing a lack of circumcision.

Jewish males were frequently given the costly traditional Hebrew education, while girls were publicly schooled with Catholic and Christian girls. This helped the Jewish girls more easily assimilate into society as a non-Jew, having already experienced the culture and customs of non-Jews.

Even so it was dangerous work, and many died when their true identity was discovered. Some were shot or hung. Others perished in work camps or extermination camps. Torture of political prisoners was especially brutal.

This can be a hard book to read – emotionally – especially with the backdrop of America’s current upheaval. It isn’t easy to read about murder, starvation, betrayal, rape, brutality, torture, and the unabashed evil that perpetuated it. Sometimes hard truths have to be taken in smaller bites. I consumed this book in three-days-time and it has affected me powerfully.

Thanks to NetGalley for an audio ARC of The Light of Days for review.

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