Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert

Source: Gihon River Press
Paperback, 204 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert is a collection of heart-warming, terrifying, and inspiring stories of Polish resisters against the Nazi Third Reich during WWII.  These four women have tension filled tales to tell, and they are full of bravery, luck, and serendipity.  As stated in the introductory pages and the brief history on Poland and its Jewish people, Poland was often conquered and victimized and in some areas of the nation, there was rampant antisemitism.  In fact, the country was often treated like a spoil of war, and that did not change when the Nazis began expanding their reach across Europe.  Several of these resisters mention in their stories how Jews are often considered weak and meek, but their stories clearly illustrate that these women engaged in all kinds of resistance against the Nazis and that they were not alone in their fight.

“Before the 1939 German invasion, Poland’s population of approximately 35 million included almost 3.5 million Jews, more than any other European country.  In fact, for many centuries in Poland had been considered the heart and center of Europe’s Jewish population.  When German occupation of Poland ended in 1945, over 6 million Poles–approximately half of which were Jews–had been annihilated.”  (page 17)

Manya Feldman, a nurse and fighter during the war, was considered the “crazy Jewess” when she was infected during the war and unable to walk and move.  She was forced at an early age to decide to flee the ghetto into the forest or stay with her mother and young sisters, but her decision left her haunted forever.  After joining the Kovpak partisans in the forest, she was again separated from her brother and father, but she had little time to wallow as she was expected to not only engage in village raids for supplies, but also nurse the wounded and sick.  Faye Schulman was a nurse, fighter, and photographer, and her skills as a photographer saved her from Nazi punishment more than once.  She even noted, “We all had to be off the streets at dark, which was difficult in winter when darkness came so early.  It was especially challenging for teenagers who wanted to socialize or carry on romances at night.  … I had no idea that this sneaking around would soon become a skill that would keep me alive.”  And at one point, she even found herself near the camp of the Bielski partisans, who were depicted in the movie Defiance.

“When we arrived, we were astounded to see that my possessions had been neatly packed in several boxes, and placed out on the sidewalk.  Everything was just sitting there. Apparently someone in the house had figured out that I’d be in on this partisan raid, and in the chaos of a war zone, took a chance on helping me.”  (page 81)

Lola Lieber was a young woman between childhood and womanhood who was forced to grow up quickly when the Nazis came to Poland.  Her birth outside Poland in Czechoslovakia even became an asset, not only because she knew different cultures and languages, but because the Nazis spared her and the family for a time.  As they put their artistry to the test in forging documents, Lola’s life and that of her family was constantly hanging in the balance.  Miriam Brysk was a little girl who dressed as a boy, and she took to heart the discipline she had been taught as a young girl: to always listen and follow orders.

Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert is a fantastic look at how these women used their intelligence and the skills they had since childhood to resist the Germans, to fight them through guerrilla tactics, and evade capture and death.  Gilbert does a great job of setting up each story so that the reader knows how these women fared after the war and where they live now.  And as many of these women, men, and soldiers are passing on, these stories from WWII grow ever more important to collect because they remind us that people’s courage should never be under-estimated.

About the Author:

Influenced as a little girl by her Grandmother’s vivid and poignant stories of the beloved family and friends who were so brutally murdered when the Nazis destroyed the Jewish People of Vilna, Lithuania, Joanne has always understood the importance of preserving Jewish History – one family story at a time. With this mission in mind, she became a professional Personal Historian in 2007, creating her own business, “Your Write Time!”

A popular Adjunct English professor at the College of Southern Nevada, Joanne is also a sought-after-public-speaker, whose presentations on both Jewish Genealogy and Jewish and Gentile WOMEN OF VALOR: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich consistently receive glowing reviews.

Joanne’s extensive travels to meet with Female Resisters and Partisans have taken her to Toronto, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Palo Alto, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Paris, where she was honored to meet with a group of women who had been in the French Resistance.

77th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.






31st book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.






27th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland/Czechoslovakia)


  1. Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) says

    I can’t wait to read this one! Great review!

  2. bermudaonion(Kathy) says

    I love books about ordinary, strong heroes like that!