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Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland―some still in their teens―helped transform Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers.

In The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s GhettosJudy Batalion—granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and author of White Walls—brings these women’s stories to light. The book, released this month and already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture, is an unforgettable true tale of bravery, friendship, and survival.

Watch the conversation about The Light of Days below between Batalion and Molly Crabapple, award-winning artist, author, and journalist.

 

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Ari Goldstein: Alright Hello i'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today's program with Judy battalion and molly crab apple.

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Ari Goldstein: we're here to discuss judy's terrific new book the light of days, the untold story of women resistance fighters and hitler's ghettos, which was just released on April six by William morrow publishers.

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Ari Goldstein: The book, which has already been optioned by Steven Spielberg for major motion picture tells the stories of the brave Jewish women who fought back against the Nazis, you can order your copy at the link in the zoom chat.

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Ari Goldstein: Judy is a writer curator researcher and lecturer who his first book in 2016 was titled white walls and memoir about motherhood daughter, and the messaging between.

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Ari Goldstein: She was born and raised in Montreal, and now lives in New York, where she also contributes essays to the New York Times and other publications.

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Ari Goldstein: molly is an artist and writer who authored drawing blood and co authored Brothers of the gun, which was long list of for national book award with Marwan has shown.

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Ari Goldstein: she's also an award winning animator and has pioneered a new genre of live illustrated explainer journalism collaborating with Alexandra ocasio protests Jay Z Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the aclu molly is also here with us and we.

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Ari Goldstein: feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box anytime during the discussion, without further ado, please join me in welcoming Judy battalion and molly crap apple for a discussion of the light of day.

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Molly Crabapple: Thank you so much for that amazing introduction ra and thank you so much to the Museum of Jewish heritage for having us, and thank you especially to Judy for writing this extraordinary book.

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Molly Crabapple: The light of days is a book that's at once this like astounding work of scholarship of resurrecting.

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Molly Crabapple: The forgotten stories of women, some of whom were girls who are barely barely more than teenagers who fought back with guns and.

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Molly Crabapple: As smugglers and as couriers against the Nazi occupation of Poland it's also a profound work of storytelling something that is rated and with such vividness that the sort of tragedy, and that this sort of courage Warren said it's something that both as a writer and a scholar.

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Molly Crabapple: Judy should be commended for in every way it's a book that made me cry many times and also a book that made me marvel at how she was able to get this much information and tell stories this beautifully.

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Molly Crabapple: I have so much that I want to ask Judy about the light of days, but for a start, I wanted to ask her about her motivations for writing this book, why did you decide that these stories of these young female Jewish resistance fighters need to be told.

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Judy Batalion: First of all let me thank everyone, thank you already for the introduction, thank you to the museum Thank you molly i'm it's an honor for me to be in conversation with you, you know i'm i'm a huge fan of your work as well.

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Judy Batalion: Why did I write this book good question this book actually began, I can tell you that story this book began completely by accident, I never set out to write about the Holocaust and never set out to write about Jewish women in in the war at all.

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Judy Batalion: It started 14 years ago I was living in London at the time I was exploring my Jewish identity i'm the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors from Poland.

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Judy Batalion: And I was very interested in really in what I call the emotional legacy of the Holocaust, the the way that trauma.

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Judy Batalion: passed through generations, and in my own life i'm a very anxious person, and I was thinking a lot about that I was thinking about how my Holocaust heritage.

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Judy Batalion: had really shaped my perception of in reaction to danger in, I was interested in the idea of danger.

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Judy Batalion: And so I decided to write at the time I was doing a lot of performance, I decided to try to performance piece about Jewish women confronting danger, and the first one to come to mind was a woman, I studied in fifth grade and her name was Hannah Spanish and I don't know if you.

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Judy Batalion: Are but for those who.

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Molly Crabapple: dressed up as Hannah Spanish when I was in fifth grade, I think we all had that book, the one that has the pictures of her like.

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Molly Crabapple: she's in Palestine and then she's in her paratroopers uniform and she looks so beautiful in this like very, very Jewish way that, like, I personally like really identified with that I she I think we all of us, we were how to set it in fifth grade.

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Judy Batalion: So Hannah finishing fifth grade is how this all began.

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Judy Batalion: So I God, I remember thinking i'm thinking about condescension and this this image of her you know she had moved to Palestine, but then she joined the Allied Forces she became a paratrooper she learned she went back.

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Judy Batalion: To fight the Nazis and she was you know, maybe you like, she was the symbol, she became a symbol of kind of Jewish heroics.

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Judy Batalion: And, but I was, I was interested like not in a sentence, the symbol is interested in understanding the person who does that.

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Judy Batalion: Who goes back to Nazi occupied Europe to fight, what is the psychology like what is what is a personality that does that.

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Judy Batalion: So that's where I decided, I wanted to find a more nuanced biography of Hannah sanish.

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Judy Batalion: So I went to the British Library and I looked upon Ascension in the catalog and there were not very many books behind a Spanish at the British Library so I just ordered whatever they had.

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Judy Batalion: And one of the books, when I went to pick up like my stack at the at the counter it wasn't unusual book was an older book, it was sort of in this worn blue fabric, with gold writing and and it was in Yiddish it was called poison in the ghettos women in the ghettos.

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Judy Batalion: But then I would say even more unusual than the book is the fact that I speak Yiddish so I was able to read it, so I start flipping through it, I was really mostly interested in it as an artifact because it was quite beautiful and antique.

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Judy Batalion: And it was from 1946 so i'm flipping through the book looking for Hannah sanish I can't find her so she's only like in the last few pages in front of far there's 180 pages of.

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Judy Batalion: bits and pieces of other young Jewish women who had fought the Nazis with photographs and names and like little bits of bios and snippets now my English was rusty at the time, so i'm like reading reading over like Am I getting this right.

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Judy Batalion: Because the chapter titles were like weapons ammunition partisan battle, and this was both in tone and and content, it was just so different from any any Holocaust story i've ever heard.

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Judy Batalion: And that's how it all began, that is how that's how it all began That was my very long answer.

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Molly Crabapple: One of the reasons I think that these stories have not been told before is that get ish which used to be the language of the Jews of Eastern Europe is.

