Joanne D. Gilbert

Author | Educator | Speaker

Women of Valor – Book Reviews

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”1242″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Women of Valor – Book Reviews” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:28px|text_align:justify|color:%230000c0|line_height:34px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][vc_custom_heading text=”A Gift in the Telling!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]

This book packs volumes into its 180 pages, not only about four remarkable women but also about Jewish resistance to the Nazis and of Gentile support of many Jews during the second world war – something which is not always cast in a full and accurate light. Thousands of Polish Jews fought the Nazis with all their might, and thousands of Polish Gentiles risked their lives to give them sanctuary. Such Jews were the three young women and the pistol-packing little girl whose personal stories are told in these pages almost as if in their personal diaries.

Unlike so much of what has been written, photographed, exhibited, dramatized and otherwise depicted in a macro view of the Holocaust, Joanne Gilbert offers us first-person narratives of female Jews who fled the Nazis and fought back; who lost loved ones but never lost hope; who were often able to hook up with bands of courageous partisans in the forests and swamps; who were often taken in and fed by self-sacrificing Gentiles; who refused to succumb not only to the Nazis and rampant anti-Semitism but to starvation and the harsh elements of Polish winters, often without food, shelter and warm clothing… and often alone.

After the war, they found their way to America where they’ve raised families and led full and happy lives. On which note I like what Miriam (the little “pistol-packer”) had to say in concluding her story: “It is through [our descendants] that we can be assured that the Jewish people will endure and thrive…and continue the Jewish legacy of Tikkun [Olam] – healing the world.”

The book is beautifully written, researched and organized. Joanne Gilbert opens with a brief history of Poland and the Jewish people and concludes with an epilog on how Poland and Polish Jews have evolved since World War II. She speaks in the epilog of these four “women of valor” seeing themselves not as heroines but as “…just ordinary people who, when confronted with the senseless Nazi horror, just did the only thing that made sense: they did the right thing.”

A few years ago my wife and I traveled through the South in places like Selma, Atlanta and Philadelphia (Mississippi) where we sought out and met with participants in the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. In sharing with us their personal stories, I saw the Civil Rights movement in a new and more personal light, as if for the first time. I had a similar experience reading Women of Valor. I think others will feel the same way, for which reason I highly recommend it.

Nicholas A. Alter
Posted on Amazon

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Gripping and Inspiring” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]

Joanne D. Gilbert’s Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich . . . is a gripping and inspiring compilation of first-person accounts from four remarkable young women who, equipped with their intelligence and skills, as well as a significant amount of good luck, successfully defied the Nazi-Germans—and survived. Despite the heavy subject-matter, I was mesmerized, unable to put the book down until I had finished the Epilogue. While each account is both compelling and horrifying, they are not depressing, because they show that the women survived and went on to live normal lives.

The honesty, candor, and voice of each woman is clear, as is her need to finally share her experiences with the world, so that what she went through will never be forgotten. A volume such as this is particularly important in an age when many Holocaust survivors and resisters are losing their battle with time. In less than a generation, all that will remain of those who endured the Holocaust will be their words and other recorded memories. It is not only important to future generations that they learn about what happened during World War II, but also important to those who endured; the telling of these stories appears to be both healing and empowering to all. Faye Lazebnik Schulman, one of the resisters whose story is in this book, states, “This education is essential to preventing another Holocaust . . . And whenever possible, as long as I can speak – I will tell the story. To my dying breath . . . I will tell the story.” Gilbert has made these accounts, and their historical context, accessible to readers of all ages and levels of Shoah-related knowledge through detailed and extensive footnotes. Her Introduction also engages readers and encourages them to place themselves in the shoes of the women they will read about, asking them questions such as “Would you risk death to protect your loved ones?” and “Would you accept your fate?”. The accounts themselves are uninterrupted by commentary, but each woman is briefly introduced by Gilbert, and following the Epilogue there is a Reader-Discussion Guide that can help readers process what they have just read. The focus on women, especially those who survived the war as child or teenage partisans, should be especially appealing to readers as it offers a different perspective on the Shoah than has been presented before. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of what truly happened during World War II, and I look forward to Gilbert’s subsequent volumes detailing the experiences and actions of other Women of Valor in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Arielle Sokoll
Posted on Goodreads

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”A memorable and poignant read of Valor and survival” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]

I was born two years prior to America entering the hostilities of WWII and saw my father and uncles sent away to a world event that I could not understand. I just understood over those years that it was a dangerous conflict and there were cruel people trying to take over the world. All but one of my family returned safely. The one that did not was a US Navy pilot. So, my curiosity concerning that period has always been with me.

