September 7, 2021
St. Martin’s Press
From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, Rebecca Frankel’s Into the Forest is one family’s inspiring true story of love, escape, and survival.
In the summer of 1942, the Rabinowitz family narrowly escaped the Nazi ghetto in their Polish town by fleeing to the forbidding Bialowieza Forest. They miraculously survived two years in the woods—through brutal winters, Typhus outbreaks, and merciless Nazi raids—until they were liberated by the Red Army in 1944. After the war they trekked across the Alps into Italy where they settled as refugees before eventually immigrating to the United States.
During the first ghetto massacre, Miriam Rabinowitz rescued a young boy named Philip by pretending he was her son. Nearly a decade later, a chance encounter at a wedding in Brooklyn would lead Philip to find the woman who saved him. And to discover her daughter Ruth was the love of his life.
From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, one family’s inspiring true story.
I had never read a Holocaust story until Rebecca Frankel’s Into the Forest. Certainly I’ve learned my history lessons, seen movies, but have always shied away from what I knew would be the full unblinking recognition of stark, irreconcilable inhumanity. Yet, I was drawn to this book perhaps because it promised triumph and love.
The love story of Miriam and Morris Rabinowitz is one I will not forget. While it was not the stuff of sighs and roses, it was the stuff of substance. Enough substance to guide them through times so horrible that few of us today can even begin to imagine. At first they have the seeming idyllic life in quaint Zhetel, Poland (which is today part of Belarus) but then the threat of Nazi Germany looms and is a force they cannot ignore, especially when Russians and then Nazis take over their town, and they are forced to survive in the cramped quarters of a ghetto.
As the reader follows the Rabinowitz family, they witness tragedies and self-sacrifice and individuals sometimes compelled to do the unthinkable in order that others might live.
There were many times when I had to set the book aside momentarily because I find it difficult to absorb just how cruel people can be to one another. However, I would pick the book back up and when the Rabinowitz family found themselves in Italy after the end of the war, I felt joy for them, for their survival and future.
Many parts of this story might be considered miraculous but perhaps the one most of all involves a boy Miriam saved during a Nazi culling, who survives. They meet many years later in New York. And, this story has a happy ending.
Frankel deftly tells this story, taking her reader through many lives, and deaths. Showing us the choices, many difficult, that people make through love or fear or to survive. While this may be the only Holocaust book I will ever read, I think I chose wisely because this one is moving and unforgettable. An amazing book.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies