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

February 4, 2020 - Comment

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

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. 

Comments

Anonymous says:

An Uplifting Story from a Dark Era The Art of Resistance tells of the wartime adventures of Justus Rosenberg; a Jewish adolescent from Danzig who, at various times, worked to help refugees escape, spied on the Germans and assisted the US invasion. Lucky to survive, he eventually became a distinguished professor of literature at Bard College. At the age of 98 he could modestly be described as a national treasure.The adventures make for lively reading and the memoir certainly needed to be published, but there are a…

Anonymous says:

Beautifully Evocative As someone who had the distinct honor of being a student of Justus at Bard College in the 1960’s I may be somewhat biased. The memoir is so beautifully written and evocative that it reads much like a novel. As students we knew nothing of his experiences in World War II. We got a sense of his brilliance and vast knowledge and I acknowledge that my love of learning and curiosity of the world around me was deeply influenced by his constantly questioning mind. This came rushing back while…

Anonymous says:

Brilliantly and beautifully written memoir This memoir is incredible! Brilliantly and beautifully written, a story of a few years that lasts a lifetime. I literally could not put it down, and it followed me in my dreams… (I also did end up reading parts of it in the middle of the night when one of my kids woke me up).Justus Rosenberg’s journey from Danzig to the US via France and Germany during and after just WW2 is quite simply amazing. He left Danzig to study in Paris (a great decision made by his parents at the time),…

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