I have learned much from both historical fiction as well as memoirs and biographies. It was reasonable then, when attending a book signing event, to obtain a copy of what seemed like four short stories of historical significance, ‘Women of Valor’.

I knew, of course, about the Nazi evils and the pogroms against Jews and other groups. I also knew the worst of all the cruelty had taken place along the Eastern frontier. These things I knew in the abstract but I had never heard, or read, a personal account of any survivor who had actively resisted. Now I come upon a book of personal accounts – survivors of the resistance and they were young women!

Author, Joanne Gilbert has successfully captured the vivid trauma, loss, pain, fear, emotions, and bravery of four young (one being very young) Jewish women through actual interviews with these most amazing, now elderly, ladies.

Author Gilbert’s ability to bring out the details of the remembrances of these four women show a talent and empathy that makes for a first class and unique piece of the historical record.

She brings you the lives of Manya Feldman, Faye Schulman, Lola Lieber, and Miriam Brysk in such vivid detail that the reader stands beside them as they move through the forests of Poland with partisans and through the intrigues of the cities, the newly formed ghettos, and personal encounters with the German high command.

This book I highly recommend, as it is most difficult to put down once begun. I would not be surprised if these recounted stories were pick up by other media such as film. Valor and honor such as told in this book should be a part of every human’s consciousness.

George McLendon, Author of, “Papa’s Gift”
Posted on Amazon

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Excellent Stories of Four Remarkable Women” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]

These are stories that must be told and I am glad the Joanne Gilbert wrote this book. These women are remarkable, their stories have to be told and I’m glad that they finally were and that they could be an inspiration to others. In Chapter 5 “Lola Lieber” the way Joanne told her story was incredible. Lola Lieber was my Aunt. She is no longer with us, but her telling her story, brought my Aunt back to me, hearing her talk about her experience in World War II, it was as if she was here with me again. This book tells the stories of four truly remarkable women, their courage, their unselfishness and their love for G-d and their determination to carry on no matter what. These four women are true Heroines are would be great role models for any young women. I highly encourage this book to all women, young and old to read. You will never be bored reading this book and yes you will learn something from reading this book. It is an easy read and I would recommend this book also to any educators who are teaching studies about the Holocaust or History Classes. Along with this book, I would highly recommend another author: Ben Lesser, whose, “Living A Life That Matters. From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream,” (Edited by Joanne D. Gilbert) tells a true story about the Holocaust from and different perspective. Ben Lesser was a young boy when war broke out in Poland in 1939 and tells his saga. This book is easy to read, and also has a separate teacher’s guide along with a timeline in the book. These two books are highly recommended to all Holocaust Educators and any teacher who teaches World History.

I highly encourage this book to all women, young and old to read. You will never be bored reading this book and yes you will learn something from reading this book. It is an easy read and I would recommend this book also to any educators who are teaching studies about the Holocaust or History Classes. Along with this book, I would highly recommend another author: Ben Lesser “Living A Life That Matters. From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream.” This book also tells a true story about the Holocaust from and different perspective. Author Ben Lesser was a young boy when war broke out in Poland in 1939 and tells his saga. This book is easy to read, and also has a separate teacher’s guide along with a timeline in the book. These two books are highly recommended to all Holocaust Educators and any teacher who teaches World History.

Sherry M. Kramer
Posted on Amazon

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Much more than knowledgeable” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]As a historian, Gilbert is well-versed with the Holocaust, much more than knowledgeable, and her opening chapters that set the scene in Poland are very well done, detailed and informative. One can argue that this book could be used in a course on women’s studies, for it has much to say about gender and gender roles.

