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A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance


Nominated for a Sophie Brody Award from the American Library Association
a national award for the most distinguished contribution to Jewish literature published in the United States

Winner of the 60th Annual Christopher Award!

  • The Christophers: The 60th Annual Christophers Award Thursday, April 16, 2009

  • Christopher Award MedallionNew York, April 14--PRN Newswire. This year's winners have been announced. Here is a list of just a few of the winners. In the category of Adult Books: Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona; The Soloist by Steve Lopez; Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives by Jim Sheeler; Feature Films: Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan; Changeling directed by Clint Eastwood; Young @ Heart directed by Stephen Walker; TV and Cable: Inheritance on POV (PBS); The Last Lecture: A Celebration of Life aired by ABC News Primetime, as reported by Diane Sawyer; Cranford miniseries a MASTERPIECE Classic directed by Simon Curtis, and the Executive Producer for WGBH is Rebecca Eaton.

    Christopher Award Medallion

    The Christopher Awards Gala celebrated its 60th year of affirming the highest values of the human spirit. The Christopher Awards were first established by Father James Keller in 1949. Since then, more than 1300 awards have been presented to feature films, broadcast and cable TV programs, books for adults and for young people. The Awards are non-competitive, and their goal is to encourage the pursuit of excellence in creative arenas that have the potential to influence a mass audience positively. Christopher Award winners remind "audiences, young and old, and of all faiths, of their worth, individuality and power to make a difference." Last year's winners include author/historian David McCullough (lifetime achievement); Ken Burn's television series, The War; in films, Amazing Grace, Juno, and The Kite Runner. Past winners include Elie Wiesel.

    For another web-link on the Christopher Awards Gala: The Catholic Telegraph

  • The San Diego Jewish Journal: Teach
    By TinaMarie Bernard
    Printed: April 2009, Iyar 5769

  • San Diego Jewish Journal "Michael Bart has much to celebrate these days. He recently co-authored a book with Laurel Corona called, Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance. It is a remarkable tale that needed to be told, and the coauthors do so with dignity, humility and strength. Until Our Last Breath chronicles the love story of Bart's parents, Zenia and Leizer, against the backdrop of the Vilna ghetto in Lithuania. It required 10 years of painstaking research to document his family history, how they met, where they lived and--most compelling of all for the reader--their role in the Jewish resistance..."

    San Diego Jewish Journal "After reading this book, it is no wonder that "Until Our Last Breath" is the winner of the prestigious Christopher Award. Former winners include Elie Weisel, and this year, Bart will be attending the 60th anniversary gala award ceremony April 16 to accept this honor at the McGraw-Hill building in New York City. He explains, "This award is given in publishing, film, broadcast and cable remind audiences and readers, young or old, of all faiths, to make a difference and positively influence our world." His book, "Until Our Last Breath," certainly accomplished that with its story of love and triumph in the face of overwhelming odds." For the complete book review and article please visit their website at

  • Booklist Online: Review from the American Library Association

    April, 01 2008

  • "Bart posits that his book presents two interrelated narratives. One is historical, describing events pertaining to the Nazi occupation of Lithuania and the experiences of the Jews during those years. The other is the story of Leizer and Zenia Bart, his parents. They had been involved in the Jewish underground resistance during World War II with a group led by Abba Kovner, and they had spent nearly a year living in the forest, blowing up trains and sabotaging telephone and other communication equipment. They had lived in the Vilna ghetto for two years before escaping to join the partisans. Bart was able to locate his parents' records and some important documents, including letters his mother had written to the U.S. from Vilna after the liberation and later from Rome where she and her husband lived as displaced persons. He also talked with Holocaust survivors who had known them. With 106 black-and-white photographs, this book is a work of exceptional historical importance."

    --Cohen, George.

    Event Reviews

  • THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE--Fading Faces of History
    The daily COPLEY NEWSPAPER serving San Diego
    By JENNIFER VIGIL--Union Tribune Staff Writer
    Printed: 04/18/2009 See the front Page A1 & A15 for the full article
    Also, Posted on
  • YIVO News

    "SAN DIEGO--children of survivors also have pledged to share their stories."

