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June 24: The Infiltrator

Jan Karski, a non-Jewish Polish resistance fighter against Nazism who in 1942 infiltrated both the Warsaw Ghetto (twice) and a transit camp near the Bełżec death camp and reported the information he gathered to the Polish government-in-exile as well as the British and American governments, was born in Lodz on this date 1914. Karski was […]

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Saving Children in Buchenwald

Saved by the German Leftwing Underground, as Recounted by a Jewish Survivor by John Ranz From the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” Originally published in 1993. THERE IS A LARGELY UNWRITTEN STORY, known to Buchenwald survivors like me, that needs to be told. It is the […]

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The Little Doctor: A Resistance Hero in Poland

by Leonard Tushnet From the Autumn 2015 special issue of Jewish Currents on the theme, “Honoring the Jewish Resistance.” Originally published in 1961. JEWISH DOCTORS, distinguished in every branch of medicine, have not had a reputation as military leaders or organizers. Yet almost all the doctors in the Polish resistance movement were Jewish — and […]

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April 27: Poet of the Vilna Underground

A leftwing Yiddish poet who served as leader of Young Vilna, a literary circle that include Avrom Sutzkever and Chaim Grade, Shmerke Kaczerginski died in a plane crash on this date in 1954, age 45. Confined by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators to the Vilna Ghetto in 1942, Kaczerginski immediately joined the Jewish resistance, […]

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October 26: While Messiah Tarried

An historian of the Holocaust and of the Jewish Left, Nora Levin died at 73 on this date in 1989. Her books were The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945 (1968); While Messiah Tarried: Jewish Socialist Movements, 1871-1917  (1977); and The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917: Paradox of Survival (two volumes, 1989). […]

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July 3: Organizing Soviet Partisans

On this date in 1941, only days after Nazi Germany invaded the USSR and the lands it dominated, Joseph Stalin called for the formation of Soviet partisan units that would undermine the Nazi war effort. By late August, there were some 230 partisan units active in Byelorussia, with about 5,000 fighters, according to Yad Vashem’s […]

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Barbez’ “Bella Ciao” — and a Few Words about Lou Reed

by Jacob L. Perl “Bella Ciao,” Barbez’s second release on the radical Jewish Culture Series of John Zorn’s Tzadik label, draws from Roman Jewish religious melodies and centers around the Italian partisan resistance to the fascists. The album features readings in English translation of poems by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfonso Gatto, poets who spoke […]

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January 15: The Mountaineer

Maurice Herzog, who led the first expedition to scale a mountain higher than 26,000 feet — Annapurna I, a Himalayan peak that is the 10th-highest mountain in the world — was born in Lyon, France on this date in 1919. The mountain was reconnoitered and climbed all within one season, in the summer of 1950, […]

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September 25: Uncle Misha’s Partisans

Anticipating the liquidation of their ghetto in Korets, Ukraine, which had already suffered the execution of 2,000, sixteen Jews led by Moshe Gildenman and his son Simkha escaped to the woods on this date in 1942, armed only with two guns and a butcher knife. To build an arsenal, they ambushed and attacked a unit […]

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