Ms. Gilbert has three overarching themes, which I will sum up as that Gentiles and Jews did help one another and that this was not uncommon; that shared miseries crossed religious boundaries; that Jews abetted in their own destruction is a lie. Gilbert writes to take testimony from these survivors, to add to the collective archive of Jewish memory.

Terror immobilizes, it paralyzes, cells freeze up, the mind cannot fathom, cannot respond; first there is the horror, and then there is terror. One indelible insight I uncovered as I read the book is how each of these women idiosyncratically experienced sheer terror, grappled with it and stood their ground. Somehow and in some fashion, they metabolized this fear, unlocked themselves, fought back at attempted rapes, learned to shoot a gun, to outwit and outsmart the Hun. In short, to act. Each one moved from real fear and the pungency of terror so as to unlock her self and fight back, to resist, to self-actuate one self. Quite remarkable. And since women throughout the ages have suffered the collective backhand slap of men, it even takes on a larger measure of strength, character and that great word, resolve.

Mathias B
Posted on Goodreads[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Brave Women” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]When we think of partisans and resisters to the Nazis, most of us don’t usually think about women. After all, it was a hard, dangerous business to fight such a cruel regime . . . but many women were willing to risk everything, including their lives, to fight for what they believed to be right.

Joanne D. Gilbert has written a book that tells us about even more brave women and since March is Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives, it seems a perfect time to showcase Women of Valor.

Between 2012 and 2014, Gilbert interviewed four women who had lived with their families in Poland, but who, through different circumstances, had found their way in the surrounding forests and either joined partisan groups or found other ways of resistance when the Nazis occupied their country.

Manya Barman Auster Feldman had lived a religious, comfortable life with her parents, 3 sisters and 2 brothers in Dombrovitsa in eastern Poland until Hitler invaded it in 1939. Suddenly, life became harder and harder and eventually all of Dombrovitsa’s Jewish families were crowded into a two block ghetto. When it appeared likely that the ghetto was going to be liquidated, Manya’s father decided her, Manya, her older sister and two brothers would try to escape into the forest, leaving behind her mother and two little sisters. Walking all night, they found the Kovpak partisan headquarters, where they were sent to different battalions. Manya, still just a teenager, soon learned how to fight, steal, sabotage the Germans efforts, and nurse the sick and wounded. Her story, as are all the stories included in Woman of Valor, is harrowing and amazing at the same time, and Manya herself credits luck for her many narrow escapes from death while she fought with the partisans.

Faye Brysk Schulman was also living a comfortable, religious life with her family in Lenin, Poland. Her older brother had learned photography and had enlisted Faye to help him. It was her knowledge of photography that saved Faye’s life when the ghetto they had been forced to live in was about to be liquidated, it was her job to take the photos that the Nazis demanded she take. In September 1942, Soviet partisans stormed through Lenin, and warmed the remaining Jews to run. Faye, still a teenager, found the partisans, joined the Molotavia Brigade, where she spent the war years fighting, nursing and photographing events whenever she could steal, make or find what she needed.

Even though the rest of her family was Polish, Lola Leser Lieber Schar Schwartz was born in Hungary/Czechoslovakia. In 1938, when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, the Polish passports of her immediate family were no longer acceptable there. The Lesers, including Lola, quickly fled to Poland and their extended family. Little did Lola dream that after being continuously on the run from the Germans, hiding in all kinds of weather and places, including under a tree in the forest, it would be her Hungarian/Czechoslovakian birth that would save not just her life, but many others when she received official documents exempting her from the same treatment as the Polish Jews. Needless to say, these documents sparked a flurry of forging more “official” documents for other Jews in peril. Later, when her husband Mechel Lieber was arrested, Lola was even brave enough to go the Adolf Eichmann’s office to try to convince him that it was a mistake. Lola was indeed a woman of great courage.