    "Carlsbad, resident Michael Bart, 56, wrote "Until Our Last Breath," his 2008 account of how his late parents escaped from a Jewish ghetto and joined the resistance. His curiosity took hold after his father, Leizer, died in 1996."

    "Now, Bart helps lead the committee organizing the Jewish center's day of remembrance."

    "Many years ago I didn't think too much about the Holocaust," said Bart, a real estate investor. "Then, I became more comfortable with my background and realized I had a responsibility."

    "Zaks, who lives in Del Cerro, said she hopes "the second generation never lets it be forgotten."

    DETAILS: Holocaust commemoration
    When: 1:30 p.m. tomorrow
    Where: Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla
    Admission: Free

    Other events: UCSD will host Holocaust survivors for speaking engagements through May. A video archive of thousands of survivors' stories is also available on campus and is open to the public. For more information, call (858) 534-7661.

  • CHICO ENTERPRISE RECORD--Son of Holocaust 'partisans' to speak Monday
    Daily newspaper serving Chico and the greater mid-valley area
    By LARRY MITCHELL--Staff Writer
    Posted: 04/18/2009
  • YIVO News YIVO News

    "CHICO--Like most children, Michael Bart listened to his parents talk about their youth."

    "The stories told by his father and mother, Holocaust survivors Leizer and Zenia Bart, concerned an aspect of history not well known."

    "Bart said he began a quest to learn more about this history after his father's funeral in 1996. At the funeral, an elderly man told him that he should have inscribed on his parents' grave markers the Hebrew word "Nekamah," which means "Avengers."

    "The Barts were members of a Jewish band of guerilla fighters in Lithuania during the Holocaust. The group called themselves "Nekamah," which means "Avengers."

    "Over the next decade, Bart did research and wrote an award-winning book, "Until Our Last Breath."

    "He will be in Chico Monday to speak at the community Holocaust Memorial Day service. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel, which is held at 7:30 at 14th and Hemlock streets. All are welcome."

    "Also, at the service, Bert Schapelhouman of Magnalia will be honored for his efforts in Holland during the Holocaust. He wound up in a concentration camp after he and other family members were caught hiding Jews in their home."

    "Bart, in a phone interview, said his father, fleeing the Nazis, emigrated from Poland to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. There he met and married his mother."

    "In 1941, the Nazis captured Lithuania and established a ghetto in Vilnius, where 35,000 Jews, including his parents, were forced to live. After it became apparent that the ghetto's entire population would eventually be killed, 150 Jews escaped the ghetto and went to live in a vast forest outside Vilnius. Bart's parents were among them."

    "Bart said they obtained weapons (sometimes from the Soviets) and engaged in guerilla fighting against the Nazis. They blew up trains and military plants, dismantled railroad tracks, and ambushed and killed German soldiers. They were fighting for just under a year."

    "Their life in the forest was incredibly hard. They had to steal food from local villagers, and they never had enough to eat, Bart said. To quell hunger pangs, they would eat something called "balanda," a mixture of boiled swamp water and flour. They slept in huge underground bunkers to keep warm in the frigid winter."

    "Referring to this group of fighters, President Eisenhower remarked that "the partisans of Vilnius" had a significant impact, Bart said. They were among a number of bands of "partisans" that fought throughout Europe."

    "About two-thirds of the group survived the war, Bart said. In July of 1944, when the Soviet Army took Vilnius from the Germans, the Avengers joined in the fight."

    "Bart, a real-estate investor in San Diego, said his parents moved to the United States in 1948."

    "He has felt the effects of the Holocaust all of his life, he said. Not only did he hear about it from his parents, but because of it, he never met his grandparents, his uncles and aunts or any of his first cousins, he said. They were all killed."

    "Staff writer Larry Mitchell."

