While recuperating in a hospital after World War II, a Polish refugee wrote at length about his remarkable experiences in war-torn Europe. The Defiant, his memoir, is the account of a young man who refused to yield to the German onslaught and chose instead to become a Jewish resistance fighter. Chronicling the bravery of a small group of men and women who carried on a forest war, this extraordinary book sheds light on events that few know of in this country.
Shalom Yoran was born in Poland. After Nazis killed his parents, he and his brother fought as partisans against the German war machine. In 1946, Yoran moved to Israel to begin a new life.
1. The German-Polish War
2. The First German Occupation
3. Seeking Refuge Once More
4. In Soviet-Occupied Territory
5. Under the Germans Again
6. Unbridled Savagery
7. The End of Kurzeniec
8. In the Woods
9. Preparing for a Harsh Winter
10. Hibernating in the Zemlianka
11. Proving Ourselves to the Partisans
12. In the Jewish Otriad
13. The Oblava
14. The Partisans Gain Power
15. The Jewish Support Group
16. The Gvardia Mission Begins
17. Into the Swamps
18. Playing the Enemy
19. Boria’s Story
20. Disrupting the German War Machine
21. Becoming a Red Army Soldier
22. The Polish Army
23. Entering Germany
24. Escaping Through Europe
25. Under the British
26. In Palestine
In 1990, my wife, Varda, and I were cleaning out our apartment in Israel. The last part of this tedious job was emptying the crawlspace. I finished handing everything down to my wife, and then we began to sort through the various items. In the midst of the boxes and cartons, there was a scruffy little suitcase. I opened it, and to my amazement, found myself looking at something I thought I had lost long ago. There inside the case were two notebooks and a pile of loose papers, all yellowed with age. The ink on the pages was faded, and the Polish words barely readable, but they held my past! Seven years of my life—from the day the Nazis occupied Poland in 1939 until the time I came to Israel (then called Palestine) in 1946—were contained in that 400-page batch of dog-eared paper.
Choked with emotion, I showed Varda the manuscript that I had been telling her about since we started dating in 1952. At the time, I told her that when the time was right, I was going to write a book based on my memoirs of that period. I planned to dedicate it to the memory of my parents. I had promised them that I would try to survive, and to let the world know. But life’s many twists and turns have a way of re-sorting priorities, and at the end of the war, my attention was focused on building a future—getting an education and starting a career. I survived three more wars in Israel, where I had a career with Israel Aircraft Industries. Through it, I personally had the opportunity to contribute to the security and economy of my country. I also married and raised a family.
Now, nearly a half a century later, the time was right for my book. Finding that suitcase was a sign. I would be able to keep the promise I had made to my parents. We brought the manuscript to America, where we now live.
First, everything had to be translated into English and then polished, before it could be turned into a book. We set to work. I read the pages of my long-lost manuscript to Varda in Polish, we discussed it in Hebrew, and then she translated it into English.
The Defiant is my story—the true story of a young Jewish man who experienced first-hand just how cruel people can be. I consider myself lucky, not only because I survived, but also because I had the opportunity to fight back. In my own way, I did whatever I could to help disrupt the German war machine. And I am grateful that I found the manuscript, which allowed me to base the book on facts as I lived through them, before the memories dimmed.