Miriam Miasnik Brysk is the youngest of the women interviewed. Only 4 years old when the war started, Miriam’s family left Warsaw, Poland for Lida, her father’s home then under Russian rule. But when the Germans arrived in Lida in 1941, it didn’t take long for persecutions to begin. The Miasniks were fortunate because Miriam’s father was a surgeon and the Nazis needed him. In 1942, Miriam and her parents escaped the Lida ghetto with the help of a partisan group that decided they needed a doctor more than the Nazis did. Miriam spent the rest of the war going from place to place with the partisans. Her hair was cut off and she was dressed like a boy, had not formal education until after the war, but did possess her own gun for a while. And she helped out wherever she could, even taking apart machine guns, cleaning them and putting them back together.

As each woman tells her story, it feels as though she is speaking to you personally, making this a very readable book and I highly recommend it. As they wove their stories, each remembered in great detail what their lives were like before and under the Nazi reign of terror and each acted with remarkable courage. Sadly, they all lost almost all the members of their families, often witnessing their murders. Gilbert doesn’t let them stop at the end of the war, but we also learn about their lives after and up to the present. Interestingly, they all found ways to express their Holocaust experiences though art later in life.

These are only four stories about acts of resistance, however, and, as Gilbert reminds us in Epilogue, most of the women who chose to resist the Nazis perished, taking the details of their courageous deeds with them, reminding us that what we do know about women resisters is really just the tip of the iceberg. But let all these brave women, known and unknown, be an inspiration to us all in the face of oppression.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Gihon River Press

This review was originally posted on The Children’s War

Alex Baugh
Posted on Goodreads[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”First-Class!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Gilbert’s ability to bring out the details of the remembrances of these four women shows a talent and empathy that makes for a first-class, unique piece of historical record.”[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Recommended read!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Fascinating!

Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”A must read for those interested in a human beings endurance and God’s love for his people” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Very well written! The actual stories of the four women were spell-binding! Also, the forward and post information was interesting and contained many facts not previously known to me. A must read for those interested in a human being’s endurance and God’s love for his people.

Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Five Stars” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Excellent

Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Terrific!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]A terrific book about extraordinary characters. Highly recommended.

Alfred Klein
Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Wonderfully done!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]It is with PLEASURE that I let you know that I have just finished reading Women of Valor. I found the History and Overview beyond helpful in my gaining further understanding of events of the time, and how they fit together. It set the perfect tone for me to meet and fall in love with Manya, Faye, Lola and Miriam. To my surprise, I found that I know a relative of one of these amazing women, which brought it all the more to life for me. You’ve given us an enormous gift….of allowing us to peer into the lives, hearts, and struggles of these real people, during an unimaginable time. On a personal level, I am so proud to know you…from our school days…and realize firsthand how special your life has been led…that you would give these women a more-than-proper forum on which to tell the world their valiant stories. GREAT job!

Wilma Fellman
Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Ordinary women just do what is right” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Though I was aware that anti-Semitism has a long and broad history, this book gives specifics and then goes on to personalize the history of the holocaust in one country. Gilbert’s research led her to realize common misconceptions and clarifies what really happened. It’s a book for all ages and I can only wish that it would appear on reading lists in middle and high schools everywhere that English is read.

Bobbie Dee Best
Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Bravo Bravo to Ms. J Gilbert !!” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]This book is a must for young female and male readers who want to understand what truly happened to families in Poland! We as women must stand together and tell our stories as strong women in the here and now. Thank you, Joanne, for your research and travels as you continue to share your talents.

Jordana Caroll
Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_custom_heading text=”A Poignant Telling of Noteworthy Lives” font_container=”tag:h4|font_size:22px|text_align:left|color:%230000c0|line_height:24px” google_fonts=”font_family:Playfair%20Display%3Aregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]A beautifully told tale of the amazing lives of heroic women who stood up to evil, knowing that there was no other choice – It’s what heroes do. If only all of humanity had the courage to live their lives as these women did.

Joanne Gilbert is adept at weaving the inspiration of her own grandmother into the fabric of these remarkable women’s stories, showing how the following generations are touched by their resoluteness, and would not have been so blessed were it not for women such as these.

Posted on Amazon[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][/vc_column][/vc_row]