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Molly Crabapple: Now, a language only spoken by a few million people, mostly on higher ED Jews around the world, so the fact that you not only you know study English, but that you spoke it, as you know, as a as a child, like you, grew up in this enabled you to.

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Molly Crabapple: Do research that other scholars, have not been able to can you talk a little bit about like the role of like the importance of edition like how like what are your thoughts on the Yiddish language and what is and what it did for you here.

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Judy Batalion: Alright mckennon reading reading yes.

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Judy Batalion: I really.

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Molly Crabapple: enjoy.

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Judy Batalion: The rest of the program is no, no, it is that um so interestingly, the reason this original book that I found was in Yiddish.

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Judy Batalion: What it, so I didn't know this until much later, but that book was an anthology it was put together, specifically, it was actually made up of snippets from Hebrew publications from publications coming out at the time of Palestine.

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Judy Batalion: That we're about these women and by these women, and it was translated into Yiddish for American Jews.

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Judy Batalion: It was turned into Yiddish so that it would be more widespread, so that it would be more broad so that more Jewish people in the US would know the stories of these heroic Jewish women so of course that that's not what happened, the stories were really quickly forgotten.

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Judy Batalion: You asked me about Yiddish I mean I grew up speaking English in my family, I was raised by my grandmother every day.

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Judy Batalion: She cared for me and so Yiddish was really my first language it's what I spoke in when I, and then I went to a very unusual school system in Montreal I grew up in Montreal.

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Judy Batalion: And again only and doing research for this book did I realize that I went to school system based out of Polish Jewish education philosophies.

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Judy Batalion: Which is also partly I think why I got the stories of why they they made sense to me I didn't even realize, I was educated in the same way as many Polish Jews in the 1930s in the Socialist secular Judaism.

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Judy Batalion: And as part of that education we studied Yiddish language and literature, we also say Hebrew language and literature, but it was it was a non religious Jewish education.

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Judy Batalion: So there was a lot of focus on a Yiddish I would we had a book called college edition, I would have to conjugate verbs you know one day i'd be studying English and the next day be studying physics and who knew Yiddish would become my cash cow.

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Molly Crabapple: everyone gets into yours, for the easy cash that's what.

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Molly Crabapple: I want to talk a little bit more about your process and researching the story, so you find this amazing dusty book about women in the ghetto, but then from there you flesh out these extraordinarily detailed stories.

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Molly Crabapple: about women like Rania cookie alka or you know floods can meet or video kempner how did you do like tell me about your research that you did, I want to hear about your process.

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Judy Batalion: So, as I said, this this started 14 years ago so it's been a long research process and the first few years of that were just me translating this Yiddish book, I was very lucky to receive a grant for me who DASA Brandeis institute I think they thought I would do this in six months, like.

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Judy Batalion: years later I was like I have a draft and.

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Judy Batalion: they've given up on me, but I kept going with this, it was a very difficult translation, as I said, I was working in the London like art world my you dish was rusty I was not using it all the time and also emotionally, it was it took me a very long time to commit to going here full time.

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Judy Batalion: You know this was tremendously difficult memoir and testimony to read.

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Judy Batalion: But let me answer your question first about the research process I so after translating the book.

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Judy Batalion: He went through many different stages, it was going to be an academic resource, it was going to be an academic translation, it was going to be an annotated translation I then started writing it as a novel fictional combined with my grandmother with totally different project.

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Judy Batalion: In through out at the all these processes I ended up doing bits of research on the context and on the places and times so this sort of story started seeping into me.

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Judy Batalion: But it was really only in 2017 after the women's marches started that all you became aware that wow I think there might be widespread interest in organized.

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Judy Batalion: women's resistance and that's when I started talking about it with my literary agent, and she was the one who really said this.

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Judy Batalion: This really happened young Jewish women are walking around with guns taped to their torsos and shooting Nazis and I said yes, this is what I found in this original Yiddish document and she's like you have to write this as nonfiction.

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Judy Batalion: You owe it to the story and, of course, she was right, I was just afraid of going there because I knew how much research.

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Judy Batalion: I would have to do, and so, finally, to answer your question that was the point where I started going through this Yiddish book and taking all the names that came up and trying to find these women.

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Judy Batalion: In archives in museums in libraries in any Jewish studies organization and and I ended up finding that many of these little snippets.

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Judy Batalion: That I had originally been working with came from full length memoirs came from long testimonies some of these women left dozens of testimonies in different archives.

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Judy Batalion: And so the early part of this work was collecting as many first person accounts as I could.

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Judy Batalion: And reading them, I mean I read dozens and dozens and dozens of these accounts and in each account each woman would mention 20 other women who, she was working with in the underground and then I would find their stories and their story, so it really mushrooms.

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Judy Batalion: And then I, and then I have to condense again.

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Molly Crabapple: One thing to me that's very interesting about these stories is that typically when stories are told about war.

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Molly Crabapple: And about fighters it's typically a man's story, and if there are women's stories, because there are always women fighters and they're always women who.

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Molly Crabapple: Who are participants, if there are women stores they're often told us peripheral like an add on, however, that was not true in the story of the Jewish resistance to.

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Molly Crabapple: To Nazi ISM women were central to the resistance, they were not peripheral in any way they were in the leadership and they were at every level of it and also, they often did roles that men couldn't do, particularly the role of career girl, can you speak specifically about.

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Molly Crabapple: What women did, and why they were so central in the resistance.

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Judy Batalion: So we're so to work in the resistance in the war, I mean in in Nazi occupied Poland, you had to leave the ghettos, you have to be on the outside, and it was easier for women to be on the outside.

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Judy Batalion: Not every role in the resistance mapping on the outside ghetto fighters in and planners have uprisings could be on the inside.

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Judy Batalion: But women, it was easier for women to be on the outside, so they took on those roles and i'll tell you why it was easier so to be on the outside, of course, one have to pretend not to be Jewish otherwise.

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Judy Batalion: You would be killed immediately Jews were not allowed to be outside the ghetto, so it was easier for women to perform Christianity to perform as young Catholic girls.