  • YIVO NEWS--Nusakh Vilne Commemorative Ceremony: Perpetruating the Living Legacy of Vilna's Jewish Culture and Tradition
    The Yearly Publication of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
    By Rivka Schiller
    Printed: Winter 5769/2008
  • YIVO News

    YIVO News
    "Marking the 65th anniversary of the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto and the 55th anniversary since the formation of the Nusakh Vilne landsmanshaft, YIVO, in conjunction with Nusakh Vilne, hosted its fourth annual commemorative ceremony. In accordance with the organization's stipulations, the ceremony was held at YIVO on September 21, the Sunday closest to the date when the ghetto's final liquidation began--September 23, 1943."

    "YIVO Executive Director Carl Rheins ushered in the program with a speech about growing tensions in Lithuanian-Jewish relations. Of particular concern, according to Rheins, is the refusal of the Lithuanian government to take an active stand on the restitution of looted Jewish assets and stolen property. This includes a significant number of books from the Strashun Library at YIVO's original institute."

    "The afternoon's keynote speaker was Michael Bart of San Diego. Bart is the son of Holocaust survivors Leizer and Zenia Bart (both now deceased), who were members of the Vilna ghetto underground and fought in the Jewish partisan fighting group Nekamah (Avengers), led by Abba Kovner. Bart's recent book about his parents' wartime experiences and those of the Jewish Resistance--the culmination of a ten-year research project to learn more about his parents' time in the Vilna ghetto--is titled Until Our Last Breath, a testament to the urgent call delivered by Abba Kovner in December 1941, in which he implored the Jewish youth not to go like sheep to slaughter, but to revolt. His closing remarks were, "Arise! Arise with your last breath!"

    "Bart had known relatively little about his parents' activities during the war because they rarely spoke about those times. It was at his father's funeral that one of the mourners approached him to say that he should inscribe the word nekamah on his father's headstone to acknowledge his heroic contributions to the Jewish resistance movement in Vilna. Prior to that moment, Bart had no knowledge of the word nekamah. This newfound awareness motivated Bart's research into Jewish Vilna and his Lithuanian Jewish heritage."

    "In his remarks, Bart conveyed how his parents and 120 other members of the Jewish underground escaped from the Vilna ghetto to the Rudnicki forest, 25 miles away, where they survived the particularly bitter winter of 1943 in bunkers camouflaged by tree limbs, subsisting on a combination of swamp water and flour and food pilfered from nearby towns and villages. At the same time, they managed to cut telephone lines and derail and bomb German trains, many of which contained weapons and explosives." For the complete article, please click the image above.

    Media Reviews

  • Hadassah--Guide to Jewish Literature
    The Bi-Monthly Magazine of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America
    Printed: February 2009
  • Hadassah Magazine
    Hadassah Magazine
    "Michael Bart tells of his parents' resistance in the Vilna ghetto and their experiences as members of the partisans of Vilna in Abba Kovner's Avengers group. This is a powerful story of heroic Jewish partisans fighting back."

    "Hardcover/$25.95, St. Martin's Press. Available in bookstores & online."

    Hadassah on-line--News, Media, & Publications April/May 2009

  • Jewish Book World--Reviews: Biography and Memoir
    The Quarterly Publication of the Jewish Book Council
    By Dr. Marcia W. Posner
    Printed: Winter 5769/2008
  • Jewish Book World Jewish Book World

    Jewish Book World
    "After learning at his father's funeral that his father had been in the Freedom Fighters, a Jewish resistance movement in Vilna, Lithuania, the author spent the next ten years researching both the historical and personal stories of this time and place, particularly his parents' roles in the Resistance. His parents, Leizer and Zenia, had been married in the Ghetto by one of the last rabbis left alive. Instead of waiting in the Vilna Ghetto to be shipped to Auschwitz, the author's parents had escaped to the Rudnicki forest, about twenty-five miles from the ghetto, and became active members of Abba Kovner's Jewish partisan group, "the Avengers." Theirs was a love story that flourished despite the privations of the Ghetto and the partners' disparate ages and social status."

    "Within the larger tale are other dramatic and poignant stories. One deals with whether a Jew's blood is allowed to be spilled to save the life of other Jews, if the intended victim does not wish to martyr himself. This is not primarily a book of derring do but of decisions and choices that had to be made. It is an invaluable resource for this period and place that goes far beyond other books this reviewer has read on the topic. Photos."

