Escaping into the Night by D. Dina Friedman is a fictionalized story of the experiences of some members of the Jewish resistance movement in the area of Belorussia. The author states that she tried to stay true to the actual events that occurred and I believe she did a wonderful job. In fact, I already knew a bit about the Bielski Brothers partisan movement and was surprised at the end to find that this book was fiction - I desperately wanted to know the fate of the characters who became very real to me while reading the book.
Halina Rudowski escapes from a Polish ghetto with her friend Batya and three brothers who are to serve as their protectors as they try to make it safely to the forests and the partisans who are living there. The experiences of these well-detailed characters can be rather brutal at times and may frighten some younger children. In the forest with the partisans, life is not much easier for the young people who live underground and must run from the Nazis more than once. In the end, the Russians do assist the Jews who have survived the forest.
One passage that moved me greatly was the following with one of the older women in the forest encampment speaking to Halina who has lost her father and mother and needs strength to go on:
"We don't talk about the past," Tante Rosa said quietly. "We must live for the present, for each day. At night sometimes, after the girls are asleep I lie awake and think about my husband and the time before the forest. But I can't speak of these things. When I see the sun rise in the morning, I put my hand on the trunk of a tree, and think only about what I have to do to stay alive for one more day." (p. 76)
I think this "not talking" about the past continued for the survivors for many, many years. I personally was priviledged to hear the Holocaust narrative of a sixty-five year old woman who had never shared her story with anyone, even her husband and children. Still, it is only in the sharing that we who were not there can know, can understand, can continue the fight.
On the author's website, you can read the background information that led her to write this book and find links to other information and teaching resources.
TITLE: Escaping into the Night
AUTHOR: D. Dina Friedman
TYPE: fiction, Holocaust
RECOMMEND: I liked this book and think it can be used very nicely with non-fiction accounts of life in the ghettos or partisan camps