A few years ago, I spent my days delving into accounts written by Nazi resisters of all stripes. Some of them were women, most of them were young, and all of them were willing to risk their lives to stop the oppression and hate that were slithering across the European continent. It’s also safe to say they were all put into positions where they were forced to be resilient.
Sometimes these fighters drew strength from their faith in the cause, or their faith in a higher power that would guide them when things got tough. Other times, these men and women were empowered by the knowledge that they were not alone, that others were suffering alongside them and they, too, shared their beliefs.
And then there’s 98-year-old Justus Rosenberg, who chalked his resilience up to a confluence of circumstances that allowed him to keep going when times got hard.
With The Art of Resistance (William Morrow), Rosenberg offers a poignant account of his time as a young resister in France during World War II. Born in Danzig to Jewish parents, Rosenberg recounts his early memories of Nazis coming through his town, tormenting and insulting local Jewish residents and businesspeople. Upset, one day Rosenberg tells his father about what he’s witnessed in town, to which his father counsels him not to be concerned because “that’s what they want probably.” Once his father realizes how dire the situation has become, he and his wife decide to send Justus to France for his own safety, and for one of the best possible educations he could get in Europe. In turn, they would do what they can to get to Palestine. Once Rosenberg is nestled in Paris studying literature, the Nazis launched their war on the continent. Rosenberg, like so many other young and idealistic students of the time, decides that he must “do something” to fight this and he embarks on a daring four years as a courier, a cog in the wheel of the American Emergency Rescue Committee (which ferried several prominent Jewish artists to safety), a recruiter, an intelligence officer, and then a warrior in the ragtag maquisards, so named for the scrub in which they hid. He says he survived due to luck, an ability to detect danger, his skills learned as a guerrilla fighter, and the appearance of the right people at the right time.
Rosenberg’s story is compelling and important, especially in a tumultuous time like ours when there is hatred, intolerance and a lust for unchecked power. Then as now, as long as these things exist, there will be heroes, and Rosenberg is certainly one of them as readers will see in this engaging book.
Netgalley provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion.
Tagged: france, french resistance, maquis, memoir, resilience, resistance, william morrow, world war 2