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Judy Batalion: This is for several reasons, one of them is because they were not circumcised so women didn't have a marker on their body of their jewishness and for men.

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Judy Batalion: If a man was suspected of being a Jew at gunpoint he would be told to drop his pants women didn't have that threat they weren't nervous about that they didn't they didn't that didn't happen to them.

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Judy Batalion: Moreover, and and I I got really into the 1930s in Poland in my research and in 1930s Poland.

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Judy Batalion: This is when the people that I write about the resistors were being educated education was mandatory for boys and girls.

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Judy Batalion: But many families chose to send their sons to Jewish schools and their daughters to public school and because of that, and this was like because it was cheaper a tuition and things, but because of that.

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Judy Batalion: Jewish women learn to Polish custom Polish habit, they were familiar with Polish and even with prayers with Catholic prayers with manners looking to hear, even on the speed, let me just articulated.

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Judy Batalion: like watching myself and see So this was a very Jewish thing to just take you late and one of the women rights, but how she had to wear a month when she was going undercover so it would literally.

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Judy Batalion: Block her hands so she could perform as Polish so women, women were much more acculturated there were assimilated in 1930s, Poland and very important they learn to speak Polish, as they say, like a Pole, without the creaky Yiddish accent.

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Judy Batalion: So they could they could bake it was much easier for women to pass and, of course, as women, they were trained to you know.

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Judy Batalion: In a sort of global general gendered way to listen to others cues to be aware of their environments to even be coy and flirtatious and and all those things also help them if they were great skills for going undercover for being spies.

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Judy Batalion: So what what Sir, no, no.

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Molly Crabapple: One of the things that I really I loved about your book and that I think is.

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Molly Crabapple: Unfortunately, rare in many books about the Holocaust in Poland is that you spend a lot of time, not just speaking about.

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Molly Crabapple: What people suffered during the Holocaust, but the world they lived in beforehand and.

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Molly Crabapple: One of the things that you do an amazing job evoking is the world of these youth movements these political youth movements that.

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Molly Crabapple: So many Polish Jewish young people were part of.

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Molly Crabapple: These political youth movements, they might be, you know Zionist they might be Zionist socialist they might be socialist anti Zionist they might be communist, but there was a world of these like tightly knit um.

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Molly Crabapple: You know movements of young people often led by young people and i'm also working on a book right now about the Jewish Labor boomed and one of the things that I found was that one of the.

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Molly Crabapple: Best predictors of whether a young person would be involved in the organized resistance was if they were part of a youth movement, and I want you to talk about the youth movements and what role that played for these young women.

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Judy Batalion: So in Poland hundred thousand Jewish youth were members of youth movements there's a huge number.

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Judy Batalion: And they weren't they actually weren't allowed to join the Polish scouts so some of the youth movement was a sort of reaction to that.

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Judy Batalion: But, as you say, these youth movements had different philosophies they were affiliated with different politics with different political parties from you know religious to completely secular and Communist.

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Judy Batalion: But these youth movements were central to their lives they were emotional.

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Judy Batalion: Intellectual social and spiritual training grounds, they they taught them, you know eyes right mostly about socialist secular youth movements some Zionist have a few Buddhists in my story, and you know they believed in collectivism equality self sufficiency.

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Judy Batalion: The pride in acknowledging the truth pride in your heritage, so these movements were first of all, they weren't to work together.

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Judy Batalion: Many times, actually, especially in the Zionist youth movements, the chill the teenagers and people early 20s they left their family home and moved in with their youth movement, this is before the war.

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Judy Batalion: There were keep would seem or communes collectives all over Poland, I had not I didn't know that before doing this research so often they lived on qubit seem with their comrades.

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Judy Batalion: And they made their money together they were a family.

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Judy Batalion: And they're also very interested in psychology psychoanalysis self reflection, they were very aware of, of how they collaborated of what their strengths and weaknesses were.

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Judy Batalion: And it is these youth movements that in the ghettos became these resistant cells and eventually guerrilla militias and I think a lot of it is because of the the training to work collectively to live collectively.

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Judy Batalion: They knew each other, they trusted each other and they they were brought up on a diet of pride and I think all that affected their capacity and and power for resistance.

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Molly Crabapple: And this is something that I think is so important, when we're trying to think about what lessons we can learn today for how to resist fascism or authoritarianism.

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Molly Crabapple: That these networks of resistance didn't just spring up overnight after the Nazis invaded Europe or after the Nazis invaded Poland.

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Molly Crabapple: These were things that had been in existence for years and years and years, and these words deep bonds that people have built and those deep real life bonds that people build together.

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Molly Crabapple: That those collective bonds are what enabled people to fight fascism it's not something that you can make overnight, you have to build deep bonds with each other to do it before.

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Judy Batalion: In fact, it was hard to join the underground if you hadn't been part of the group before because they didn't know if they could trust you.

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Judy Batalion: They didn't know if you are a collaborator they didn't know if you were a spy for another group they just didn't know.

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Judy Batalion: So the deep bond is is critical, it was really, really very important you someone who wanted to join, have to be rigorously interviewed and assessed to see if they could be admitted into the bond.

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Molly Crabapple: Things that I really appreciated about this book is that, in addition to.

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Molly Crabapple: You know, telling the larger story of this resistance, it also has these like really deeply sensitively drawn individual portraits and.

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Molly Crabapple: One woman that you focus on is a young woman named RON yeah cookie Erica and I want you to talk about her and why you chose her and tell us a little bit about her story.

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Judy Batalion: Sure, so Randy has perhaps one of the central characters of the book I kind of begin it with with her birth and end it with her death so she forms a skeleton for the story, for me, and I was drawn to her immediately.

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Judy Batalion: renu was a she was 15 when the war started, she was not political, she was actually a bit young for the youth movements and she wasn't even interested in that at that time.

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Judy Batalion: And, in a way that's what drew me to her that she was kind of I felt she was relatable to a contemporary audience she end and also her writing was not political her writing about the war was very narrative and very detailed.

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Judy Batalion: we'll come back to that, let me tell you a bit about her first so she was 15 when the war started, she was immediately defined to the ghetto she used to slip out of the ghetto to trade.

