The Light of Days Book Summary - The Light of Days Book explained in key points
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The Light of Days summary

Judy Batalion

The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos

4.6 (74 ratings)
25 mins
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    The Light of Days
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    A Network of Youth Movements

    In 1938, Renia Kukielka was 14 years old and finishing up school. Unlike other girls she knew, Renia wasn’t dreaming about becoming a nurse or a doctor. Her ambitions at the time were more humble. She was planning to enroll in a stenography course, with the intention of working in an office. 

    Renia had two older sisters, Sarah and Bela, whom she loved dearly. She looked up to her sisters and, when she became old enough, she wanted to join the Freedom youth organization that they were in. Their brother Zvi belonged to The Young Guard youth group. These were more than just community organizations; they served an important purpose for Poland’s young Jewish population. 

    In the 1930s, Jewish communities were flourishing throughout Poland. In fact, they’d been establishing themselves in Poland since the 1500s. In Warsaw, a bustling modern European city, Jewish people made up around a third of the population. But there were also smaller towns like Będzin, in Western Poland, and Jędrzejów, where the Kukielkas lived, that were home to thriving communities of modern Jewish families.

    In the years between World War I and World War II, though, things had become less stable. There was rising anti-Semitism in many European countries, including Poland. Simultaneously, there was a growing Zionist movement that was helping Jews emigrate to Palestine. Even before the start of World War II, people and families were torn between fighting to stay in their centuries-old communities within Poland, or settling elsewhere. This dichotomy between fight and flight would only intensify in the years to come.

    Deeply unsettled by anti-Semitism, a large number of Jewish children growing up in Poland belonged to youth groups that helped to instill a sense of belonging and positive self-esteem. Many of these groups were international. And many helped prepare teenagers for the communal kibbutz lifestyle. But the youth groups also varied. Some were liberal and secular, while others were more conservative – in fact, they often aligned with one of the many Jewish political groups that were active throughout the country.

    Crucially, youth movements such as The Young Guar and Freedom, which was affiliated with Poland’s Labor Zionist party, also published their own newspapers. Warsaw alone was home to 180 different Jewish newspapers – some written in Polish, some in Hebrew, and some in Yiddish. Members of the youth organizations were constantly criss-crossing through Poland, delivering newspapers, sharing information, and keeping people connected.

    Renia’s sister Sarah, who was 23 at the time, was a devout Labor Zionist and put a lot of effort into traveling the country, fighting for social equality, and helping to organize training camps for kids. Such was the life of the comrades who were united in Poland’s Jewish youth movements. And while they were politically conscious young adults, they had no way of knowing that the skills and connections they’d been developing would be put to a completely different use in the years ahead.

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    What is The Light of Days about?

    The Light of Days (2021) tells the thrilling and harrowing story of the Jewish women in Nazi-occupied Poland who served as resistance fighters during World War II. These women took up arms in ghetto uprisings and served as important couriers on dangerous missions to transport guns and supplies across a hostile territory.

    Best quote from The Light of Days

    Renia felt disoriented . . . . She had to realign her being, remind herself that now she lived for her sister, for her comrades.

    —Judy Batalion
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    Who should read The Light of Days?

    • History buffs
    • Anyone interested in forgotten World War II stories
    • People who are inspired by fearless women

    About the Author

    Judy Batalion has a PhD in art history from the University of London’s Courtauld Institute. Originally from Montreal, she grew up speaking English, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish. She has contributed to Vogue, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Her previous book is White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess in Between.

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