The Art of Resistance is unlike any World War II memoir before it. Its author, Justus Rosenberg, has spent the past seventy years teaching the classics of literature to American college students. Hidden within him, however, was a remarkable true story of wartime courage and romance worthy of a great novel. Here is Professor Rosenberg’s elegant and gripping chronicle of his youth in Nazi-occupied Europe, when he risked everything to stand against evil.
In 1937, after witnessing a violent Nazi mob in his hometown of Danzig, a majority German city on the Baltic Sea, sixteen-year-old Justus Rosenberg was sent by his Jewish parents to Paris to finish his education in safety. Three years later, the Nazis came again, as France fell to the Germans. Alone and in danger, Justus fled Paris, heading south. A chance meeting led him to Varian Fry, an American journalist in Marseille who led a clandestine network helping thousands of men and women—including many legendary artists and intellectuals, among them Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Andre Breton, and Max Ernst—escape the Nazis. With his intimate understanding of French and German culture, and fluency in several languages, including English, Justus became an invaluable member of Fry’s operation as a spy and scout.
After the Vichy government expelled Fry from France, Justus worked in Grenoble, recruiting young men and women for the Underground Army. For the next four years, he would be an essential component of the Resistance, relying on his wits and skills to survive several close calls with death. Once, he found himself in a Nazi internment camp, with his next stop Auschwitz—and yet Justus found an ingenious way to escape. He two years during the war gathering intelligence, surveying German installations and troop movements on the Mediterranean. Then, after the allied invasion at Normandy in 1944, Justus became a guerrilla fighter, participating in and leading commando raids to disrupt the German retreat across France.
At the end of the Second World War, Justus emigrated to America, and built a new life. For the past fifty years, he has taught literature at Bard College, shaping the inner lives of generations of students. Now he adds his own story to the library of great coming-of-age memoirs: The Art of Resistance is a powerful saga of bravery and defiance, a true-life spy thriller touched throughout by a professor’s wisdom.
This book is exactly as described. It is truly a memoir from a specific time in Justus Rosenberg’s life – when a series of circumstances and his desire to enact change led him from college student to becoming a member of the resistance. I love this format, because it very much feels like sitting around with parents or grandparents and hearing stories from their various experiences. Even in what he seemed to perceive as mundane was a slice of life that someone of my generation living in the US is unlikely to experience.
We meet and become friends with so many of those he encountered along the way. Other students, poets, artists, soldiers, nurses, and farmers all hold a special place in his heart.
Ultimately, while he does come to some conclusions about acts, politics, and particular people – there is an overwhelming sense of compassion and understanding for everything that he endured.
Rob Shapiro is amazing narrating this. Rosenberg travels through many countries and one of is personal accomplishments is having learned several languages. Shapiro handles these accents with fluidity. His voice manages to be poignant and comforting throughout what can sometimes be a harrowing tale.
Trigger Warnings (possible spoilers):
In comparison to many WWII stories, specifically by a Jewish survivor, this is not overly graphic. There are some mentions of death in battle and harsh conditions.
My Favorite Quotes
As long as there is hatred, intolerance, and hunger for power in the world, there will be heroes. We should dream of the day when they will no longer be needed. – Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxeTweet
I believe that it is wrong to sensor ideas on college campuses, even the ones most people find offensive. Doing so fuels ignorance, prejudice, and strife and makes destructive ideas even more powerful than they really are. – Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxeTweet
“When speaking about collaborators one must make distinctions… Compromise had been ingrained in their nature by years of colonialism.” – Art of Resistance by Justus Rosenberg #Audiobook narrated by @RobuLuxeTweet