Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter by Kazik

Nonfiction — print. Translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Harshav. Yale University Press, 1994. 180 pgs. Purchased.

This is the story of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. Kazik, the code name for Simha Rotem, and his fellow Jews smuggle in arms and explosives, perform acts of resistance, hold off the Nazi army for almost a month, and rescue the few surviving Jews after the Warsaw Ghetto is destroyed. Kazik spends the rest of the war helping Jews who still remain in Warsaw, joining the Poles during their ill-fated uprising against the Nazis, and assisting the Polish underground.

I was explaining to friend yesterday that while I fervently believe that all victims of the Holocaust should have the opportunity to tell their story should they choose to, there are some tales that could really benefit from ghost writing, rewriting, or massive amounts of editing. Thirty pages into Kazik’s memoir, I was convenience this would be yet one more example; it just was not turning out to be an enjoyable read.

Luckily, it turned out not to be the case. While the writing structure did not improve with the progression of the tale, the emotional depth was conveyed in a much more impactful way as the tale moved along. I become more interested and saw a multitude of connections between what Kazik experienced to what I’ve seen in movies.

This memoir was the primary source for the NBC miniseries “Uprising”, which I have not seen. It is also the author’s voice saying “I remember…when I said to myself, ‘I am the last Jew, I am going to wait for morning, I am going to wait for the Germans,” that ends Claude Lanzmann’s film “Shoah”. There are also elements of the book’s story such as using the sewers in Warsaw to evade the Nazis that has been replicated in other films.

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2 thoughts on “Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter by Kazik

    1. At the end of the book Kazik talks about how he felt “survivor’s guilt” and it actually silenced him for a while. That left me pretty depressed to tell you the truth, but it’s also interesting to read about the agency people develop during times of struggle.

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