A gripping memoir from an Eastern European Jew who fought in the French Resistance.
Born in 1921, Rosenberg, who has received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star from the U.S. Army for his service in World War II, thrived within a loving Polish family into his teenage years. His residence in Danzig meant immersion in both Polish and German culture, and his parents believed that Danzig’s well-integrated Jewish population would escape the rise of Hitler and his Nazi supporters. When that optimism began to crumble, the 16-year-old Rosenberg departed Danzig to study in Paris. (Nobody knew then that most of his relatives would be slaughtered in the Holocaust. Rosenberg’s parents and sister survived, but the author would be separated from them until 1952.) The German invasion of France interrupted Rosenberg’s studies. On his own, with dwindling cash, he decided against trying to flee the Nazi juggernaut. Instead, he found a path to joining the underground resistance against the Nazis, centered in occupied France and comprised of fighters from a variety of backgrounds, including expatriate Americans. Rosenberg offered special value as a Resistance guerrilla for multiple reasons: Given his blond hair and other physical features, he did not “look Jewish.” His baby face meant that he could easily pass as a schoolboy. He spoke Polish, German, Yiddish, and English. He could subsist on meager resources during wartime hardships. He welcomed all assignments offered by Resistance commanders, and he was fearless. The narrative unfolds chronologically, in semi-diary format, and while readers will know, of course, that Rosenberg avoided death, the narrative tension is continuous, as the author recalls imprisonments, escapes from confinement, and successful missions against the Nazis. The author’s writing style is crystal-clear and understated, as he wisely allows the drama to unfold from the events themselves. As the war wound down, Rosenberg was unsure about his future. Eventually, he settled in the U.S. and has taught language and literature for 70 years.
A welcome addition to the World War II memoir shelf.