In 1944, a band of Jewish guerrillas emerged from the forest to join the Russian army in its attack on Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. They were headed by Abba Kovner, a charismatic young poet and Zionist leader. His chief lieutenants were two teenage girls, Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak. Each night, the three of them shared a bed, but what they found was more than temporary solace - it was a great love affair. In the last terrifying days of the war - with the extent of the Holocaust still not widely known - they hatched a plan for retaliation. Before it was over, they would have smuggled enough poison into Nuremberg to kill 10,000 Nazis. The Avengers tells what happened to these rebels, how they took revenge, and how in fighting for the state of Israel they moved beyond the violence of the Holocaust and made new lives. This is one of the last great untold stories of World War II.
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Rich Cohen, author of Tough Jews, has written what he calls "a Holocaust story without a concentration camp" about Jewish resistance fighters during World War II. The Avengers: A Jewish War Story describes how three young Jews--Cohen's cousin Ruzka Korczak, her friend Abba Kovner, and Kovner's future wife Vitka Klemperer--created an armed, underground movement behind the German lines in Poland with the goal of sabotaging the Nazis and helping the Russians advance. Cohen reports that Kovner described the group's dilemma this way: "If we act cowardly, we die; if we act courageously, we die. So we might as well act courageously." The group's fighting outlasted the war to exact revenge on the Nazis held in Nuremberg and finally to fight for Israel in the 1948 War for Independence. Researching The Avengers, Cohen spent time with the surviving resistance fighters in Israel and in Eastern Europe. The result is a deeply personal and impassioned defense of a movement that some readers will view with pride and others will condemn as vigilantism. This book, like Tough Jews, is a lively, intelligent, and heartfelt work of Jewish history. --Michael Joseph GrossFrom the Publisher:
"The story of the Jewish partisan fighters in World War II is not only fascinating, it is vital information for anyone trying to think about this nightmare century. Rich Cohen writes of the partisan Abba Kovner and his comrades with skill, passion, sensitivity, and great sustaining hope."
-- Ian Frazier
"A remarkable story by a remarkable writer. This is one of the great books about a period of time that never goes out of our consciousness. A terrific read. I love this book."
-- Larry King
"The Avengers tells a story that's never been told before, and tells it with a hallucinatory clarity. Rich Cohen has refuted forever Hannah Arendt's thesis that the Jews of Europe went quietly to their deaths. This is one of the most stirring books I have ever read."
-- James Atlas
"In period-perfect detail, Cohen portrays...the riveting story of the Avengers' escape from the ghetto, their acceptance of a renegade German officer who hated his army and their eventual emigration to Palestine. Cohen delivers a compelling story that not only amplifies the accepted version of Jewish experience in the Second World War, but also provides a terrific narrative of courage and tenacity."
-- Publishers Weekly
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