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Judy Batalion: Family heirlooms for food to barter and to try to help feed her family, when she knew the ghetto was going to be liquidated she.

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Judy Batalion: fled and she lived in forest she took Trent she she was months recognized on a train she got up walked to the end and jumped off.

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Judy Batalion: She pretended to be Catholic she looked good as they used to say she could pass for a non Jew, she was lighter tone.

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Judy Batalion: So she got a job working in a in a as a as a housemaid for a German family, but she but she didn't want to be there, she wanted to be with her sister actually and her sister was part of the underground in this town Virgin.

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Judy Batalion: So her sister she connects with her sister they smuggle her over to bejan and she immediately, they need a career girl, this is what I didn't answer before what were the courier girls doing I didn't get to that so now i'll tell you the courier girls were.

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Judy Batalion: Jewish girls, and I say girls, because they were very young, they were teenagers, maybe in their early 20s.

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Judy Batalion: Who again dressed up often dyeing their hair changing their outfits wearing them off if they need to to look like Polish Polish teenager Polish young woman.

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Judy Batalion: They slipped in and out of the ghettos and they basically connected the communities of Poland, they connected the ghettos.

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Judy Batalion: At first, they were bringing ghettos Jews weren't allowed to have radios they weren't allowed to have newspapers, they didn't have they didn't know what was going on around them, they didn't know even of the German.

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Judy Batalion: Of the genocidal land of the Nazis, so it was Jewish girls who were bringing this information, who were at first smuggling in.

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Judy Batalion: Illegal books bulletins underground newspapers hope.

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Judy Batalion: As the as they began to learn more about the Nazis plan it was these girls who were bringing information about the extermination about death camps.

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Judy Batalion: Then, as the youth movements became guerrilla fighting units, it was these girls that were arming them and they were leaving the ghettos so rainbow was 18 at the time when she joined the underground she would take trips to Warsaw.

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Judy Batalion: Money in her garter belt at meet a weapons dealer in the cemetery buy guns from him tape them to her torso they were carrying cartridges explosives getting on and off of trains, they were bringing a fake ids area and papers.

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Judy Batalion: They were also helping to transport Jews, she would take a Jew out of the ghetto bring her with her on the train and try to find her a safe spot or hiding spot in in the city.

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Judy Batalion: or, in some cases, some of the careers brought brought us out of Labor camps and out of ghettos into the forest So yes.

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Judy Batalion: I can go on as you can tell, I can talk about this forever.

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Molly Crabapple: But, and in addition to you know Korea girls, you also write about women who physically fought the Nazis, including.

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Molly Crabapple: Who was the only woman on the high command of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, can you speak a bit about what life was like for a woman who was a partisan fighter, and maybe tell us a bit about divya story as well.

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Judy Batalion: So bipartisan fighter you mean but partisan I often tell us to talk about forest fighters, but you mean you mean a and a woman who is like a combat fighter.

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Molly Crabapple: Exact they want me to pick up a gun and shot it.

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Judy Batalion: So the worst one ghetto uprising, which also i've always heard of but we knew very little about until I began doing research for this book.

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Judy Batalion: The Warsaw ghetto uprising was organized by these youth movements there about 750 young Jews was very organized effort and 250 of them were women.

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Judy Batalion: So i'm thinking now about what some of these women were doing date so they train they learned how to shoot guns they had so few bullets.

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Judy Batalion: They in one ghetto, they would they would practice in a basement and the middle wall out of mud, so that the bullet would go in the wall, they be able to reuse it and try again.

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Judy Batalion: They I mean they had these small fighting units, it was a they had strategy for how to push off the Nazis during the liquidation.

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Judy Batalion: And some of them were bombing near the gates, some of them were rushing to the rooms and throwing explosives from the rooms.

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Judy Batalion: They experimented and they thought a lot about military strategy and and women were just in these training groups.

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Judy Batalion: With men and they and i'm thinking of one example, this woman masha funeral she was a Buddhist and in the Warsaw ghetto uprising she tells a story that she you know climbed up to the roof, she was one of the roof attackers.

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Judy Batalion: and her her fingers are shaking and she has to light a match and and light the explosive and she's and she's flinging it out into under the Nazis below her and they stop and they start yelling in shock in foul cost it.

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Judy Batalion: Costs like what's shocking to them is that a woman is fighting a woman is throwing Molotov cocktails and and and explosives at their tanks So yes, I mean, I think, women were.

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Judy Batalion: trained in the same way that men were to do, combat guerrilla combat.

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Molly Crabapple: One of the other things that I was just in awe of for this book is you, you talked about.

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Molly Crabapple: How often memoirs from the summer very, very, very politicized it's something i've been struggling with myself and.

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Molly Crabapple: My own research you'll read like a biography of someone and it'll be.

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Molly Crabapple: Henrik earlier was the authentic embodiment of the Jewish working classes and they're organic struggle and you're like no one talks like that no one has ever spoken like that in the world.

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Molly Crabapple: In the world and, but you in this book, you have such detail and vividness including about things that are like.

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Molly Crabapple: You know so traumatic for people to have written about like you know being being imprisoned or losing or losing their family and you.

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Molly Crabapple: You just have you have so much and such authenticity, how did you how did you get that because i'm like just as a writer i'm like I want to learn from you.

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Judy Batalion: So a lot of that was just the the people I chose to focus on, and this is again i'm like starting to answer questions i'm coming back to them and later questions i've come that's that's a bit how my brain works so.

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Judy Batalion: I said to you before that a part of the reason I picked renu as my central character is because she was not.

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Judy Batalion: super political in her outlook and her writing was very matter of fact, it was narrative and it had detail in it, so this was a treasure, for me, as a writer.

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Judy Batalion: I was able to work with the detail that she left me and then build on that and for many of these women.

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Judy Batalion: But the ones that I drew that I sort of spun Their stories into more into longer more elaborate tales is because they had left me.

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Judy Batalion: Testimony with detail I also I found a five or six of renews testimonies that were scattered in different archives and I.

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Judy Batalion: I use them to build on top of each other and then also I had read many, many testimonies of the same events, so I took details from all over and brought them together to try to create a fuller picture.

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Judy Batalion: I also went to Poland and I went to these places in like.

