Summary and book reviews of The Avengers by Rich Cohen

The Avengers

A Jewish War Story

by Rich Cohen

The Avengers
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2001, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The true story of a band of Jewish guerrillas, called the Avengers, in World War II. What happened to these rebels in the ghetto and in the forest, and how, fighting for the State of Israel, they moved beyond the violence of the Holocaust and made new lives.

In 1944, a band of Jewish guerrillas emerged from the Baltic forest to join the Russian army in its attack on Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. The band, called the Avengers, was led by Abba Kovner, a charismatic young poet. In the ghetto, Abba had built bombs, sneaking out through the city's sewer tunnels to sabotage German outposts. Abba's chief lieutenants were two teenage girls, Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak. At seventeen, Vitka and Ruzka were perhaps the most daring partisans in the East, the first to blow up a Nazi train in occupied Europe. Each night, the girls shared a bed with Abba, raising gossip in the ghetto. But what they found was more than temporary solace. It was a great love affair. After the liquidation of the ghetto, the Avengers escaped through the city's sewage tunnels to the forest, where they lived for more than a year in a dugout beside a swamp, fighting alongside other partisan groups, and ultimately bombing the city they loved, destroying Vilna's waterworks and its powerplant in order to pave the way for its liberation.

Leaving a devastated Poland behind them, they set off for the cities of Europe: Vitka and Abba to the West, where they would be instrumental in orchestrating the massive Jewish exodus to the biblical homeland, and Ruzka to Palestine, where she would be literally the first person to bring a first hand account of the Holocaust to Jewish leaders. It was in these last terrifying days--with travel in Europe still unsafe for Jews and the extent of the Holocaust still not widely known--that the Avengers hatched their plan for revenge. Before it was over, the group would have smuggled enough poison into Nuremberg to kill ten thousand Nazis. The Avengers is the story of what happened to these rebels in the ghetto and in the forest, and how, fighting for the State of Israel, they moved beyond the violence of the Holocaust and made new lives.

From Rich Cohen, one of the preeminent journalists of his generation and author of the highly praised Tough Jews, a powerful exploration of vindication and revenge, of dignity and rebellion, painstakingly recreated through his exclusive access to the Avengers themselves. Written with insight, sensitivity, and the moral force of one of the last great struggles of the Second World War, here is an unforgettable story for our time.

Introduction

It is like no Holocaust story I have ever heard. There are no cattle cars in it, and no concentration camps. It takes place in underground hideouts and forest clearings, and in the ruins of German cities after the Second World War.

I first heard the story in 1977, when my family visited Israel, a trip partly chronicled in the photo album my mother put together when we returned to our house in suburban Chicago. The pictures show a smiling family backed by the usual landmarks: Western Wall, Dead Sea, Masada. I was ten years old. My brother was fifteen. In many photographs, he wears black, sun-absorbing concert T-shirts. In one, he makes a muscle. My sister, who would soon turn eighteen, looks bored, like every minute on this trip is another party missed. There is a shot of my father leaning on an Israeli tank, looking into the distance, as if scanning for Babylonians. My mother was taking the pictures, or else holding her hands over her face so no pictures of her could ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading of Rich Cohen's The Avengers , a riveting and powerful look at the intrepid individuals who fought against the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of Europe.


Discussion Questions
  1. "It is like no Holocaust story I have ever heard. There are no cattle cars in it, and no concentration camps. It takes place in underground hideouts and forest clearings, and in the ruins of German cities after the Second World War" [p. 3]. So begins Rich ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A muddled history of a little-known resistance WWII movement, organized by Lithuanian Jews.

Library Journal

This needed telling of their exploits is a great tribute to human spirit and a will to survive.

Publishers Weekly

Cohen (Tough Jews Father, Sons and Gangster Dreams) delivers a compelling story that not only amplifies the accepted version of Jewish experience in the Second World War, but also provides a terrific narrative of courage and tenacity. Photographs.

Author Blurb Ian Frazier
The story of the Jewish partisan fighters in World War II is not only fascinating, it is vital information for anyone trying to think about this nightmare century. Rich Cohen writes of the partisan Abba Kovner and his comrades with skill, passion, sensitivity, and great sustaining hope.

Author Blurb Larry King
A remarkable story by a remarkable writer. This is one of the great books about a period of time that never goes out of our consciousness. A terrific read. I love this book.

Reader Reviews

Fabio

The story is talking about a true event the holocaust, one of the most feared event and the most horrible one that could happened ever, and i find couragous a man is talking about it as well as Rich Cohen does with such a coherence and a great ...   Read More

Cassi Clendenin

This book gives a new side to the horror of the Holocaust. It gives hope to people who can now look at the Holocaust in a different light.

Danielle H.

This book was written encredibly well. The descriptions, the vivid images, everything just made this book great. I had to do it for a report at school and it gave me so much to work with and, no doubt, I would read in again.

J.R. Valenzuela

An amazing story of men and women enduring not only the hell of ghettoization and the machinery of genocide, but also that of combat. Perhaps the most powerful aspect is how it shows the Jewish community of Vilnius in so many dimensions, that how ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Avengers, try these:

  • The Visible World jacket

    The Visible World

    by Mark Slouka

    Published 2008

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The Visible World is an evocative, powerfully romantic novel about a son's attempt to understand his mother's past, a search that leads him to a tragic love affair and the heroic story of the assassination of a high-ranking Nazi by the Czech resistance.

  • Suite Francaise jacket

    Suite Francaise

    by Irene Nemirovsky

    Published 2007

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The first two stories of a masterwork once thought lost, written by a pre-WWII bestselling author who was deported to Auschwitz and died before her work could be completed.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.