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From the JFR Library – February 2022

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From the JFR Library

Into the For­est: A Holo­caust Sto­ry of Sur­vival, Tri­umph, and Love

by Rebecca Frankel

Reviewed by Leah Grisham on November 29, 2021

Rebec­ca Frankel’s Into the For­est: A Holo­caust Sto­ry of Sur­vival, Tri­umph, and Love helps read­ers grap­ple with the incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty of the Shoah by telling the sur­vival sto­ry of one fam­i­ly: Miri­am, Mor­ris, Tania, and Rochel Rabi­nowitz, who escaped from the Zhetel ghet­to into the Białowieża For­est, where they hid for over two years. Read­ers will find that Into the For­est is metic­u­lous­ly researched and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten; weav­ing his­tor­i­cal facts with first-hand accounts, Frankel employs an almost nov­el­is­tic style that makes for a tru­ly com­pelling read.

The Rabi­nowitz family’s sur­vival sto­ry had an unlike­ly hap­py end­ing. The author’s con­nec­tion to the Rabi­nowitz sis­ters, which is revealed toward the end of the nar­ra­tive, pro­vides unprece­dent­ed access to their mem­o­ries. While the fam­i­ly is for­tu­nate that, due to Miri­am and Mor­ris’ cal­cu­lat­ed risks and no small dose of luck, they nev­er saw the inside of a death camp, Frankel makes it clear that life in hid­ing came with its own dan­gers. The fam­i­ly faced typhus, sub-zero win­ters, food short­ages, and the con­stant threat of bombs, Nazi sol­diers, and mer­ce­nar­ies who were paid to hunt for Jews. The Rabi­now­itzes lost many of their extend­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends despite the extreme mea­sures Miri­am and Mor­ris took to try and pro­tect them, includ­ing an instance when Mor­ris risked death to try and save his moth­er, sis­ter, and young nephew. In anoth­er instance, Miri­am takes an unac­com­pa­nied boy under her pro­tec­tion dur­ing the first ghet­to ​“selec­tion,” when Nazis would select who would be sent to their deaths — a sim­ple but dan­ger­ous kind­ness that has an unfore­seen impact on both of their lives.

The for­ti­tude, brav­ery, and love it took this fam­i­ly to sur­vive the ghet­to and hid­ing in the woods — with two small chil­dren, no less — is astound­ing, and Frankel’s com­pelling medi­a­tion of their expe­ri­ences is sure to inspire read­ers. We owe it to the dead to remem­ber, to tell their sto­ries. But we also owe it to our­selves to share not just the tragedy, but also the mir­a­cles that occurred among the death and destruction.

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