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Judy Batalion: One thing you know what's what's your point of going to Poland you like, yes, I went to some archives and I spoke to some people, but really.

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Judy Batalion: I got on that train from Warsaw to Krakow because I wanted to see what it looked like when Hella chauffeur was carrying bags of guns.

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Judy Batalion: In in in fashionable handbags what was she looking at when that train was going back and forth, it was very important for me as a writer.

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Judy Batalion: To try to pretend almost to be these characters to to put myself in in the position as much as possible, and I think that really helped me create visual.

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Judy Batalion: Can Ram or the scenes in the story, so all those things.

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Molly Crabapple: So so beautifully written I so as Jews from Eastern Europe, I think that we often feel like we know about the Holocaust.

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Molly Crabapple: Whether or not we've researched it's just such a part of our you know collective memory what were things that you discovered in your research that surprised you or that you didn't know.

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Judy Batalion: I mean I didn't know any of this that's what was so surprising like this whole story I didn't know it, but.

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Judy Batalion: You know, I was very surprised by the scope of the resistance, I again i'd heard of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

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Judy Batalion: I didn't know that over 90 European ghettos had armed Jewish resistance units 30,000 Jews joined partisan detachments in the forest.

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Judy Batalion: Rescue networks helped over 12,000 Jews in hiding in Warsaw alone, they these were much, much broader scale projects are forms of resistance and I ever.

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Judy Batalion: I simply hadn't known this at all, I was very surprised, as I was saying before by 1930s Poland.

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Judy Batalion: It was, I had no idea I felt that that part of our history or narrative really became eclipse of course by the horrors that happened after but what a fascinating time of both.

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Judy Batalion: feeling of of not belonging and this complete I mean a cultural golden age, you know Warsaw had 180 Jewish newspapers, it was a flourishing creative artistic, literary.

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Judy Batalion: Intellectual community, and I was very surprised, but by that too, and then, of course, all the stories of of women hiding underground bulletins you know braided in their hair and carrying dynamite in their underwear I certainly I mean.

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Judy Batalion: I could sit here and talk to you for five hours about everything that surprised me is one of those projects where every day, I felt I learned something new that really bowled me over that's why I can talk so much about.

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Molly Crabapple: So we're going towards the part where i'm going to.

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Molly Crabapple: open it up for questions from the audience, but I wanted to ask you a final question, which in some ways is obligatory, which is.

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Molly Crabapple: Why are these stories important for us to study now and what can we learn for them that's not just relevant historically and relevant to understand it our heritage, but also relevant for.

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Molly Crabapple: The world's now and how we live today and.

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Judy Batalion: I just think we can be so inspired by these young women who had nothing, who were starving, who I mean really had nothing their families have been killed, it and they.

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Judy Batalion: They didn't matter they went up against the Nazis against the army, the biggest military in the world couldn't defeat the Nazis and that didn't matter what matter was that they work together.

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Judy Batalion: And they risk their lives, time and time again in their passion and in their fury and in their fight for justice and freedom and and I hope I hope that's the kind of core inspiration that people can take from this story.

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Molly Crabapple: That was so so beautiful Thank you and I.

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Molly Crabapple: guess everyone if you haven't already this this book is a pretty essential one so go buy it i'm going to start going through these questions that are in the chat and.

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Molly Crabapple: same alright, so the first, the first question, which is from pete is Where would you these grandparents born and how and where did they survive the war.

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Judy Batalion: So my father's parents actually came to Canada in the earlier 30s they were also from Poland and worse off and my my mother's parents my mother's mother was born in.

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Judy Batalion: Peru lobby, which is sort of between Lublin and Warsaw and my mother's father was born in Raj mean, which is almost a suburb of Warsaw and they were a bit older than the characters in my story, so they were already married when the war began, and they decided to flee East and they.

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Judy Batalion: long story I won't get into all the details, but they made it across sort of the Russian border and they were they were forced into work camps in Siberia.

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Judy Batalion: Of the 300,000 Jews that did survive in Poland 200,000 survived by fleeing East and yet another very under discussed story my grandparents never talked about their experiences in Siberia.

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Judy Batalion: that's another book for me to write.

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Judy Batalion: But that that is how they survived and my mother was born in 1945 on their way back to Poland, where they they lived in western Poland for a number of years after the war, two.

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Molly Crabapple: Could you tell us who compiled to get a Scientology that began your journey and if it's available anywhere.

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Judy Batalion: Yes, was compiled by someone named Labor wizman he also escaped.

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Judy Batalion: Europe, and he he went actually went to Asia, and eventually came to New York and he was a historian of Labor Zionism and that's why this book, this is part of his project of of sort of telling American Jews about the amazing exploits of these libra Zionist women in in the war.

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Judy Batalion: And is it available, it is available, I believe there was a copy of the book Center at the Center for Jewish history it's available in a most sort of libraries, that would hold Yiddish books from the 40s.

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Molly Crabapple: So this brings up just a personal question that I had so.

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Molly Crabapple: In doing my own research, one of the things that I found about the resistance in Poland is that because people who are in the resistance often came from specific political parties are groups.

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Molly Crabapple: After the war, people were generally interested in telling a story about the resistance that.

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Molly Crabapple: put their group and a dominant role, shall we say, and perhaps marginalized the contributions of other groups so communists, told a story, where there are no right wing Zionist boone just told a story where there's no left wing Zionist you know.

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Molly Crabapple: And, and so, very often, I would have to read thing testimonies from like so many different different sides just to get any.

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Molly Crabapple: You know, accurate view of what was going on that wasn't you know sort of built on you're trying to advance your own party did you find this in your research as well.

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Judy Batalion: In Israel, right now, there are three archives just have different lieber Zionist screw.

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Judy Batalion: With the Labor Zionists, there are three different archives and they they they still don't agree with each other, they still have a different take on the word, they still feel that it was misrepresented and they should have a better a better, so I absolutely.

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Judy Batalion: I felt that, and you know they were fighting in the in the ghettos to they you know part of the project, I mean, especially in Warsaw.

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Judy Batalion: Was bringing the different groups together to create one coherent rebellion.

