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Summary and book reviews of The Fighter by Jean-Jacques Greif

The Fighter

by Jean-Jacques Greif

The Fighter
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  • Published:
    Sep 2006, 288 pages

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Book Summary

When Moshe’s emigrates to Paris in the 1930s, it means a new life: A decent job, a lovely young wife, and a hobby as an amateur boxer. Until the day he is rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. There he is tortured, starved, asked to entertain Nazi soldiers by boxing against dying prisoners. Moshe wants to survive without killing his comrades, but how?

Moshe Wisniak grew up malnourished and fatherless outside Warsaw at a time when Jews and Poles lived in poverty and violence. When Moshe’s brothers emigrate to Paris in the 1930s, it means a new life for the whole family, who follow soon after. A decent job, a lovely young wife, and a hobby as an amateur boxer vastly improve Moshe’s prospects until the day he is rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. There he is tortured, starved, and most shockingly, asked to entertain Nazi soldiers by boxing against dying prisoners.

Moshe wants to survive without killing his comrades, but how? Based on the memoir of his family friend, Jean-Jacques Greif has taken the facts and turned them into a gripping novel about life and death in Auschwitz.

1
In Praga, a Suburb of Warsaw

When I was born, the czar still reigned over the great Russian empire and Poland was a mere trinket hanging from his belt. He had so many subjects that nobody ever tried to count them. He didn’t even ask them to register their children. Or, at least, he didn’t ask my mother.

At the end of the First World War, the czar of Russia tumbled down from his throne. His army of Cossacks left Warsaw. Poland became an independent country.

In 1918, obeying a decree of the new Polish government, my mother goes to the town hall in Praga, our Warsaw suburb, to register her four children.

“How old are they?” the man in the office asks.

“What you say?”

“How old? Your children, lady!”

She finds him hard to understand. Before the war, you had to learn Russian. Now it’s Polish. Why don’t these government people ever speak Yiddish, the language of the Jews?

“Schmiel Yankl, my first, he more ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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The Fighter has proved very popular in France (where it was first released) as a book to accompany the study of World War II during the first year of High School. Unlike some books chosen for reading in school, it also resonates with young readers: In 2000, it won the five main literary prizes given by French students!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

School Library Journal - Rita Soltan

In the end, however, Greif reminds readers that one not only needed emotional and physical strength but also a whole lot of luck and cleverness to be able to resist and emerge from the torturous nightmare of the camps. Tough, realistic reading with some raw language.

Booklist - Hazel Rochman

This novel.....may be too much for some readers...[his] present-tense narrative vividly describes the atrocities as well as the importance of courage, friendship, and, especially, luck in the fight for survival.

Kirkus Reviews

Greif based the novel on the experiences of his father's friend—not just a witness, but a Jewish hero…It's a spirit that will resonate with readers.

Reader Reviews

killa

BEST EVER!
This book is the best ever. It has a lot of suspense and mystery.

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Beyond the Book

Jews in Poland
Jews became a significant part of the Polish population in the 14th century when they were offered a safe haven by King Casimir the Great after being expelled en masse from much of Western Europe (including England, Spain, France and Germany).  By the 18th century about 750,000 Jews lived in Poland, representing about 7% of the Polish population and about two-thirds of the world's Jewish population (then estimated at 1.2 million). 

However, the presence of Jews had always been a source of tension amongst the Catholic majority, and from the late 18th century anti-Semitism steadily increased.  Of course, there were also groups that opposed anti-Semitism, but by the 1930s the anti-Semitic ...

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