The Light of Days by Judy Batalion

The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos by Judith Batalion; New York, NY : William Morrow, [2020].

Published in April of last year, The Light of Days was an instant New York Times bestseller which follows a collection of unbelievably brave and cunning Jewish heroines that did their absolute best to outsmart, disrupt, and even assassinate members of the Nazi presence occupying the streets of Poland during the Holocaust. The book was written by Jewish author and Harvard graduate Judy Batalion, who hails from Montreal, Canada. She’s written essays and articles for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vogue, the Forward, Salon, the Jerusalem Post and many more publications.

The Holocaust, a.k.a. the Shoah, was the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and collaborators systematically murdered at least six million Jewish people across German-occupied Europe, killing two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. These murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by extermination through slave labor in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.

After bearing witness to the senseless murder of their own families, friends, and neighbors during the violent destruction of their communities, a group of Polish Jewish women, including adults and teenagers, sought to change Jewish youth groups into resistance cells in order to bring the fight to the Nazi invaders. Wielding courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers within loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They’d flirt with German soldiers, bribe them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, use their “Aryan” looks to seduce them, and shoot them dead. They even bombed German train lines plus one town’s water supply while also managing to nurse the sick, teach kids, and hide families. But heroism often comes with tragedy in tow, and like many during the Holocaust, some of these brave women suffered terrible fates at the hands of their Nazi enemies, which I feel makes it all the more important for their heroic spirit to be immortalized in print.

Mrs. Batalion writes with a passionate mix of pride for these heroes of the past among her people and rage for the Nazi monsters that necessitated their heroism. Her writing style is quite vibrant and engaging, pulling the reader into the raw emotion of these long past events. She makes it difficult for you to not feel that very same pride and rage alongside these women from the past, who through their cunning and daring, refused to be mere victims to their genocidal oppressors.

Judy Batalion currently lives with her husband and three children in New York City. You can learn more about her and her written works on her website: judybatalion.com. We here at Alamance County Public Libraries carry The Light of Days in Print, Large Print, eBook and eAudiobook form, so you have many pathways to reading this wonderfully written book!

Donavon Anderson is a reference library assistant at May Memorial Library. He can be reached danderson@alamancelibraries.org.