The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir

The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir

by Justus Rosenberg


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99-year-old literature professor Justus Rosenberg escaped the Holocaust and spent four daring years in the French Underground during World War II. Now he finally writes his own unforgettable epic. 

“A gripping memoir from an Eastern European Jew who fought in the French Resistance. … The narrative tension is continuous, as Rosenberg recalls imprisonments, escapes from confinement, and successful missions against the Nazis.” —Kirkus (starred review) 

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. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062742193
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/28/2020
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 24,645
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

JUSTUS ROSENBERG was born in Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland), in 1921. Graduating from the Sorbonne, in Paris, he worked with the French underground for four years and then served in the United States Army. For his wartime service, Rosenberg received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. For the last seventy years, he has taught at American universities; his is professor emeritus of languages and literature at Bard College, where he has been on faculty for fifty years. He is the cofounder of the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation, which works to combat anti-Semitism. In 2017 the French ambassador to the United States personally made Rosenberg a Commandeur in the Légion d’Honneur, among France’s highest decorations, for his heroism during World War II. He lives with his wife in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Table of Contents

Map of Europe, 1936-1939 vi

Map of Western Europe, 1940 vii

Map of Occupied France viii

Prologue 1

Part I

The Free City of Danzig (1921-1937) 5

A Pogrom German-Style (Spring 1937) 11

Preparing to Leave Danzig (Summer 1937) 28

At the Station (September 1937) 38

Berlin (September 2-12, 1937) 42

Part II

Paris (September 1937-September 3, 1939) 55

"The Phony War" (Paris, September 1939-June 1940) 77

The Debacle (Paris and Bayonne, June 1940) 87

Toulouse (June and July 1940) 108

To Marseille, in Marseille (August-September 1940) 116

Over the Pyrenees (September 11-13, 1940) 129

Walter Benjamin (Late September 1940) 137

Villa Air-Bel (November 1940-February 1941) 140

Mafia (February-June 1941) 156

Chagall (Spring 1941) 163

Max and Peggy Depart (July 1941) 164

The Expulsion of Fry; My Mountain Climbing Adventure (August-December 1941) 166

Grenoble (December 1941-August 26, 1942) 178

Part III

Internment (August 27-29, 1942) 187

Escape (September 6, 1942) 205

Underground Intelligence at Montmeyran (Autumn 1942-March 1943) 214

Manna from the Skies (November 1943-May 1944) 231

Last Days on the Farm (June 1944) 236

Becoming a Guerrilla (June 1944) 240

Haute Cuisine in the Camp (June-July 1944) 248

The Ambush (July 1944) 250

The 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion (August-October 1944) 256

The Teller Mine Incident (October 11, 1944) 270

Homecoming to Paris (December 1944-February 15, 1945) 275

Granville (February 15-March 8, 1945) 284

UNRRA (April 1945-October 1945) 290

To America (October 1945-July 13, 1946) 305

Epilogue: What Happened to … 311

Acknowledgments 341

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