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Heroines, Rescuers, Rabbis, Spies: Unsung Women of the Holocaust

by Sarah Silberstein Swartz

Sarah Silberstein Swartz (Credit: Karin Rosenthal)

Can ordinary people make a difference in a world gone mad? Absolutely, as Heroines, Rescuers, Rabbis, Spies demonstrates through the gripping stories of nine daring young women whose resistance to Nazi brutality saved hundreds of lives.

These unsung heroines include a British spy, a talented photographer who became a guerilla fighter, a Polish nurse, the first female rabbi, and a Japanese diplomat’s wife. Some came from poor families, while others were raised in privilege. Two of the women were not Jewish, but used their positions to help the resistance and save many lives. Each heroine used her powers of observation – and, sometimes, trickery – to resist the Nazi regime’s violent agenda and help those in desperate need, taking in Jewish refugees and smuggling food to those in hiding. In several cases the women’s fluency in German or Polish allowed them to hide their identities and gain access to crucial information. Many were teenagers – “too young to be afraid” as Ruth Zlotnik characterized herself. Silberstein Swartz ends the book with the story of her own mother and aunt, “sister survivors” who both adopted false identities to survive the war. All except Rabbi Regina Jonas survived the Holocaust to make new lives and, in many cases, bear witness to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.  

Heroines, Rescuers, Rabbis, Spies is an inspiring treasure trove of shadowy lives brought into the light. Despite their daring deeds, few of these women received any recognition for their efforts until recently. Silberstein Swartz is determined to change this. Each of the nine chapters includes information on each woman’s early life and the incidents that shaped her. Although not all of these strong-minded women saw themselves as feminists, the author highlights the ways in which they persisted even when their voices were ignored. The book includes a handy timeline, a glossary of terms, and two maps of the areas featured in these women’s stories – particularly helpful since many place names have changed. Highly recommended.


Reviewer: Joanne Findon

Publisher: Second Story Press


Price: $19.95

Page Count: 192 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-77260-262-3

Released: October

Issue Date: February 2023

Categories: Children and YA Non-fiction, Kids’ Books

Age Range: 13–18