The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos
In Conversation with Dr. Catherine M. Lewis, Exec. Director, Museum of History and Holocaust Education and Professor of History, Kennesaw State University
One of the most important stories of World War II: A spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of the brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters, a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled
The Light of Days has been optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture
“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.’ ”
Of the legions of stories of World War II and the Holocaust that shape our understanding of those history-changing events, one of the most extraordinary has remained hidden until now: the daring resistance efforts of Jewish women in the ghettos of the Nazi occupation. In The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, Judy Batalion shares the acts of defiance and rebellion of women who saw and acknowledged the truth of their time, worked together, and risked their lives in the fight for justice and liberty. The Light of Days is a meticulously researched and grippingly told David-and-Goliath history that sheds light on the invaluable role these unsung heroines played in fighting against and surviving Hitler’s Final Solution.
Batalion first learned of the “ghetto girls” and their achievements when she stumbled upon a Yiddish-language memoir in the British Library more than a decade ago. Delving deeply into myriad Jewish archives and making numerous research trips to Poland and Israel, she painstakingly uncovered their stories through long-overlooked memoirs as well as other surviving documents and personal interviews with their families. The rebellious acts Batalion discovered ran the gamut from spontaneous, simple acts of defiance to complex, planned initiatives. The ghetto girls tricked the Gestapo into carrying their luggage filled with contraband, hid revolvers in teddy bears, flung Molotov cocktails, and bombed German train lines. They flirted with Nazis; bought them off with wine, whiskey, and pastry; and then shot and killed them.
Batalion shares the hope and daring of these remarkable women, focusing on Renia Kukielka, a young Jewish woman who disguised herself as a Catholic girl and broke through ghetto borders with weapons and cash strapped to her torso. She smuggled sick youth, planned rescue operations, and masterminded her own escape from a Gestapo prison. She lived to 90, known by friends and family for her sense of humor, her love of fashion, and her kindness.
A gripping, poignant tale of extraordinary female agency, The Light of Days reminds us of the importance of recognizing the control we have over our own selves even during the darkest times.
Judy Batalion is the author of White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood and the Mess in Between. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Forward, Vogue, and many other publications. Judy has a BA in the History of Science from Harvard, and a PhD in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute, University of London, and has worked as a museum curator and university lecturer. Born in Montreal, where she grew up speaking English, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish, she now lives in New York with her husband and three children.