In the course of growing up in a Jewish home, Doreen Rappaport repeatedly heard that during the Holocaust “Jews went like lambs to the slaughter.” Her book, Beyond Courage, is based on six years of extensive research and aims to prove otherwise, over and over again. “Jews resisted Nazis with uprisings and escapes and rebellions,” she notes in her introduction. “But resistance is not defined just by dramatic, militant events like these.”
Her book documents some of those resistance stories in writing that is clear, eloquent and honest. The stories introduce us to individual resisters by placing us in the context of each life and allowing us to see the unfolding events through their eyes. Rappaport describes Walter Suskind, 36, and how his fluent German allowed him to ingratiate himself with a Nazi commander and spend hours with him drinking gin and telling jokes. As the commander became distracted, another member of the Jewish underground rearranged file cards to make Jewish children disappear from the records. “Suskind was aware that most Jews did not understand why he was so friendly with a Nazi and even believed he was a collaborator. Nevertheless, he kept up the pretense because it was essential to the success of the rescue operation,” Rappaport writes.
Beyond Courage is full of the kinds of stories that give you gooseflesh and Rappaport presents the faces of many of individuals involved in various forms of resistance. What is striking about their images is that, apart from the dated attire, they look just like you and me —a reminder that tremendous acts of courage were carried out by ordinary people who took a stand under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Rappaport is to be commended on a book devoted purely to those acts of courage, recognizing and remembering the Jewish heroes of our no-too-distant past.
- Doreen Rappaport Speaks on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Michal Hoschander Malen)