December 15th, 2020

Me 2

The Avengers

The Avengers: A Jewish War StoryThe Avengers: A Jewish War Story by Rich Cohen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read and enjoyed Rich Cohen's "The Last Pirate of New York." I saw the description of this (earlier) book and decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed it.

The Avengers of the title were a trio of Lithuanian Jews, one of whom was his grandmother's niece. They were living in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, when WWII broke out, and the trio, teenagers, were caught up in events. They quickly signed up for the local resistance, and were among the last people to get clear of the Vilnius ghetto when the Germans liquidated it.

They spent a year in the forests of Lithuania killing Germans and Lithuanian collaborators, then migrated to Israel. In Israel, one of the trio, Abba Kovner, became a key staff officer in the 1947 Israeli Army. The author met the trio when he was 10, a story he tells in the book's prologue.

The Gerrib family, (not Jewish) is from Lithuania and a few years back I visited the country. I unknowingly traipsed over some of the sites mentioned in the book.

I found the book very interesting and emotional. One gets the story of the Jews of Europe dying nobly. Here one gets the other side of the story, of them fighting to the grave. Also here, one gets an understanding of the Jews who didn't fight and why. I have a couple of quibbles with the book; namely maps would have been helpful and I think the author by relying on oral history gets some military terminology wrong. However, I found the book highly readable and I recommend it greatly.

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