The Light of Days Young Read­ers’ Edi­tion: The Untold Sto­ry of Women Resis­tance Fight­ers in Hitler’s Ghettos

June 29, 2019

This book tells the true sto­ry of the strong Jew­ish women who resist­ed the Nazi regime in Poland dur­ing the height of World War II, adapt­ed for young readers.

After wit­ness­ing the destruc­tion of their com­mu­ni­ties, a group of young Jew­ish women, some in their teens, began trans­form­ing Jew­ish youth groups into resis­tance cells. At the cen­ter of the book is Renia Kukiel­ka, a weapons smug­gler and mes­sen­ger, but it also focus­es on oth­er ghet­to girls,” who built sys­tems of under­ground bunkers, hid guns and ammu­ni­tion in loaves of bread, and bombed Ger­man train lines. The women were armed fight­ers, spies, and sabo­teurs. Read­ers will fol­low the women through arrests, intern­ment, and even a lucky few into the late twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and beyond.

The sto­ries of Jew­ish women who fought the Nazis are vir­tu­al­ly unknown, even with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, and the role of women in resis­tance groups is still wide­ly under­re­port­ed. This book also includes an eight-page insert of black-and-white pho­tographs so read­ers can see the brave women they’re read­ing about.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of HarperCollins

  1. How sig­nif­i­cant was it that Renia was born into a mid­dle-class Jew­ish fam­i­ly that pri­or­i­tized edu­ca­tion (3)? What advan­tages did this offer her?

  2. Why did the Kukieł­ka fam­i­ly decide to move to Chmiel­nik (8)? Why return to Jędrze­jów to set­tle under Ger­man rule, instead of press­ing for­ward to free­dom (11)?

  3. Frum­ka and Zivia shift­ed their focus from help­ing only Free­dom mem­bers to help­ing all Jews (17). Why was this impor­tant, and did it align with Freedom’s values?

  4. Why would the Nazis pit Jew against Jew by cre­at­ing the Juden­rats” (18)? What did the Jew­ish peo­ple who were select­ed as Juden­rat offi­cials hope to achieve?

  5. Free­dom and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions pri­or­i­tized giv­ing War­saw ghet­to res­i­dents access to edu­ca­tion, sports oppor­tu­ni­ties, and the­atri­cal per­for­mances (30). Was this an act of resis­tance? Why, or why not?

  6. Why were books so impor­tant to Free­dom and sim­i­lar orga­ni­za­tions (31)? What was sig­nif­i­cant about the books and plays that Free­dom start­ed to print?

  7. What impact did the sto­ries about the Nazis’ behav­ior have on Jew­ish peo­ple liv­ing in the War­saw ghet­to (38)? How did those sto­ries lead to the estab­lish­ment of the Jew­ish Fight­ing Organization?

  8. Renia met escapees from a near­by vil­lage who were spared by a Nazi sol­dier after their moth­er hid them around the house (42). What rea­son did the Nazi sol­dier give for spar­ing their lives?

  9. The Nazis round­ed up the Jew­ish peo­ple of Będzin and tried to divide them into three lines, but the Jew­ish peo­ple fought back by cre­at­ing chaos (60). What were some of the oth­er things that the Jews of Będzin did to pre­vent the Nazis from tak­ing peo­ple dur­ing the selec­tion? Did their actions help save lives?

  10. There were sev­er­al aspects to Kraków’s Fight­ing Pio­neers” pledge (67). What were some of the ways that it addressed the many types of resistance?

  11. How did the upris­ing at the War­saw ghet­to that was led by the Jew­ish Fight­ing Orga­ni­za­tion (75), chal­lenge the Nazis’ per­spec­tive of the Jew­ish peo­ple? Why was the effort, which only last­ed a short time, con­sid­ered a success?

  12. Renia’s role as a kashar­it, or couri­er, meant that she was respon­si­ble for car­ry­ing news to dif­fer­ent cities (90). Why was Renia’s mis­sion of wit­ness­ing and report­ing the things that were hap­pen­ing to Jew­ish peo­ple so important?

  13. Like many of the women who fought in the resis­tance, Zivia felt a great deal of guilt for the com­rades that she wasn’t able to save (109). How did emo­tion­al trau­ma play a role in Zivia’s actions dur­ing the war, and how did it impact the rest of her life?

  14. The couri­ers were able to smug­gle weapons, bribe offi­cers, and meet secret con­tacts (116). How did they use their gen­der to avoid suspicion?

  15. Cha­j­ka befriend­ed Ger­man sol­diers in Będzin and told them about the hor­rif­ic things that were hap­pen­ing to the Jew­ish peo­ple (157). Why did she do that, and what impact did she hope to have?

  16. Bela and Lon­ka were able to recon­nect after they were both cap­tured and brought to the Paw­iak prison (170). Why was it dan­ger­ous for Jew­ish women to iden­ti­fy each oth­er when they were impris­oned in jails or at con­cen­tra­tion camps?

  17. Gus­ta wrote her mem­oirs using scraps of toi­let paper sewn togeth­er with thread (195). Was that an act of resis­tance? Why?

  18. Renia wor­ried that Jew­ish peo­ple in Pales­tine wouldn’t be able to under­stand what Euro­pean Jews went through in the Holo­caust (210). Why was this a con­cern? How did the lack of under­stand­ing impact the way the couri­ers and resis­tance fight­ers assim­i­lat­ed into the new land?

  19. How were the women like Faye Schul­man (218), who spoke pub­licly about their expe­ri­ences dur­ing the war, still par­tic­i­pat­ing in the resis­tance even after the war was over?

  20. What were some of the rea­sons that it was hard for women like Zivia (220) to adjust to post-war life?

  21. What was the brigade of The Avengers hop­ing to achieve by con­tin­u­ing their work after the war (233)?