  • Detroit Jewish News--The Whole Truth: A man who uncovered the incredible story of his parents' bravery demonstrates the lure of history and the pleasure of terrific nonfiction
    Printed: October 30, 2008

  • Lecture & Book Signing Lecture & Book Signing Lecture & Book Signing
    DETROIT--Until Our Last Breath: a Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance by Michael Bart tells the story of his parents, Leizer and Zenia, who were part of the World War II resistance group the Avengers:

    Q: Did you ever suspect your parents might once have led such unusual lives?

    A: "While I was growing up, my parents did not speak often about their Holocaust experiences. Either it was very painful for them to speak about or they didn't want to emotionally burden my brother and I with the agony of their past."

    "However, my mom spoke often about being born and raised in Vilna, a city she described as having wonderful Jewish culture rich with many synagogues (106 prewar) and institutes of Jewish learning. She was very proud to be from Vilna."

    "My dad spoke often about being one of the partisans of Vilna with Abba Kovner, whom my parents referred to as "our commander." My father was very proud to have been a mainline fighter whose assignments were primarily the sabotage and destruction of Nazi trains. He knew his contributions were important in slowing the transportation of supplies, fuel and troops."

    "It was only in the last two years of my dad's life (1994-1996) when he began to tell me about my mother's losses, and my mom told me about my dad's losses. This is when I began to ask many questions."

    Q: So many moments in your parents' histories--when your mother escaped death--and in your own research--such as when you discovered the picture of your parents with Abba Kovner--were extraordinary, miraculous even. Do you feel different about life after this experience?

    A: "My life changed the day of my father's funeral in 1996, when an unidentified man told me to inscribe "Freedom Fighters of Nekamah" on the headstone. Shortly after the funeral, I began my research. What I learned made me very proud of my parents and of my Jewish heritage. My father and other former partisans said to me that they didn't think they would survive the war; and they were going to fight the Nazis for the honor of their family and for the dignity of the Jewish people."

    "My parents made two pledges to each other: to love each other and to fight the Nazis. Their commitment was 'until our last breath.'"

    Michael Bart speaks 1:30 p.m. Sunday, November 09 at the Detroit Jewish Book Fair

  • Western MA Jewish Ledger--Springfield native tells love story of his partisan parents
    Printed: Friday, August 15, 2008

  • "WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS--There's no denying it, "Until Our Last Breath" is a painful, exhausting book to read. Describing a love story between his parents that developed in the confines of the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania, author Michael Bart takes readers on an extensive journey through the experience of Vilna's Jewish community.

    His descriptions of life before and during the ghetto are so vivid that they draw the reader reluctantly into the story -- reluctantly because you cannot help but know the outcome for most of the Jews. With the foreknowledge that their fate is sealed, reading of their desperate fight to believe in the future is upsetting and disturbing. But if you foster any interest in the Holocaust and the psyche of those who perished during that time, this book will enlighten you considerably.

    Bart's own personal journey of discovery began in an unlikely place: at his father's funeral. As the last shovels of dirt were being added to the grave of Leizer Bart, a mourner approached his son with a cryptic reference to the Freedom Fighters of Nekamah, a group that Bart had never even heard of.

    This reference was the impetus for a decade--long research process during which Bart interviewed other survivors and delved into archives, learning about his parents' unlikely romance under the grimmest conditions imaginable. He also learned of their heroic service as members of the Jewish resistance. First within the walls of the ghetto, and later, when it became obvious there was nothing left to do in the ghetto, in bunkers in the Rudnicki Forest, nearby.

    The partisans' rebellion involved blowing up railway tracks to disrupt the flow of Nazi army services to the front lines, obtaining food from nearby villages. A risky enterprise during which Leizer was once sabotaged and shot, and helping to care for and organize other members of the resistance under the leadership of Abba Kovner. When Vilna was finally liberated, Leizer and his wife Zenia returned to their former hometowns to find that their families had been murdered by the Nazis. Their fight was over, and the only family either had remaining in Europe was each other. Zenia sunk into a deep depression, recovering only slightly when a doctor informed her that by continuing on this path, she would be helping Hitler accomplish his goal of destroying the Jews. A family member in Springfield helped the couple make their way to the United States, where they gradually began a new life and had children of their own.

