The “ghetto girls” who stood up to the Nazis


The resistance of the Jewish population against Nazi persecution was a minority and not very relevant in military terms, but it did exist. It obtained modest results compared to other opposition movements, although very commendable if we take into account the confinement it suffered, its derisory weapons capacity and the economic and emotional wear and tear it suffered, after years of exploitation and humiliation.

It was an enormously unequal combat, a desperate fight, carried out mostly by young people who refused to lose their dignity and hope for the future, who refused to go to the extermination camps – in a metaphor that would become a motto for the resistant–“like sheep to the slaughter.”

Gusta Davidson (left) and Minka Liebeskind at a summer camp in Akiva, 1938. The two became members of the resistance movement in the Warsaw ghetto.

Gusta Davidson (left) and Minka Liebeskind at a summer camp in Akiva, 1938. The two became members of the resistance movement in the Warsaw ghetto.

EDITORIAL / Other Sources

Dozens of women participated in these resistance movements. Most were messengers. Girls who used their non-Semitic features and their feminine condition (men were betrayed by circumcision) to carry out dangerous missions in and out of the ghettos, transporting weapons, money or false documents.

They also acted as spies, liaisons, smugglers, directing clandestine printing presses, sabotaging infrastructures, fighting armed forces on the streets… Almost all of them lost their lives, and the few that survived, for one reason or another (explained very well in the book) , they were forgotten.

Teenager in Poland

Daughters of the Resistance brings to light the exploits of some of these women. Its author, Judy Batalion, a Canadian historian descended from Polish Jewish survivors, has carried out a detailed investigation, extraordinarily documented, on the activity of these fighters.

Through the leading role of Renia Kukielka, a Polish teenager whose life as a resistance fighter and survivor of the Holocaust serves as an example of the life experience of many of these young women, the book offers a gripping chronicle of the subversive activities carried out by the Jewish resistance in Poland.

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Kukielka is joined by many other voices, testimonies of women who fought against the Nazis in various ways (from healing wounded partisans to shooting German officers in the head, disguised as innocent Slavic peasants), until they form a story that questions the myth of the passivity of the Jews in the face of the Holocaust. Some exciting and terrible stories that will be brought to the cinema by Steven Spielberg, with a script by Batalion itself.

Daughters of the Resistance

Judy Battalion

Barcelona: Seix Barral, 2022. 696 pp. €24 (paper) €9.99 (digital)

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