“For six years, I have lived with the people – and countless stories of resistance, courage and survival – you will meet in Beyond Courage.”
The nightmare that turned into the Holocaust began in Germany. Under Adolf Hitler’s rule, the Nazis initiated the Final Solution, a policy aimed at annihilation of all Jewish men, women, and children in Europe. Under this policy, the Germans and their Axis partners caused the deaths of as many as six million Jews. During World War II, the Germans and their Axis allies also killed between 1960,000 and 220,000 Roma and Sinti (Gypsies) and millions of other civilians.
When I first began researching my book, the only examples I knew of Jewish resistance came from popular books and movies, and were limited to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the escape from the Sobibor death camp. And still I did not know the real or complete stories behind those two extraordinary events. Even as a Jew, growing up in a Jewish household, I had only every heard that “Jews went like lambs to the slaughter” during the war.
Researching my book, I learned that the truth was quite different.From the beginning of Hitler’s ascent in Germany and all through the war, Jews resisted the Nazis with uprisings and escapes and rebellions. But resistance is not defined just by dramatic, militant events. Jews refused to renounce their religion and celebrated their holidays in secret, improvising essential ritual objects. They set up Secret Schools, giving their children hope for the future.
Perhaps Eta Wrobel, a Jewish partisan said it best:
“The biggest resistance we could have done to the Germans was to have survived.”
The stories of Jewish resisters during the Holocaust – many of them teenagers or young adults – have become a seed in me that keeps growing. I will continue my journey and I invite you to consider traveling with me as we add more stories to this website; to take the first step in your own journey of discovery, exploration and remembrance.
“Rappaport, who has a long history of writing books . . . about justice and injustice in such arenas as the civil rights movement and women’s history, has written the kind of narrative that can change readers’ perceptions; her commitment to recovering stories of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust is not only powerful but also historically significant. By gathering and carefully organizing accounts from throughout the Nazi era, she is able to relate the entire tragedy and at the same time to challenge us to see it anew: instead of the inexorable slide into death, we witness the choice to fight.
At each beat of the familiar story of extermination, she finds examples of almost inconceivable courage, and actual success in resisting the Nazis. Rappaport’s devotion to uncovering these instances, whether issuing from academic papers, museums, interviews or memoirs, and her care with narrative structure, locating the rare archival images and using them generously throughout, is truly magnificent. On each page you sense that it meant everything to her to track down the truth and get it exactly right… Her book belongs in every library and home where we ask young people to learn about historical change.” — The New York Times
The very model of excellence in nonfiction… Thorough, deeply researched and stylistically clear, this is a necessary, exemplary book.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Rappaport’s engrossing storytelling will entice many teens to read cover-to-cover Consider this a required purchase.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review, November, 2012)
“The emotional immediacy of the subject matter combined with Rappaport’s clear prose and excellent design layout incorporating poetry, photography, maps, artifacts and songs, all combine to make this an extraordinary effort.” — Shelf Awareness (starred review, September 2012)
“In a thoroughly researched project far more ambitious and expansive than her acclaimed picture-book nonfiction, Rappaport has assembled more than 20 stories of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, some never before told. From all corners of Nazi-occupied Europe, these harrowing accounts are heart-wrenching and hopeful as they pay tribute to the brave thousands who defied their oppressors in ways large and small. These true stories honor the incredible human spirit in the face of unimaginable suffering and torment.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“It’s a rigorously reported yet fluidly written look at Jews from various countries and backgrounds who fought back against the Nazis in different ways. Rappaport breaks new research ground; some of the stories in this book have never been reported before. This book has rightly gotten starred reviews from every review outlet that bestows stars; it’s a vital contribution to Holocaust literature as well as a very gripping book.” — Tablet Magazine
“This well-written and affecting volume is an excellent example of a history title with wide appeal. It belongs in every middle and high school library.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
“Doreen Rappaport has unearthed remarkable stories of Jews (and Gentiles) who saw what was happening and engaged in harrowing attempts to thwart the Nazi project. Beyond Courage is beautifully designed and a sobering, bittersweet read.” — The Wall Street Journal
“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 not-too-distant past.” — Jewish Book World Magazine
“An important addition to the Holocaust curriculum.” — Booklist (starred review)
“An amazing book.” — Jewish Image Magazine (starred review)
“A riveting collection of vignettes about Jewish heroism and resistance in the Holocaust, BEYOND COURAGE will surely engage and inspire young adults and will challenge misconceptions held by many.” –Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
- Sydney Taylor Silver Award for Teen Readers, Association of Jewish Libraries
- Orbis Pictus Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children, Recommended Book, NCTE (national Council of Teachers of English)
- 2013 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Non fiction, 2013 Bank Street Children’s Book Committee
- ALA Notable Book for Older Readers
- Capitol Choices 2013 list of Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens.
- Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2013, a cooperative project of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and the Children’s Book Council
- Core Collections Star title, EBSCO Publishing. Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012
- Booklist Top Ten Religion Books 2012
- The Washington Post Book World Best Kids Books 2012
- Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2012
- The New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2012
- Tablet Magazine Best Jewish Children’s Book of 2012
- Book Links “Lasting Connections” Winner
- ALSC Notable Children’s Book
- VOYA Nonfiction Honor List
- Arkansas Teen Book Awards Reading List for Young Adults
- Oregon Reader’s Choice Nominee
Meet the people in Beyond Courage
A Conversation Between Author Doreen Rappaport and Holocaust Survivor Jack Kagan
One of the stories in Beyond Courage centers around Idel (Jack) Kagan, a Polish Jew who helped dig a tunnel to freedom out of the Novogrudok labor camp. It wasn’t just the tunnel escape that astounded me. It was Jack’s courage and persistence at such a young age. He was fourteen years old and had already tried to escape once before. The outcome of that first attempt was frostbite and the amputation of his toes …
Read more (download pdf)
Keeping One’s Faith –
A Conversation Between Author Doreen Rappaport and Holocaust Survivor Israel Cohen
When Passover came, I was determined not to eat any bread. My friend Yossel told me that I was too weak and sick to forgo my bread even for a day. But on the first night of Passover, I didn’t eat anything but the soup. When the lights went out at night, Yossel and I recited the parts of the Haggadah we remembered. Read more (download pdf)
Marianne Cohn: Uncovering a Life
My journey learning about twenty-two-year-old Marianne Cohn, who smuggled Jewish
children from occupied France to safety in Switzerland and lost her life doing so, began with three pages in a book. The book, Jewish Resistance in France, 1940–1944, was written by Anny Latour, herself a French Jewish resister. I immediately knew that this young woman, Marianne Cohn, was an example of the people I write about — “the extraordinary ordinary people” who find themselves at a particular moment in history and assume a mantle of responsibility and danger they never imagined for themselves. Read More (download pdf)
Holocaust Studies & Resources
Click below and hear Doreen Rappaport shares some of the backstory for creating her book, Beyond Courage:
From the Author’s Bibliography
Thousands of books, articles, and memoirs have been written about the Holocaust. Historians have studied court records, diaries, memoirs, newspapers, and documents and have interviewed Jew who survived the events. Many professional historians are survivors who have dedicated their lives to documenting their experiences and the experiences of others during this horrific time. My book – and all Holocaust research – is indebted to their meticulous scholarship and their courage and commitment to sharing their painful experiences with all of use.
Museums, libraries, universities, historical organizations, and Jewish organizations have put on the Internet important information no available in books. Here I discovered memoirs of people mentioned in books, lists of survivors of concentration camps and uprisings, maps, photographs, and video interviews.
I am sharing a list of websites here and hope they will send you on your own paths of discovery.
Diaries and Memoirs of the Holocaust
Many of the books I read are out of print and can be found primarily in research libraries.
However, extraordinary books have been written in diary and memoir form by those who
experienced the Holocaust.
“Why did I write it?” asks Elie Wiesel in the Preface to Night the first of his works.
Because “having survived, I needed to give some meaning to my survival,” he wrote in the book.
Like the others listed here, Elie Wiesel’s book is about “bearing witness.”
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. New York: Pocket Books, 1953.
Greene, Joshua M. and Shiva Kumar. Witness: Voice from the Holocaust. New York: Touchstone, 2000.
Kagan, Jack and Dov Cohen. Surviving the Holocaust with the Russian Jewish Partisans. London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1998.
Klein, Gerda Weissmann. All But My Life. New York: Hill and Wang, 1971.
Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. New York: Collier Books, 1961.
Leitner, Isabella. Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of Auschwitz. New York: Dell, 1983.
Sachs, Nelly. The Chimneys: Selected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. (Originally published in French, 1958), New York, Hill & Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
*Additional resources will be added on a regular basis.
As you move through the year, you can refer to this Resistance Calendar and feature one of the stories in the book that takes place during that month. You will notice that certain dates are exact; others list only the month, because historians have been unable so far to pinpoint their exact dates. We will be adding to this calendar during the year.
- January 30, 1943: Ernst Fontheim goes underground in Berlin.
- January 1944: Sarika Yehoshua organizes her all-girl partisan unit.
- February 11, 1941: Jewish youths in Amsterdam attack pro-Nazi sympathizers.
- March 17, 1944: One hundred Jews escape from the Koldichevo labor camp.
- April 19, 1943: Three resisters stop the 20th transport from Brussels to Auschwitz.
- April 19, 1943: Warsaw’s Jews begin their twenty-seven-day uprising.
- May 18, 1942: Resisters attack the Soviet Paradise exhibit.
- May 20, 1943: Jewish partisans rescue fifteen girls from the Convent of the Nursing Sisters of the Blessed Sacred Heart in Brussels.
- June 1944: Marianne Cohn writes her poem of defiance, “I Will Betray Tomorrow, Not Today.”
- July 1942: The CDJ (Jewish Defense Committee) is organized. It begins activities in September 1942.
- July 1943: Vitka Kempner and two compatriots blow up a German troop train
- August 1943: Seven hundred members of the Bielski encampment evade German forces.
- September 26, 1943: Two hundred fifty Jews escape from the Novogrudok labor camp.
- October 14, 1943: More than three hundred sixty-five Jews rose up and attempted escape from the Sobibor death camp.
- October 7, 1944: Sonderkommandos blow up Crematorium 4 in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
- November 10, 1938: David Zwingermann and Horst LÖwenstein rescue twelve undamaged Torah scrolls.
- December 18, 1942: The boys in Theresienstadt’s Home One inaugurate their secret magazine, Vedem.
- December 1944: Israel Cohen observes Hanukkah in Kaufering IV labor camp.
Beyond Courage – Websites
CANDLEWICK PRESS TEACHER GUIDES