    It must have come as a big surprise to Bart, who knew his mother as a homemaker and his father as an American immigrant who supported the family in a regular job and built a safe home for the family. He had heard a little about his father's partisan experience over the years, but to understand the full picture of his parents' lives in makeshift bunkers in a forest eating swamp soup to survive, would be quite a history to swallow.

    Bart was born in Springfield, relocating to the West Coast in 1966 because Leizer's health required a warmer climate. "My parents didn't talk much about their wartime experiences until 1994, when they started sharing more details with me," he says. "It was interesting, but I didn't have a way to connect the dots. Then, at my dad's funeral in November 1996, my life changed."

    In the course of his research, Bart bought every English book on Vilna, the ghetto and the partisans that he could find. He went through his parents' papers, called names in their old telephone books and started networking with survivors all over the world. "Organizations started helping me and this project just developed a life of its own," he says.

    He also visited Lithuania twice, journeys he found personally difficult given his research. "Most of the 70,000 Lithuanian Jews killed in the Holocaust were killed by Lithuanians who were collaborating with and under the supervision of the Nazis," he says. "They were pleasant enough to me but I carried that weight with me, of the intimacy of their involvement."

    Developing Until Our Last Breath was a massive undertaking for Bart and required an enormous amount of emotional capital, an investment for which he credits his wife for constantly buoying his spirits. "My wife always encouraged me, saying this story was too important to quit," Bart says. "At bumps in the road it would have been easy to say I can't do this anymore. If not for her, this book would never have been done."

    Rickie Leiter, 56, is a Longmeadow resident and cousin of Bart's who grew up with his family. "Zenia was like a second mother to me and she and my mother were like sisters," she recalls. Over the course of her childhood, she recalls that Leizer, typically a very quiet, shy individual, was very animated with her father.

    "He would share his stories about what happened during the war with my father, and as I became a teenager my parents shared more of his story with me," Leiter says. "They made it clear that Michael and Bruce, Leizer's sons, did not know these details, but felt it was important for me to understand what had happened to these two wonderful people in my life."

    Leiter feels confident that Leizer and Zenia would have been extremely proud of Bart's portrayal of their lives in his book. "Michael was able to share not only the love and travails his parents went through, but also the beautiful history, the richness of the Jewish history of Vilna," she reflects. "His book really captured both of those stories, and for me, to have known these people, makes me very proud of Michael."

    "Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance" Published by St. Martin's Press, 2008.

  • North County Times--Holocaust tale 'Until Our Last Breath' captivates By JOEL D. AMOS
    Printed: Sunday, May 18, 2008

  • Click hereNorth County Times Review
    "SAN DIEGO--Often authors of Holocaust stories are told there are too many books out there on the subject. Many persevere and produce triumphs that prove that there is no such thing as too much information when it comes to the telling of a systematic attempt at genocide.

    Authors Michael Bart and Laurel Corona (a professor at San Diego City College) have crafted a different kind of tribute to the survivors of the Holocaust. In telling the story of Bart's father, Leizer, their prose eloquently tells the story of Holocaust survivors from the perspective of their children.

    Leizer Bart was a member of the Jewish rebellion in Lithuania toward the close of World War II. The tale of his father's participation in this historic resistance movement came as news to Michael Bart at his father's funeral.

    Through depth of research, "Until Our Last Breath" makes a human connection to those few who chose to fight back and the love affair that was born through the unfolding tragedy. It was on the streets of Vilna (now Vilnius) that Bart's mother and father met and fell in love.