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Judy Batalion: In in places like Vilna they came together more easily, so it depends on on the ghetto, and, on the condition, but yeah I absolutely found this and that's part of why I had to read, I read so many memoirs and testimonies also to try to get some balanced view that wasn't clearly so politicized.

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Molly Crabapple: This is a question from Laura in which archive is did Judy do most of her research and find all those Members.

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Judy Batalion: So some of these memoirs have been published, even in English, but they not they're published a long time ago by small presses or by museums.

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Judy Batalion: And they're you know they're not they're not commercial reads they're not like trade reading so, but some of it was there was really any library would hold.

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Judy Batalion: would hold some of these translations, however, the archives today use primarily I would use the ghetto fighters house in Israel has a tremendous collection they're mostly of the drawer the freedom Labor Zine it's but they have some other Labor Zionists to and even a few others.

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Judy Batalion: there's also an archive for the harsh Amir what's the ear, the young guard Labor Zionists that's called more rochette and also very useful there's I use the resources quite a bit.

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Judy Batalion: And yeah I use the the museum and DC has an amazing archive the Center for Jewish history has an archive Pauline the Museum in Poland, as well as the Jewish historical Institute in Warsaw.

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Judy Batalion: These are actually they're all listed in the book and the bibliography at the end i'm at i'm at i'm at i'm a historian by training so it's it's all listed there, so you can you can actually see where I found a lot of these documents and a lot of the information.

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Molly Crabapple: here's a question from brick, why did these courageous acts of Polish female resistance fighters not come to light earlier.

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Judy Batalion: So this became a huge sub question to all my research on the one hand, what what happened in the Jewish resistance, what was the what happened to win, what was the story.

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Judy Batalion: And on the other hand, what happened to this story, how could I not have known it.

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Judy Batalion: And I talked about this much more in the book and I don't want to get into it in too much detail now, but some of the reasons were political their political motivations for how the story of the Holocaust was told.

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Judy Batalion: Especially in Israel and in Poland as well.

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Judy Batalion: Some of the reasons, our site geist and we're interested in at different times we've been interested in in learning and talking about different elements of the Holocaust and we've also been afraid.

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Judy Batalion: To talk about different elements of the Holocaust at different times culturally in the US to.

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Judy Batalion: And then some of its personal and some of it has to do these women not telling their story, and many of them didn't tell their story or tried to tell the story, but they weren't believed.

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Judy Batalion: They were accused of sleeping their way to safety, they were accused of having been collaborators, they were accused of.

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Judy Batalion: fleeing to fight instead of helping their parents, they had tremendous survivor's guilt they felt that they.

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Judy Batalion: Compared to their their peers, who had who had been through Auschwitz, I mean they hadn't had it that bad they hadn't suffered enough they almost felt like they didn't deserve to tell their story.

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Judy Batalion: And then some of that, I think, was coping these i'm writing about women who were like 22 and the war was over, they had their whole lives ahead of them, they had no family.

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Judy Batalion: No, no home, no country no nationality and they really they have to start over, and I think, like many refugees, really.

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Judy Batalion: They really felt they had to put the past behind them in order to move on and and create a life.

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Judy Batalion: And, and also there were women they felt very almost like a cosmic duty to have children and to repopulate the Jewish people and and they wanted to create you know happy normal families, so I think for all these reasons.

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Judy Batalion: The stories got buried, for a long time.

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Molly Crabapple: One of the things, this is just a personal question is, you know writing history and writing the stories it's it's it takes a lot right it takes like you have to translate you have to get I mean just writing is like an intense Labor and I feel like often.

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Molly Crabapple: it's like who has resources to fund, you know which stories are told, or who has resorts is published, which stories like I often think like.

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Molly Crabapple: Because i'm researching the boons like how few boom just stories are you know are told, because there wasn't like a Buddhist state, you know what I mean.

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Molly Crabapple: And what are the things that I thought was really cool is that you told the stories people from like all of the factions, like, I am very ignorant about.

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Molly Crabapple: The Communist resistance right, and you have a story of you know, Communist fighters as well, and did you find that also that, like like tell me about the communist women just by just a personal opinion because that's what I don't know about.

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Judy Batalion: So my my mentions of the communist women, I have two examples.

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Judy Batalion: In the book I did this on purpose, I was trying to create a panoramic kind of view and to bring in a few women from these different movements, because I was also aware of how Labor Zionist oriented my original source material was.

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Judy Batalion: You know, both the communist women that I speak about I didn't find primary source material for them, they were both killed.

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Judy Batalion: So i'm writing about them from by by primary I mean I didn't find their own testimony so i'm writing about them, often from second hand other people who wrote about them at the time, some of my material does come from these kind of remembrance essays or obituaries.

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Judy Batalion: So, but the two women I were mere gola and misha title bomb and Lucia title mom was a Communist she was.

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Judy Batalion: she'd been born in lodge she had a history degree from the Warsaw University she's very educated and during the war, she.

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Judy Batalion: braided her hair she put in a kerchief she pretended to be a 16 year old Polish peasant girl, and she would use this disguise to make her way into Gestapo offices and hoes and shoot them in the head.

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Judy Batalion: And then sort of you know meekly walk back out of the room and and she earned the name little wanda with the braids and she was on every Gestapo most wanted list.

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Judy Batalion: I mean.

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Judy Batalion: I got a thing and then I also you know I learned about her that she because i'd read other accounts that she she taught women a lot of.

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Judy Batalion: In the Warsaw ghetto she had like a whole she taught women in particular how to shoot how to use weapons she kind of had her own little tune, where she trained women so.

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Molly Crabapple: We take another question, this is from an anonymous anonymous asked her what motivated these women to join the resistance, where they driven by their Jewish faith.

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Judy Batalion: So again, because I speak about many women, you know they're different answers for different people, but I I for some of them it, I think it came down Jewish.

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Judy Batalion: I don't know if was faith but pride again back to the youth movements, they they felt great pride in their heritage in there in in who they were, and this was so foundational to their to their adolescent training and learning.

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Judy Batalion: And I do think some of it so someone like from couplet mid Scott, she had been a leader in the youth movements before the war.

