Review Blog

Oct 02 2012

Beyond courage: The untold story of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport

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Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN 9780763629762.
(Age: 14+) Doreen Rappaport's themes are resistance and survival. Despite her Jewish upbringing and numerous books and films about the Holocaust, she felt that her knowledge of the subject was limited and embarked on years of research. The result may surprise those who assume that there is nothing new to say about this event.
The structure of the book emphasises the immense scope of the tragedy by relating stories of young people across Europe who resisted entrapment, and by leaving accounts of those in concentration camps until last. Each section begins with an explanation of one of the machineries of genocide, from the introduction of discriminatory laws to the confinement and murder of Jews in ghettoes and camps. The narrative ranges from dramatic escapes to determined attempts to maintain meaningful lives in desperate situations. Equally moving, are accounts of non-Jewish people who were also targeted for elimination and forced labour, or who risked their own lives to save the lives of others.
Readers are taken into the experiences of people whose names and photographs personalise the statistics. The author's focus on courage ensures that her grim subject matter is also inspiring.
The extensive bibliography and meticulously recorded source notes are the hallmark of an accomplished historian but the sub-title threatens the book's credibility. Although some previously unpublished oral histories have been included, calling the whole book 'the untold story' overlooks long standing records of Jewish resistance. The author's principal premise that Jews did not go 'like sheep to the slaughter', remains an important issue. However, over sixty years and several more genocides later, her stories also highlight the terrible dilemmas which confront everyone living under repressive, totalitarian regimes as well as humanity's failure to learn from history. &
Beyond courage has been written in an accessible narrative style by an award winning author who understands the raw power of documentation and personal testimony. Readers can ponder for themselves, the insights gained from the events it chronicles.
Elizabeth Bor

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