    Those of the Jewish faith, or any faith, can treasure Bart and Corona's work. It is extraordinary how deep into the mind-set of Europe's ghetto Jews their history penetrates. Therefore, "Until Our Last Breath" is not a Jewish story, it is a human story. The characters could be of any race or creed on any stretch of geography, and the sentiment would be the same. Coupled with the inherent desire of every human being to lead a life of freedom, love produces some of history's most compelling stories.

    The author's parents were married just before the Nazis overran the Lithuanian ghetto, which was home to the freedom fighters. Unable to escape, they took to the surrounding forests and joined a resistance movement that challenged the mighty Nazi blitzkrieg.

    "Until Our Last Breath" is as much an homage from a son to his parents as it is a gripping tale of history. The wonderment Bart injects into the story at his parents' passion and perseverance is awe-inspiring.

    Capturing dramatic elements of storytelling both as love and rebellion, "Until Our Last Breath" manages to intertwine the two arcs in one compelling tale. It is a powerful story that interjects the treasured moments of life amid unspeakable horror. It illustrates how the stolen kisses and silent giggles with a soulmate are what truly lie at the heart of why any enslaved people fight back to their last breath.

    "Until Our Last Breath" cannot be considered a perfect Mother's or Father's Day gift. Bart and Corona's story would be a fitting gift if there existed a Parents Day. The combined wisdom and strength of Bart's parents has produced as much a memoir of a child's love for those important figures as it is a tribute to a people who refused to go quietly into the night."

    "Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance"

  • San Diego Jewish World--Masterful retelling of Shoah in Vilna
    By DONALD HARRISON, editor and publisher of San Diego Jewish World
    Volume 2, Number 133
    Posted: Tuesday, June 03, 2008

  • Click here
    San Diego Jewish World

    Masterful retelling of Shoah in Vilna

    Until Our Last Breath by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona, St Martin's Press, 2008, 308 pages including end notes, U.S. $25.95.

    "SAN DIEGO--This is a history in which excellent research by Michael Bart is married to the fine writing of Laurel Corona, a writer with a straightforward style who, for the most part, lets the facts of the Holocaust speak for themselves.

    The result is an engrossing account about the parents of Michael Bart and the experience of the Jews of Vilna during the Holocaust. We glimpse their life before the war, experience the torment of the ghetto, break loose with them to the forests to join the partisans, and weep with relief when after the war they reach the safety of life in America.

    The author's parents were married just before the Nazis overran the Lithuanian ghetto, which was home to the freedom fighters. Unable to escape, they took to the surrounding forests and joined a resistance movement that challenged the mighty Nazi blitzkrieg.

    Most adult readers already are familiar with the chronology of the Nazis' genocide against the Jews; what this book does perhaps better than others is to help us understand the calculations that captive Jews made as they weighed whether this choice or that would more likely result in their staying alive.

    Life in the ghetto was not simply a passive affair, waiting for the executioner; it was a deadly chess game. The trouble was the Nazis had bishops, knights, castles, and a queen, and the Jews had but a few pawns.

    Should they report for a work assignment, or should they stay hidden in a maline (a secret hiding place in a building)? If they don't work, they won't get a ration card for food; but if they do go to work, it may be to dig their own graves in Ponary, the forest where tens of thousands of Jews were machine-gunned into pits.

    Should they try to recruit every able-bodied Jew to a resistance movement in order to have sufficient numbers, or should they keep the resistance a secret in order to better their chances of not being discovered?

    Should they attempt guerrilla warfare against the Germans in the ghetto, and possibly bring massive retaliation on the entire population, or should they wait until they can escape the city and join the partisans in the forests?

    Once in the forest, should they kill Nazi sympathizers who live on the farms they must raid for food, or should they send them away?

    Should they allow themselves to be integrated into other Partisan units of Lithuanians or Soviet fighters, or should they maintain their separate identity as Jewish fighters?

    Into these kinds of questions are woven the personal stories of Leizer Bart and Zenia Lewison Bart, he a Polish Jew, she a Lithuanian Jew. Once her "higher class," in the view of her family, would have prevented them from making a marriage, but these were extraordinary times.

