BOOK REVIEW: Never Be Afraid: A Belgian Jew in the French Resistance

Never be AfraidNever Be Afraid: A Belgian Jew in the French Resistance recounts Bernard Mednicki’s intricate memories of his courageous life history. Ken Wachsberger - author/editor/book coach extraordinaire - brings us this man’s unique narrative. “It’s his story, but I wrote it,” Wachsberger explains, clearly a feat of close listening and empathetic understanding.

From Mednicki's childhood, when his father moves the family to Belgium to escape the Russian pogroms through his marriage, his decision to pass as Christian after Hitler’s invasion of Belgium, his work with the French Resistance, and his arrival in 1947 to America (with its dramatic twist), Mednicki shares his emotion, describes the painful roadblocks, and discloses every clever survival scheme.

In Volvic, France, the description of the rats in the stable where Mednicki had to house his family caused me a sleepless night. The efforts he made to protect his sick son tore at my heart. But the tale of turning a porcupine into a rabbit and that into a rooster was a riot.

Fundamentally, this is a story of resistance which serves as a negation of the myth that Jews went to their death like lambs to the slaughter. Mednicki joined the French Resistance, spending his first night as a fighter with a group of men and women, hidden from the Nazis on top of a mountain. He managed to balance his two constant struggles: to keep his family and himself fed and to fight against the Nazis.

This is the Third Edition of this volume, a book that wants to continue to live, much like its hero Bernard Mednicki. Wachsberger is the respected writer/editor who brought it into life and who continues to nurture it, knowing that within these pages is an unusually textured picture of one Jew’s experience of facing down the fascism that defined the 20th Century. In a time when Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are sky-rocketing, this is a reminder of why we need to start now to fight the good fight.

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