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Judy Batalion: She escaped to the east, like the same way, my grandparents went as the same way with most people from drawer freedom, the youth movement, but she couldn't take.

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Judy Batalion: Not being there so few weeks into war and 39 she smuggled herself back into Nazi occupied Poland, she made her own way back to Warsaw.

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Judy Batalion: And you know became a leader in the Warsaw ghetto traveled the country giving lectures and seminars, was the first woman to bring guns into the Warsaw ghetto she hid them in a sack of potatoes.

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Judy Batalion: It goes on and on, but I think about her because I mean she she just felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to her people that's what was written about.

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Judy Batalion: In her, I found most information about her from essays that are extremely literate and smart friends had written about her after the war.

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Judy Batalion: But she she felt he was called the mama in the ghetto, she was a leader in the mom is the mother and she really felt that, for her for her peers for Jewish community she felt responsible, and again I do think that was that was partially mainly from this youth movement training.

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Molly Crabapple: Another question from Judith you mentioned your own anxiety and wanting to know how these women came to act in espionage and violence, what did you learn about anxiety and fear from what these women endured.

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Judy Batalion: I wish I could say I learned, not to have fear and I have no more anxiety, but that's that's not true.

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Judy Batalion: What did I learn about it, though, you know I thought, a lot about besides the use movements, you know what was there something similar to these women deserve something about their personal I went into this looking for harness and issues personality, what is it about her.

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Judy Batalion: In the so what's interesting is of the women that did survive, many of them lived well into their 90s, and I thought about that a lot to like what what is that why why such longevity why.

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Judy Batalion: Why, and I, you know i'm going to i'm going to tell you when I, so I think some of it has to do with they had an incredible.

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Judy Batalion: instinct they were actors, they trusted their gut they they felt what was right or wrong in the moment and they went with it and i'm not like that i'm i'm a self doubt or i'm always looking around.

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Judy Batalion: And in you know when I was when I was interviewing renewals children, the central character it like in passing her son said something to me about how you know, and she crossed the street.

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Judy Batalion: She wasn't someone who looked left, right and left and right just cross the street and that really stayed with me, you know, is this, it was.

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Judy Batalion: Nothing comment but to me that meant everything and I felt like i'm not someone who just crosses the street I look left and right, left right, left and right in and then left to right again.

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Judy Batalion: But I think many of these women just had that capacity to to just act they felt very confident and bold in their in their sense of the world and their and their place in it and they and they went forward.

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Judy Batalion: And if that answers the question but I.

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Molly Crabapple: here's another one from on a call where were most of the women fighters located in the ghettos or in the forest and how many would you say survived the war.

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Molly Crabapple: So.

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Judy Batalion: My story I focus more on the ghettos in this story, but I do have a chapter two of women working in the forest, which is a whole other incredible.

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Judy Batalion: Incredible I mean blowing up German trains and you really being saboteurs in the forest, but in this story I focused more on the ghettos that's just where I sort of set the location of the story, as for how many survived.

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Judy Batalion: So, since this book became public a few weeks ago, I think I get emails every single day someone who emails me and says God my mother was in the resistance.

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Judy Batalion: She worked in the Warsaw ghetto hospital I know she helped people get out she never talked about it, have you come across this name.

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Judy Batalion: my grandmother was killed on a bus my great grant we have a story of the great aunt who was smuggling weapons and she was shot when she went over I mean, like every day i'm getting.

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Judy Batalion: More stories the books published and i'm still getting more stories, so I don't know what number, this is we're still working this out and.

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Judy Batalion: My estimate is that there were thousands of women involved in in organized underground work most were killed most Jews were killed, I mean they were battling a.

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Judy Batalion: massive military force set on killing them most Jews were killed, but, but a number of them did survive and and i'm learning more every day.

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Molly Crabapple: And, in a certain sense, like I don't think there can ever be an exact number, because, as you said, 90% of the Jews and Poland were murdered and the people who are doing this we're specifically hiding all of their activities, so they wouldn't be killed.

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Judy Batalion: I mean the only time I heard about anyone keeping records was for for some of these rescue organizations.

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Judy Batalion: They needed to know what money they were sending to what high which haters in Warsaw, so they coated the names of the highlighters they coded the names.

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Judy Batalion: Of the people they were hiding the coded the street names they even put the wrong monetary amounts they had a percent conversion.

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Judy Batalion: And the records were on piece of paper that they put under their watches, and you can see, one of these in the polian Museum in worth like that's that's the record keeping of the time when you were talking about I mean.

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Judy Batalion: underground really secretive operations, they didn't they didn't keep files So yes, this is a constant a constant.

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Judy Batalion: issue for for numbers for that kind of data is very hard very happy.

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Molly Crabapple: here's another question from marcia do you have a sense of how much Jewish resistance and the greater part is and movement contributed to the ultimate defeat of the Nazis.

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Judy Batalion: I mean I don't know how to answer that again like are there, I don't know it's hard to talk numbers about this, but I think that.

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Judy Batalion: You know many of the the women, you know there's some amazing stories in the book about women who are working in the east near film on your Bialystok who were doing espionage missions, for the Red Army, they were helping.

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Judy Batalion: they're really helping them take down there doing intelligence work for them and helping them.

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Judy Batalion: You know, take down the Nazis in that area, so I do think in certain areas there these underground operative these Jewish women really did help.

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Judy Batalion: The four H and and the Warsaw ghetto uprising, I mean it was not in the end.

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Judy Batalion: A successful uprising, I mean the Jews did not topple the Nazis, but they did put off the liquidation, for some time.

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Judy Batalion: And the did you know and the rescue organizations did save lives they did hire people they did help people get out get out and find spaces to hide or get out of the country so again it's really hard to put numbers to this, but I do think it was part of the defeat yes.

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Molly Crabapple: And I would also add that the Warsaw ghetto uprising was the first uprising, full stop first urban uprising and Nazi occupied Europe have anyone.

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Molly Crabapple: Jewish and non Jewish yeah yeah.

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Molly Crabapple: um, this is just a question for me and my name is Evelyn goldberger says soon i'm a second generation survivor born and raised in Puerto Rico.