    Leizer had secretly been a member of the resistance, even while serving as a German-supervised Jewish gate guard at the ghetto. In this job, he sometimes had to make a big show of patting down someone returning from work outside the ghetto, and if indeed he felt contraband under that person's jacket, to keep right on patting without changing expression.

    But could that person be a Nazi agent, carrying the contraband to test him? If he allowed the person to pass through, would he be shot?

    As a member of the Jewish police force, Bart often fell under the suspicion of the other ghetto residents, who, not knowing of his role in the resistance, wondered if he was a collaborator with the Nazis. But eventually his judiciousness and demeanor won him a reputation among the Lithuanian Jews as "one of the good ones."

    Zenia had met him at a social affair, and was drawn to the shy man until she learned of his gate guard role. Then she wanted nothing to do with him, until friends persuaded her that he was different from the others.

    They began to spend more and more time together, never alone, because in a ghetto where strange families were required to share the rooms of small apartments, and even beds, couples were never alone. Even in the forest, where Partisans slept together in bunkers, they were not alone. Alone had to wait until after the war, but at least Leizer and Zenia were able to be together.

    And when at last Leizer told Zenia of his role in the resistance--which she did not know even existed--she decided that she would choose to join the Partisans too, even if it meant going to the forest with him and leaving her family behind in the ghetto.

    So many, many choices--but none of these choices were of their choosing."

    Harrison, editor and publisher of San Diego Jewish World, may be contacted at

    Glimpsing the World of Holocaust Memoir Personal History
    By Eli Rosenblatt and Marissa Brostoff
    Printed: Thu. May 22, 2008
    Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance
    "by Michael Bart and Laurel Corona (St. Martin's Press, 336 pages, $25.95) ...blend[s] a historical account of the Lithuanian Jews during the war years with an emotional account of a young group of Jewish resistance fighters led by Abba Kovner, who would live on as a Hebrew poet and unashamed Israeli noble. The strength of the narrative lies in Bart's passionate description of Vilna, Yiddishland's Baltic jewel and above all, a city where both Jewish traditions and Jewish modernisms flourished. We find a cast of characters who, while not religiously observant, exemplify a type of European Jewish lifestyle that both embraced otherness and proactively fought for social equality. A delicate, expressive story surfaces, letting Vilna sink slowly into our memories."

    "[s] the increasing importance of second and third generation narratives, the retelling of a parent's or grandparent's experiences during the Shoah as filtered through the descendant's research and remembrance."

    Press Release

  • TOGETHER: The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants:
    Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance
    Volume 22, Number 2
    Circulation: 90,000
    Printed: August 2008

  • "NEW YORK--At Michael Bart's father funeral, an older man came up to Michael to tell him that the grave stone should include a reference to the Freedom Fighters of Nekamah, to honor his late father's involvement in the Jewish resistance movement in Vilna at the end of World War II. Michael had never heard the term before. After his father's death and his mother in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, Michael embarked on a 10-year research project to find out more details about his parents' time in the Vilna Ghetto, where they met, fell in love, and married, and about their activites as members of the Jewish resistance. Until Our Last Breath is the culmination of his research, and parents' story of love and survival is seamlessly tied into the collective story of the Vilna Ghetto, the Partisans of Vilna, and the wider themes of world history.

    Zenia, Bart's mother, was born and raised in Vilna. Leizer, his father, fled to Vilna to escape the Nazi invasion of his hometown of Hrubeiszow in Poland. Zenia and Leizer were married by one of the last remaining rabbis 90 days before the liquidation of the ghetto. Leizer was friends with Zionist leader Abba Kovner, and became a member of the Vilna Ghetto underground. Shortly before the total liquidation of the ghetto, Zenia and Leizer, along with about 120 members of the underground, were able to escape and reach the Rudnicki forest about 25 miles from Vilna. They became the Jewish Partisan fighting group led by Abba Kovner who were known as the Avengers. Until Our Last Breath is intensely personal, painstakingly researched, and a lasting memorial to the Jews from Vilna, to the partisans and resistance fighters, and to the author's family."

