Bart sets the personal story of his parents’ involvement in the Lithuanian anti-Nazi resistance against a broad historical backdrop.
Leizer and Zenia Bart rarely discussed their years in the Vilna ghetto or in the Rudnicki forest with a group of Jewish partisans; it was only after Leizer died in 1996 that their son began serious research into their story. (Zenia’s memory was failing, an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, which lead to her death in 2002.) With coauthor Corona (English and Humanities/San Diego City Coll.), Bart has crafted a text that is evocative but never mawkish. Much of the book has an intimate tone, yet the authors also provide scholarly material on key players in the Lithuanian and Nazi regimes that enables readers to place the couple’s experiences in context. Close relatives of both Barts had been injured and/or killed by the Nazis, and they themselves were beaten. The descriptions of those incidents and the conditions that Jews faced in the early ’40s make up the bulk of the narrative. It takes some time to get to the book’s high point—the resistance—but it’s there that it becomes much more exciting. Leizer and Zenia felt a moral obligation to join the partisans, though they knew they risked their lives. Even the path that led them to the Freedom Fighters of Nekamah was fraught with peril: “The stench of ammonia and sulfur slammed into their nostrils as they reached the bottom of the ladder. They had to feel for the opening to the narrow, ten-foot-long tunnel leading to the main collector pipe, then tuck their heads and shoulders in and begin to crawl.” The Barts and their comrades were involved in an array of violent activities, including teaming with Soviet troops to destroy a village whose residents had collaborated with Nazis.
Appeals equally to the head and the heart—should be of interest to both academic and general readers.