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Molly Crabapple: molly if you don't mind me asking why do you have a quick Rican flag and your background as well you know web Evelyn my father's Puerto Rican and my mother's belushi and Jewish my dad is Puerto Rican.

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Molly Crabapple: Okay let's see i'm.

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Molly Crabapple: A question for Judy and you're from this is from lori for deeper in your research, did you run across any young women who came from religious backgrounds and ended up as partisans.

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Judy Batalion: I did, but these women usually left their religious backgrounds before joining the youth movements that they joined so.

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Judy Batalion: It was often a contention in their families that they they they left religion to join the Socialist secular youth movements, so when I was writing about them, they will already.

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Judy Batalion: They weren't they weren't necessarily religious anymore, some of the youth movements were more traditional in Krakow the main movement was akiva and they had onyx shabbat and and that was.

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Judy Batalion: You know, big part of their of their ritual was shabbat and observing shabbat so so you know that the youth movements were a little different too, but there, there was no one that I wrote about from that a religious youth movement.

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Now.

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Molly Crabapple: This is from Linda Goldstein if i'm correct Poland has made it illegal for people to put blame on Poland for the Holocaust or collaboration can Judy comment on this.

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Judy Batalion: Well, this is complicated and i'll probably get it wrong because certain laws were made, and then they were revoked and then things were changed.

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Judy Batalion: What I can say is that, when I do when I did research and Poland, I had Polish translators drivers fixers.

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Judy Batalion: I don't speak Polish so i've had to hire I hired many young Polish people to help me and.

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Judy Batalion: They were so fascinated by this project like I hired someone to help drive me.

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Judy Batalion: To this town of virgin she like showed up she'd already done research on the whole Jewish community there and already had a list of addresses, we should go to and think I did not.

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Judy Batalion: ask her for this or pay for this and to me that was actually very moving that these young pulls that I was talking to that I was meeting with felt that this was this was important to them, this is part of their heritage to.

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Judy Batalion: And I actually really liked making that connection.

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Molly Crabapple: And one thing I also might add is that there's another I think untold story probably probably the told story and Polish but not an English, which is the story of Polish women in the resistance and.

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Molly Crabapple: One at one story that I always remember is there was a Polish carrier named Marie sky, who was she was at the Polish Socialist Party and very closely allied with the Bu and and.

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Molly Crabapple: She saved so many Jews from the ghetto by finding them hiding spots and there's I think a whole other fascinating work to be written about the intersections between the young, the young Polish women and the young Jewish women in the resistance.

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Judy Batalion: yeah I have a few a couple of characters in my book, one woman, I arena Adam savage she was like she was a Catholic, she was in the resistance, she was everyone knew her, she was the contact for the Jews for the Polish resistance for that she really organized.

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Judy Batalion: and brought together many people and I yes that's another book to write molly.

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Molly Crabapple: Okay i'm gonna I have like I think one more there's so many amazing questions so i'm there okay.

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Molly Crabapple: i'm.

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Molly Crabapple: trying to find one one last one last one.

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Molly Crabapple: My God there's there's there's so there's so many.

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Molly Crabapple: There, and so many amazing comments wow.

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Molly Crabapple: um okay i'll um i'll ask this one is the last one.

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Molly Crabapple: This is by Kristen Helen are these women recognized for their fights and today's Poland.

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Judy Batalion: So that's a great question and I never would have imagined, so I wrote a piece for the New York Times, a few weeks ago about about my book about some of these women and it got picked up in Poland in an article came out.

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Judy Batalion: In in Warsaw and they were I talked in in the New York Times piece about this woman militia title bomb, who had pretended little wanda with the braids.

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Judy Batalion: And as part of the article in Poland, they were saying they were asking why don't we know the stories How come we don't know the stories of.

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Judy Batalion: Little one with the braids these people are incredible and then there's a maybe we should start a movement to have monuments for little wanda with the braids and for all these amazing Polish Jewish women.

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Judy Batalion: In Poland there's a different political landscape there, so one of their answers was that she hasn't been talked about, because she was a communist and right now in Poland.

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Judy Batalion: People don't want to talk about or not fond of the Communist occupation that they are that they felt over over over many decades so again, this goes back to sort of how politics shape how we remember the Holocaust.

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Molly Crabapple: So I just want to thank you so much again for writing this book Judy and for speaking to us, and I also want to thank the Museum of Jewish heritage for hosting this amazing talk and.

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Molly Crabapple: I want to thank Ari and I think it's um it's just about three right now, so I think it's we're we're supposed to wrap it up around now but.

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Molly Crabapple: Everyone by the light of days Judy Judy battalions amazing book and thank you so much for for being here and for all of your insight and your questions and your time.

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Judy Batalion: Thank you so much, everybody, thank you for having me and for your great conversation.

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Ari Goldstein: You know, on the things and I just have to say we'll go two minutes over first of all, there is a young readers addition there was.

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Ari Goldstein: That put the link in the chat great for kids we also do a bunch of questions about this possible movie by Steven Spielberg Judy can we ask you to leave us anymore.

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Judy Batalion: So the the book has been optioned by Steven spielberg's amlin company, and they have commissioned to screenplay and I am one of the co writers.

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Judy Batalion: And we'll see we're working on it it's still very early stages, but you know these stories are so dramatic and Cinematic.

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Judy Batalion: That we hope they will they'll make it to the screen.

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Ari Goldstein: Well, we hope so, as well, I thank you both so much for your time molly for taking us through this story and Judy for sharing all of your insight and process with us.

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Ari Goldstein: It was so inspiring and and thank you to all of you in the audience for joining us today, we will send out an email tomorrow with the recording and also some follow up resources.

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Ari Goldstein: So we're grateful to have you in our museum community, I should also mention that everything we do at the museum, including talks like this is made possible through donor support so.

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Ari Goldstein: Thank you so much, those of you who added a donation when you register today, and if you haven't and you're able we asked you to please consider supporting our work at the museum.

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Ari Goldstein: As well as joining us for our future programs we haven't heard them this Thursday evening with Helen Epstein about the experience of children of Holocaust survivors so aren't we aren't minute over, but thank you again, and I just want to wish everyone a great afternoon.

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Molly Crabapple: Thank you so much.