    Click to Enlarge:Until Our Last Breath

    Book Jacket Quotes

    "A chance remark at his father's funeral led Michael Bart, the son of two partisan fighters from the famed Nekamah Group [The Avengers] to piece together his parents' story before it was too late. The result is a narrative of great but controlled power that tells the story of his parents, of the struggles within the Vilna Ghetto and of life in the ghetto's underground resistance and of life in the woods. The meticulously researched account is vivid and gives one a sense of that extraordinary time and the most difficult of circumstances in which a few brave Jews understood their plight and decided that while they could not determine whether they lived or died; they would live with dignity and fight the Germans Until Their Last Breath. It is a son's homage to his mother and father, to the cause for which they offered their life, to their enormous courage and their singular love. Very well done indeed."

    Michael Berenbaum
    Professor of Jewish Studies
    American Jewish University
    Director, Sigi Ziering Institute
    Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust
    Former President and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation
    Former Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Director of its Research Institute

    "Michael Bart's portrayal of his parents' marriage and survival in the Vilna ghetto and of their lives as partisan fighters is a meaningful memorial to a great Jewish community as well as a tribute to the power of human endurance."

    Harry I. Freund
    Board member of the Jewish Book Council and the National Jewish Outreach Program

    Click to Enlarge:Leizer & Zenia Bart
    Until Our Last Breath
    "In this carefully nuanced and beautifully written biography of Leizer Bart and his wife Zenia Lewinson Bart, the author provides us with keen new insights into the moral dilemmas faced by Jewish resistance members both within the Vilna ghetto (1941-1943) and later in the Rudnicki forest (1943-1944). One important theme that runs throughout this work is the role that membership in a prewar Zionist Youth movement such as the Hashomer Hatzair played in shaping the moral and political values of the 120 men and women who eventually fought as Jewish partisans under the command of Abba Kovner."

    Carl J. Rheins, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
    New York City

    Trade Reviews

    "Bart sets the personal story of his parents' involvement in the Lithuanian anti-Nazi resistance against a broad historical backdrop. Leizer and Zenia Bart rarely discussed their years in the Vilna ghetto or in the Rudnicki forest with a group of Jewish partisans; it was only after Leizer died in 1996 that their son began serious research into their story. (Zenia's memory was failing, an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, which lead to her death in 2003.) With coauthor Corona (English and Humanities/San Diego City Coll.), Bart has crafted a text that is evocative but never mawkish. Much of the book has an intimate tone, yet the authors also provide scholarly material on key players in the Lithuanian and Nazi regimes that enables readers to place the couple's experiences in context. Close relatives of both Barts had been injured and/or killed by the Nazis, and they themselves were beaten. The descriptions of those incidents and the conditions that Jews faced in the early '40s make up the bulk of the narrative. It takes some time to get to the book's high point--the resistance--but it's there that it becomes much more exciting. Leizer and Zenia felt a moral obligation to join the partisans, though they knew they risked their lives. Even the path that led them to the Freedom Fighters of Nekamah was fraught with peril. The Barts and their comrades were involved in an array of violent activities, including teaming with Soviet troops to destroy a village whose residents had collaborated with Nazis. Appeals equally to the head and the heart--should be of interest to both academic and general readers."

    Kirkus Book Review
    New York City

    "...Leizer and Zenia, Lithuanian Holocaust survivors, had fought in the Resistance. With his mother suffering from Alzheimer's, Bart cobbles together their story, which he and coauthor Corona, a professor of English and humanities at San Diego City College, relate along with the larger story of the Vilna ghetto. Leizer and Zenia's romance is unusually poignant against the background of the privations of the ghetto; the old social distinctions between Zenia's upper-class Lithuanian family and Leizer's poor Polish origins were brushed aside within the ghetto's confines. The young couple fled the ghetto in its waning days to fight in a part of the resistance known as the Avengers. This is a powerful tale of the triumph of love under extremely difficult conditions."

    Publishers Weekly
    Reviewed 03-10-2008
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    Until Our Last Breath - contact author Michael Bart

    Until Our Last Breath - represented by Barbara Braun & Associates

    Until Our Last Breath - published by St. Martin's Press

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